Under pressure to hold down costs, some business travelers are finding that the best way to save on a hotel is not to stay in one at all.
Instead, they are staying in the homes and apartments of friends and relatives when they have to go out of town.
The savings can be substantial. Andrew Schrage, founder of the financial advice Web site Money Crashers, said in an e-mail that the amount “depends on the city, but one can save more than $100 per day when you factor in lodging, food and transportation.” He added, “Once I realized how much money can be saved by staying with friends or family, it’s always my first choice whenever the opportunity is available.”
Mr. Schrage, 26, has even built the savings into bonuses for his staff. “If they chose to stay with a friend, family member or co-worker, we calculate what the lodging would have cost and issue them a cash bonus of 30 percent of that amount,” he said.
Betsy Flanagan, a social media specialist in the San Francisco area who is vice president for student engagement at Ivy Bridge College, a subsidiary of the online educational program Altius Education, said she thought she had saved “$1,000 to $3,000 a year over the past few years” by staying with friends and family, or “maybe a little bit more.”
One of her biggest savings came in 2007, when she attended the five-day PodCamp new media conference in New York. The conference’s host hotel cost $300 a night. She stayed instead with a former college roommate in Connecticut — an hour’s train ride, $20 round-trip, from Manhattan. “It was worth it for me for the cost,” she said, adding that she enjoyed the side benefit of visiting a friend, but “it wasn’t as easy as staying in the conference hotel.”
Ms. Flanagan said staying with friends was part of a larger savings strategy. “I am also very frugal with buying airfare,” she said. She will buy plane tickets a year in advance if she can, she said, and she has tried to get free conference badges by volunteering.
The payoff was more than simply saving on a particular trip. By being careful with her spending, Ms. Flanagan could afford “to go to conferences and learn things and therefore change my career,” she said.
Entrepreneurs said that saving on travel allowed them to use their money more effectively when their businesses were in the fragile, early stages. Shannon Payette Seip, co-founder of Bean Sprouts, a line of cafes, products, books and television shows focusing on healthy eating for children, said friends had also given social support and strategic advice.