Combining business and personal travel: What you need to know
Back in the day, business trips were just that -- employees traveling to a business destination solely for work purposes. These days, however, many are combining business and personal travel on a regular basis, in a trend referred to as ‘bleisure’ trips.
Both companies and employees benefit from mixing business and personal travel, since it provides flexibility and nuance to otherwise standard business trips. Many organizations enjoy higher employee retention rates when employees have the incentive of combining business and personal travel.
Plus, business travel costs can often become cheaper when employees mix business days and personal travel, since when they tack on a few extra days to their original business trip, their return flights may land on a weekday when fares are much lower.
However, as with any other corporate travel policy, compliance is of high priority. Companies must formalize travel policies for employees combining business and personal travel to avoid noncompliance and soaring travel expenses.
Here, we go through exactly what you should cover in a policy that covers employees combining business and personal travel.
Combining business and personal travel policy: What should be included?
Every business will need to customize their business and personal travel policy to suit their needs. However, below are a handful of main factors that always need to be laid out clearly in a business and personal travel policy.
Travel authorization and eligibility
This section should lay out clearly the steps employees must take when they intend to combine business and personal travel, and who gives the final approval for their proposed itinerary.
It should also include any restrictions on who can mix business and personal travel. For instance, maybe only employees of a certain seniority can do this, or you might require that employees to have worked for your organization for a certain length of time before being able to combine business and personal travel.
Your duty of care responsibilities
You have duty of care obligations to your employees when they travel for business. When employees combine business and personal travel, you’ll need to make clear your level of accountability for their safety during the days where they are not traveling for business.
The booking process
Here, you’ll need to explain how employees are expected to book their trips when combining business and personal travel. This should include whether they should use your travel management system to book their trip, and whether they are allowed to benefit from your corporate travel discounts.
A list of deductible travel expenses when mixing business and personal travel
You'll also need to be clear about tax deductible expenses, any tax laws employees need to be mindful of, and what can be considered as a write off by the IRS.
While we know that each company is different, here are a few business travel expenses and examples you’ll want to consider spelling out in your business and personal travel policy:
- Travel costs: When employees extend their stay, it can often lead to cheaper fares. Make it clear whether employees can claim for both their outgoing and return transport if they are taking vacation days. If there are any criteria to meet, such as the company will pay for airfare at a later date that is of equal or less or value than the original return transportation cost, make this clear.
- Your meal allowance policy: Employees must adhere to the usual meal allowance policy (including the corporate alcohol policy) during the days where they are working or have business meetings. Think about including any per diem rates that might apply to travelers during their business portion of the trip. Any other meals consumed during their personal days may not be expensed.
- Accommodation costs: Make it clear that employees can only expense the days associated with a business purpose. Some companies like to provide their employees with a lodging allocation as an incentive.
- Events and conferences: Employees should be able to deduct the costs of entry to any business-related event, but not for entry to other events during their vacation time.
You should also include a clear list of non-reimbursable personal vacation expenses for the days during their vacation travel days, such as:
- In-flight purchases
- Excess baggage fees
- Childcare, pet care, and pet boarding
- Toiletries or clothing
- Airline club memberships
- Minibar purchases or bar bills
- Laundry or dry cleaning
- Parking fines or traffic violations
- Airline ticket change fees
- First-class rail transportation
- Premium, Luxury or Elite car rentals
- Movies, online entertainment or newspapers
- Spa and health club usage
- Flowers, sweets and confectionery
- Room service
- Additional beds or bedding
- Damage to personal vehicles
- Rental car company insurance
The expense management process
Once you’ve set reimbursable and non-reimbursable expenses in stone, you’ll need to let employees know how to report them. For example, will there be a separate process for corporate credit card expense reimbursement and any expenses accrued on personal credit cards? Establish clear processes to separate the business and personal expenses, and ensure everything’s properly documented in your expense reports.