From the March 1999 issue of Startups

Name the last big deal made via e-mail. Doesn't happen, does it? That's because sizable contracts are still inked only after face-to-face meetings.

The big problem? Business travel can make you broke--flight and hotel bills alone can top $2,000. Ouch! But there are cheaper ways to travel. To help, we've researched Web sites and other tools for all of you start-ups traveling on a budget.


Robert McGarvey writes a column about travel deals and discounts for Adventure Journal magazine.

Getting There

Need to fly coast-to-coast tomorrow? You might be able to trim your tab by shopping at a "consolidator," a company that specializes in selling airlines' "unused capacity" (that is, empty seats). What's the hitch? Tickets tend to be nonrefundable, but since you're buying just before flying, that shouldn't be a problem. Still, read the fine print carefully before paying.

  • Cheap Tickets (http://www.cheaptickets.com or 310-645-5054; check the White Pages for local numbers): A pioneer consolidator, Cheap Tickets' rep is strong, and it can get you to most places in the world at prices the airlines will never quote you.
  • PriceLine (http://www.priceline.com or 800-PRICELINE): A new approach to ticket consolidation, PriceLine lets you name the price you're willing to pay, then sees if any airline will bite.

Cheap Stays

Only chumps pay rack rate--hotel industry slang for list price. Whenever you're booking a room, ask for a corporate discount--whoosh, the nightly charge will drop 10 to 20 percent. If that doesn't work, ask what discounts are available. Want still better deals? Check out hotel consolidators, who sell off empty hotel rooms at low prices:

  • Quikbook (http://www.quikbook.com or 800-789-9887): For rooms in major business destinations (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.), Quikbook can put you in a quality hotel at up to 60 percent off rack rates.
  • Hotel Discounts (http://www.hoteldiscount.com or 800-715-ROOM): Reduced-rate rooms in even more cities are offered here.
  • Budget Hotels (http://www.budgethotels.com): It specializes in lesser-known hotels and youth hostels in the U.S. and Canada. If the lowest prices quoted by other consolidators are too steep, log in here.

Drive Time

Car rental rates can be maddening. Do your comparison shopping online, as new Web-based services give you the info you need to make smarter choices.

  • TRN's Car Rental Shopping Guide (http://www.rent-cars.com): This guide has price quotes from more than 3,000 car rental locations in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Guide to Airport Rentals (http://www.bnm.com/rcar.htm): Most major airports are represented here and, with a few mouse clicks, it's easy to find good deals.
  • Rent-a-Wreck (http://www.rent-a-wreck.com or 800-535-1391): If reliable but well-worn wheels will do, Rent-a-Wreck has more than 450 locations worldwide and tasty rates for business travelers.

Rip-off Alert

The Internet is awash with "deals" to equip you with a travel agent ID that, say the sellers, will get you discounts at airlines and hotels worldwide. Yeah, right. Airline and hotel managers aren't village idiots--anyone with these bogus IDs will get only sneers from industry officials because they've obviously been ripped off.

Easy Reading

The next best thing to being a seasoned business traveler: getting the scoop from someone who is. In The Unofficial Business Traveler's Survival Guide (McGraw-Hill, $8.76, 800-338-3987), CNN's business travel expert, Christopher J. McGinnis, shares tips for getting the best deals, plus advice for surviving--and enjoying--life on the road.

Contact Sources

Travel Skills Group, P.O. Box 52927, Atlanta, GA 30355.