As we enter our second decade of Entrepreneur's Annual Business Travel Awards, there's one thing that remains unchanged: As an entrepreneur, you almost always pay for business trips right out of your own wallet-not out of some cushy corporate expense account. And that means your focus must be razor-sharp to obtain the best value possible for every penny you spend on travel.
With our Annual Business Travel Awards, we aim to help you choose the travel suppliers that offer the most value; that is, those that offer the best products or services for business owners at an affordable price.
Remember, this is not a formal or scientific survey. It's simply our subjective selection of the product and service suppliers that we believe offer the most to value-driven business travelers.
Best Car-Rental Company: Enterprise Rent-a-Car Co.
Enterprise was started in 1957 by entrepreneur Jack Taylor, whose family still runs the show-managing a rental fleet of 500,000-plus vehicles and motivating thousands of employees at its 5,500 company-owned locations in five countries.
What's best about Enterprise is that it offers the business-travel basics: clean, late-model cars; many on-airport locations; helpful employees; and consistently good prices. What you won't find at Enterprise are many of the bells and whistles that tend to inflate prices, like satellite guidance systems, covered parking or frequent-flier miles.
Rates at Enterprise are typically about 20 percent less than what you'll find at its competitors. Frequent renters can get even lower rates by signing up for its Corporate Class program.
Best Travel Web Site: Hotwire.com
In the past, last-minute travel usually meant paying through the nose. But the Internet has changed all that. Now, sites like Hotwire.com help value-conscious business travelers make smart last-minute decisions that help keep travel budgets in check. Hotwire partners with major airlines, hotels and car rental companies, which offer their unsold inventory at big discounts that Hotwire passes on to its users. But in exchange for the discounts, you must be willing to live with some uncertainty.
Hotwire can work wonders when it comes to hotel and car rental bookings. For cars, you choose your dates, car type, pickup and dropoff locations; then Hotwire offers a price you can take or leave. The same goes for hotels, but you can only choose the hotel category (based on a star system) and a general location. The catch is that you don't know the name of the car rental company or the hotel you'll get until after you've agreed to pay the nonrefundable, discounted rate.
Booking flights on Hotwire is less of an option for business travelers, because you're only allowed to choose the day of travel-which means you could be on an early morning or late-night flight that may not work into your schedule. Still, the savings can be substantial. So if your schedule is flexible and your budget is tight, it's worth a try.