Airline Tickets and Hotels
Many airlines impose fees for booking through their employees. Generally, you get better fares by going to the airline’s website and booking your flight yourself. Even if you don’t fly often, join the frequent-flier clubs for airlines you use. Most sites populate your demographics once you log into your account. Also, belonging to a frequent-flier group generates benefits and may give you enough credits to get priority boarding, priority security line access, or even a free trip.
When you reach your destination, in most cases you will need to get a hotel room. As with the airlines, most hotels have websites allowing you to make reservations. Hotels you frequent may offer you substantial discounts at various times during the year. If you travel frequently, you will want to get on e-mail lists for hotels you like, and you probably also want to join their frequent-sleeper programs to earn free rooms.
Although you can sometimes get a better rate directly from the hotel, as a general rule the hotel site books you at the rack (standard) rate. Consolidators acquire rights to hotel rooms, air fares, etc., and resell them to you, often (but not always) at a cheaper rate than you could otherwise get. I make it a practice always to compare the rates for airfares and hotels directly from the source, as sometimes the illusion of a discount does not prove the reality. If you use a consolidator, stick with the best-known ones. I generally stay with the primary source unless the consolidator has a substantially better price. Start your search on a consolidator’s site to save the time of checking multiple sources. Once you locate what you want, go to the source site and do some comparison shopping.
You can access consolidators and primary sources from any computer with an Internet connection. That means you can do so while on the road or before you leave. If your plans change or a carrier cancels a flight and you need to make other arrangements, you can do so. In addition to the ability to access these sources through a computer, many of them have apps in the iTunes App Store and/or the Google Play Store, allowing you to make or change plans through your mobile device.
One of the biggest concerns of road warriors (and just about everyone else now) is connectivity. We want (and in many cases need) to have access to the Internet. Internet connectivity helps keep us in touch with our office, our clients, our friends and family. It also serves as a source of needed information. We have grown more and more dependent on Internet connectivity in all aspects of our lives, even more so when we travel.
We achieve Internet connectivity through a variety of devices. Some of these devices work through cellular connections. Others require WiFi or a hard-wired Ethernet network. Some can connect through multiple means of access.
Hotels often offer Internet connectivity. Although some offer it as a part of the room rental, many offer it for a fee (generally between $10 and $15 per day). As tempting as you may find it to use the hotel network, generally it is not a good idea. When you join a public network, you put your information at risk. For security reasons I recommend that you not use public WiFi connections (such as those at coffee shops, shopping malls, or in hotels) with any device carrying confidential information.
If you travel frequently, you will find hotel charges a comparatively expensive rate to pay for Internet access. I purchased a mobile hot spot from Verizon (all major carriers have them). It creates a secure private wireless network using 4G LTE cellular technology. I have last year’s model, which only accepts five connections at a time. This year’s model takes ten. That means I can have my laptop, iPad, iPhone, and my wife’s iPad and iPhone concurrently connected. More devices slow access speed as they share the same bandwidth, but the 4G speeds make it quite satisfactory—even with four or five devices connected—and often as fast or faster than the hotel’s network. By going with a hot spot, you can move the connection from one device to another without buying multiple accounts, resulting in substantial savings. You also can save a few dollars on hardware by buying laptops without cellular modems. If your computer has one, you can always turn it off and use the mobile hot spot to effect a wireless connection. Similarly, you can get a WiFi-only tablet instead of one with cellular connectivity.
Mobile hot spots are sufficiently compact that you will hardly notice that you have an extra device to carry. And they cost less than $100 (even less with a two-year data plan). Moreover, if you have one, you can use it anywhere you want a private Internet connection.
Several providers now offer programs allowing you to share data plans among a number of devices. Depending on your data usage levels and the plan(s) you currently have, you may save considerably by getting one of the shared data plans. Whether you save money and the amount you save will differ depending on the number of devices you have, your current plan(s), and the amount of data you consume. If you plan to use a cellular data plan to stream video, you will need to purchase a significantly bigger bucket of bandwidth, as streaming video quickly exhausts small bandwidth allowances.
Technology has evolved to the point that we can achieve a virtual appearance without having to travel at all, resulting in a potential savings of time and money. Video- and webconferencing technology have developed to the point that they often can substitute for a personal appearance at a meeting. It takes planning, but people thousands of miles apart can attend the same meeting without leaving their offices. We can even use this technology to take depositions or have a witness testify at a hearing. Although you can get excellent dedicated equipment to create these conferences, you can also do so for smaller groups with little or no special equipment. You will want a high-quality web camera. The one in your laptop may suffice for your participation, but if you want to show others in the conference, you will want to purchase a separate web camera.
I know a number of attorneys who use Skype (www.skype.com) for videoconferencing. I recently served as an arbitrator in a matter where a witness could not travel to the hearing for medical reasons. The attorney who wanted the witness set up a Skype conference with the two attorneys and the witness in one location, while the arbitrators sat in a different location and participated via a monitor, microphone, and speaker. It was not as convenient as having the witness appear in the same room, but it worked acceptably well. I have heard of attorneys using similar technology for a deposition. If your deposition does not involve the use of any significant quantity of documents, coordinating to do a deposition over the Internet should not be difficult. The need to explore a number of documents in the deposition will require additional planning. Depending on the nature of the documents, you could use webconferencing to share a computer screen showing the document to everyone at the same time.
High Tech, Low Cost
Whether you use technology to avoid taking a trip, to make yourself more efficient while traveling, or to save money on travel expenses themselves, make technology your friend and use it to your advantage.