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How I Budgeted My Travel Expenses For Work

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Two words that come to mind when I think back on the summer that has just passed is adventure and travel expenses.

Not everyone has to worry about travel expenses when travelling for work but if you are on a budget this is critical to staying on top of your finances.

Today I’m going to share with you my experiences from this past summer travelling for work and play with my family plus what lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Budgeting On The Road

Getting on and off 11 different airplanes in less than 2 months and several multiple-hour road trips from one province to another certainly made for an adventure this past summer.

When I was asked by my company to travel to various locations in Canada I was excited.

Honestly, who wouldn’t be when offered the opportunity to travel with almost all travel expenses were covered?

Though my company paid for all my flights, hotels and all but one of my rental cars upfront, I found that travelling for work wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

If you are ever allowed to travel through your employer make sure that you fully understand ahead of time what all the conditions of your travel will be.

By doing so you are not caught off-guard by unexpected travel expenses.

Organized Travel Plans

Many people travel often for work and whether you are travelling for work or vacation there are a few things you can do to ensure that more of your money is staying in your pocket.

What I’ve learned is that you must ask questions before agreeing to travel for work.

Make sure that you understand what is included along with what travel expenses you may be required to pay for upfront.

While your company will reimburse you for most or all of your travel expenses that they have not already paid for, this money initially has to come out of your pocket.

Most company’s payroll is done on a bi-weekly basis meaning that you may not see that money again for a few weeks.

Keep in mind that you will still have bills and expenses to pay at home so budgeting for these travel expenses ahead of time will save you some stress while you are away from home.

What is a per diem?

A per diem is a fixed daily amount of money paid to an employee while they are travelling on business-related matters.

A per diem can include an allowance for food and in some cases hotel and flight accommodations also.

Some companies may pay some or all of this money in advance to cover these costs, while some companies will pay them out with your scheduled payroll after the travel expenses have been incurred.

Food While You Travel

If you are given a per diem while travelling on business every dollar that you save is another dollar that goes into your pocket.

I was given a daily per diem of $40.00 for food and if you are like me and like to save money one person can easily eat for less than $40.00 a day.

While it is nice to enjoy the occasional meal at a restaurant when travelling a lot of money can be saved by making your meals.

Most hotel rooms these days come with a refrigerator and microwave so by making a trip to the grocery store you can cut down on your meal costs.

I made a bunch of sandwiches in my hotel room this summer before a 3-hour road trip with some co-workers. We all pitched in on the cost of the bread, meat, and cheese.

Instead of buying full bottles of condiments that I would have to either throw out or bring home with me.

Don’t laugh but I also asked the restaurant in the hotel for a small container of mustard and one of mayonnaise.

I offered to pay for them expecting to pay $0.50 each yet the restaurant just gave them to me for free.

A fruit tray or a veggie tray in your hotel room fridge makes for an easy, inexpensive snack throughout your day.

Eat for less on a family vacation

My boyfriend and I took our 3 kids up to Niagara Falls this summer and brought along his Coleman camping stove that he had bought previously on sale for $30.00.

Even when I’m not budgeting my travel expenses for work I always try to save money on travel when I leave work behind although there’s no reason you can’t eat for less even when travelling for work.

The hotel we stayed at had a large picnic and playground area in the back so we bought some groceries and cooked dinner while the kids played.

We figured that by making 2 dinners for the 5 of us we saved about $150.00 in meal expenses.

Sleeping on the road

Cape Breton Nova Scotia travel expenses

While it may not be money related, I found budgeting time to sleep while working on the road was hard.

It happened a few times where I would fly into a city, work for 8-10 hours than have to leave immediately to head to the airport for another flight after working all night.

It didn’t help that I was able to enjoy beautiful weather for most of my travels and if you are an adventure seeker like myself, who wants to sleep when you can go sight-seeing?

I welcomed the occasional rainy day because I was not tempted to go outside and instead slept those days away.

Though most of my flights were between 1-2 hours long I managed to finally learn how to sleep on a plane, even on the 3-hour ferry ride from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick.

My advice here is pretty straight-forward, sleep when you can as being sleep-deprived while away from home will catch up with you as it did to me. I got pretty sick after making my final trip home.

Travel Expenses

Niagara Falls Adventure Pass

If your flight arrangements are taken care of by the company you will still likely have to foot the bill for travel expenses once you land.

For most of my trips this summer I was provided with a rental car although there were a few where I was responsible to get myself around.

Keep in mind if you are using a rental car that you are required to return it with a full tank of gas, meaning another travel expense to budget for ahead of time.

Sharing travel accommodations with co-workers or even other travellers can keep more money in your pocket.

I was thankful for the kind man in Saint John, New Brunswick airport that could see the blank stare in my eyes while looking at the board advertising fares from the airport.

He asked where I needed to go and then proceeded to call and make taxi arrangements for both of us.

Instead of each of us paying $30.00 for a cab ride into town since the cab driver had two drops in one trip she only charged us $20.00 each.

The company would reimburse me the full amount but $10.00 less out of my pocket initially makes sense to me, I’m sure the company didn’t mind either.

When we took the kids to Niagara Falls we purchased the Niagara Falls adventure pass.

It was not only worth its money for the 4 attractions we were able to enjoy with the kids but also because it came with a 48-hour bus pass so once we parked at the hotel our car didn’t move again until it was time to go home.

Many towns especially those that are known for tourists offer some kind of a public transportation pass that may be worth your while to look into and save on your fuel expenses.

Airport Parking

With the number of flights I had this summer, it was unreasonable to expect a friend or family member to drive me to the airport each time.

Each time I flew out of Toronto’s Pearson airport I parked my car in the Park and Fly lots.

Before my first flight, I happened to look up the Park and Fly website where you can get a coupon that saves you a significant amount of money.

The one time my cost should have been $108.00 but the coupon brought it down to $51.00.

Again this was a travel expense I would be reimbursed for but by using the coupon I again cut down on my out-of-pocket travel expenses.

Many of my co-workers were happy to hear about this when I told them how easy the coupon was to get.

Fun in the sun

Katrina zip-lining

If travelling for work is the only chance you may get for a while, take advantage of being somewhere new and different and have a little fun while you are away.

If all of your travel expenses have been or will be paid for so try to find some time to experience something new.

After travelling most of the summer with lots of work and little play a co-worker and I on my last trip went zip-lining at Marble Mountain in Steady Brook Falls, Newfoundland.

While it cost us each around $100.00 for the experience we were on an all-expenses work-related paid trip.

We decided to spend a little of our own money to experience something that we may never get the chance to again. It was worth every dollar!

Whether you are travelling for work or pleasure planning and being prepared with your budget for travel expenses will make your trip more enjoyable from the get-go.

Do you travel often for your job? What kind of advice can you give to others?

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