Do you believe in advance planning, or are you a seat-of-the-pants kind of business traveler who always waits until the last minute to book a trip? Or maybe you are the type of traveler who buys last-minute tickets because they are easier to upgrade from? (You know who you are!)
There are two problems with last-minute ticket buying: first, considering how full planes are these days, you might not be able to get on the flights you want; and second, you’re spending a lot of extra money.
A new study by Concur, a leading provider of travel expense management services, finds that last-minute booking can boost your air travel costs by as much as 44 percent over advance planning.
Specifically, tickets bought in the last few days before departure typically cost 44 percent more than those booked at least 15 days in advance, the company found. If two weeks is too far in advance, try to buy your ticket at least eight days before departure and you can still save 18 percent vs. last-minute booking, Concur said. It estimated that travelers who book at least eight days out can save an average of $148 per ticket.
If you have to travel at the last minute, you’ll pay the biggest premium for short-notice ticket buys during the months of January and August, Concur said; the smallest premiums for last-minute tickets are in June. The company based its findings on an analysis of 22 million domestic roundtrip bookings from 2011 through 2015.
The company’s other tips for saving on business travel include:
- Compare fares to smaller and medium-sized airports in the region instead of just the major ones. “Be sure to take into account the location to determine if the airfare savings are greater than incremental spend on gas or car services,” Concur said.
- If you’re not sure of your return travel date, go ahead and book a one-way ticket in advance for your departure date to lock in the savings, and book the return trip later.
- Try to avoid trips during summer months, when fares are at their highest. Schedule meetings in months that are less busy.
- Don’t forget to factor in ancillary fees that can drive up total travel costs.
The company observed that the average air fare paid in 2015 was actually $5 less than the figure for 2011. But airlines’ ancillary revenues soared 69 percent from 2011 to 2014.
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