Get wired before you fly. A little bit of planning and preparation online can pay off in a smoother business trip. If you're trying to keep your travel budget under control, Priceline.com is still a premier destination for finding low-cost, name-your-own-price airfares. Expedia.com and Travelocity.com are other smart sites you can use to find transportation and accommodations.
You can take a lot of the guesswork out of visiting a strange city by logging on to Cityguide.com . Street maps, weather and an extensive hotel guide are featured. Visit the Business Center at Fodors.com for miniguides to major cities, tipping guides and information on taking business trips to foreign countries. The site is also well-stocked with the standard lodging and transportation information. Biztravel.com, designed exclusively for mobile professionals, offers a travel planner, news and a traveler toolkit. Whatever way you choose to cruise, the Web can be a substitute for using a travel agent or just a smart supplement.
Web sites vs. Travel agents
Should you hire a travel agent to handle your travel arrangements or do it yourself? Of 200 corporate travel managers recently surveyed by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), 82 percent said employees were finding better fares online than the discounts negotiated with airlines. That's almost twice as many as last year, and it suggests that the rift between the Net and what's offered on a travel agent's computer reservations system is widening.
But that doesn't mean you should let your employees have a free-for-all online. Consolidating your travel with an agency can translate into significant discounts over the long haul. Airfares and hotel rates may be comparatively low now, but they're sure to rise again when the economy bounces back. The National Business Travel Association Web site can help you find the resources to consolidate your business's travel program.
Another upshot to hiring an agency: knowing what you do and don't need when you're on the road. Take travel insurance, for instance: A travel professional can advise you about what to take and what is unnecessary. Many kinds of insurance are intended for leisure travelers and are largely irrelevant to business travelers. If you're not sure about your policy, visit the Nolo Web site and check its legal encyclopedia section on travel insurance.
Yet another useful resource is iJet , a new company that offers highly specialized online travel intelligence. Use iJet's customizable Web site and e-mail updates to warn you of any security or health risks and ensure you make it home without incident.