Monday, September 09, 2019

The Real Cost of Travel

As some of you may have noticed, I like to travel. A lot.

Travel is a great example of why "cost" is a relative thing - and why the cheapest looking price is often not the cheapest at all. Remind your clients and prospects of this when they want to talk about pricing.
My apartment in Edinburgh

Here are some of the key costs of travel that people ignore.

1) Travel by car is not cheap!

Many people think, "Oh, it's cheaper to just drive." Why? Because they look at the cost of fuel in isolation from everything else. It may be cheaper, but you have remember all the associated costs. Many conference hotels charge $20-30 per day to park. More if you use their valet. Plus you have to stop for more food during your travel than a you would with a quick plane ride.

2) Published hotel prices are all fictional.

You need to dig into the real total here. Many hotels add "resort" fees even though the resort consists of the workout room with three pieces of equipment. Hotels also don't always include taxes and fees in their pricing. So an advertised room at $129 might end up costing you $170 when the total bill comes. (Plus parking.)

3) Food, especially breakfast, is a huge variable.

Many mid-range hotels (Courtyard, Townhome suites, etc.) include a very basic breakfast with your stay. This can save you $10-20 over the cost of breakfast at a higher-end hotel. Of course, if you're Platinum or some other expensive metal, then you can eat for "free" in the executive lounge. But your room will be in the $169 range rather than the $139 range.

4) Wi-Fi. Get the real deal before you book.

As a very frequent business traveler who works from the road, I always need good Wi-Fi. And very often that means I have to bring it with me. In most countries, I can use my T-Mobile phone and just add a data package. In some places, I buy a local Mi-Fi device or even a low end cell phone with a data package. If you have to constantly upgrade your Internet access, it can cost you as much as $10-20 per day. Make sure you know what you're getting into.

5) Local transportation can range from free to expensive.

Once you're on site, you need to get around. So, for example, if you stay in the heart of the tourist district, you might be able to walk to everything you need. Of course, you'll pay a higher price for your hotel if you do that. It's cheaper outside the tourist area, but you'll end up driving and paying to park, or take Uber and Lyft everywhere. Sometimes it's cheaper to buy the more expensive hotel room.

6) Air fares are NOT all about the price.

Cheap airfare is one of the most expense things you can experience. With very few exceptions, airfares are very well coordinated with experience. You pay less; you get less. If you don't care about legroom (or side room), then cheap fares will get you in the back, middle seats on almost any airline. Just don't whine about it: You chose that experience. For $25-50 more per hop, you can get a good seat on almost any airline. Also, some cheap fares now exclude any carry-on baggage. Once again, look at your total price. AND cheaper flights often include extra stops and much longer total travel time.

7) Local meals and entertainment can vary dramatically.

In most places you travel, there are meals and bars that range from cheap to expensive. But not always. If you're going to eat out every meal, make sure you have local options. It may be worthwhile to pay a bit extra to be within walking distance of reasonably priced food.

8) Plan WAY in advance and save.

I try to buy my airfare and make hotel reservations months in advance. As a result, my airfare is usually super cheap, and my hotels are reasonably priced. Buying flights 4-6 months in advance can cut the price by half or more.

My current trip from Oakland to Manchester (UK) to Seattle over about two weeks cost me $932 all in. I took the train to Edinburgh and will take a train to Newcastle. Buying way in advance, both cost less than $60 USD. Similarly, my trip to Australia next month was paid for back in April and will cost about $1200 round trip.


Bring it all together: Expect to pay more than the advertised price.

For my current trip I booked an apartment above a bar in Edinburgh for about $160/night. With that location, I have no local travel expenses and lots of options for local eating and drinking. And, of course, no parking. I did buy an extra data package from T-Mobile for $35, but it's good for the entire trip.

In general, I guarantee a certain level of "quality" travel by following a few simple rules.


  • Start by avoiding the cheapest price. I buy main cabin airfare and hope to get upgraded.
  • Check a variety of housing options. I start with FlipKey.com and then Travelocity.com. Sometimes I get a deal with the airline while booking flights (especially Delta and Hawaiian airlines). But bundles with Travelocity are also excellent.
  • Consider alternative travel. For Americans that means trains, light rail, ferries, and even buses. 98% of non-US mass transit is reliable and reasonably priced.
  • Plan well in advance.
  • Plan to pay 10-20% more than the advertised fee on hotels and cheap airlines.


Note: Your clients have experienced all of these things when they travel. So when they want to talk pricing or want to compare you to low-cost IT providers, but remind them of the last horrible "cheap" flight or cheap hotel.

Cheap never is. And the experience leaves much to be desired.

Don't be cheap.

:-)

1 comment:

  1. Which means your estimate cost then plus plus for budgeting otherwise you might end up washing the dishes lol

    ReplyDelete

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