Saturday, December 1, 2001

How to save 90% on business travel using your handy Palm handheld


By David Gewirtz

In today's challenging economy, cost cutting has become more and more necessary. Many companies have cut down drastically on business travel, but if you are going to be traveling on business, one way you can do your part is to keep an eye on what you spend.

Now, I'm not going to tell you to go to Mickey D's when you're in a strange city and dying for a steak. Instead, in this article, I'm going to give you a few simple tips for keeping your hotel phone bill in check.

On the surface, hotel phone charges may not seem like such a big deal. But if you look carefully at your bill, you may find that in-room calling can wind up costing your company almost as much as the room itself. If you can cut that cost down, you can have a big impact.

"Even if you don't have the hardware and went out and purchased it specially, you'd still save more than the in-room phone charges for a single trip."

A few years ago, I found this out the hard way. I'd been traveling and calling back to the office. When I checked out, I find I had a bill almost $800 more than I expected simply because of the in-room phone charges.

A recent trip

A few weeks ago, I had to go to Hawaii for a training seminar. Yeah, I know, it's a tough life. Even though most of the ten days were spent in the hotel from morning to night, I did get to spend one day driving around the island of Honolulu.

I knew I'd need to stay in constant contact with the office, which would mean multiple calls each day, as well as checking my mail regularly. After learning my lesson on a previous trip, I decided that developing a communications strategy before traveling could have a big impact on my trip's bottom line.

I stayed at a middle-of-the-road hotel called the Waikiki Parkside. We got a special conference rate of $67 per night. Local calls are $0.60 each, and calls to 800-numbers or using a calling card are $0.62 each, plus the cost of the long distance charges, plus the calling card surcharges (which, being the casual long distance charges of the local carrier, are much higher than those you'd have at home). Even worse, if I just dialed the office from the room's phone, it'd cost me a whopping $2.00 per minute.

It adds up pretty quickly. If I would have called into the office twice a day, for 10 minutes each, plus checked and answered email twice a day, also taking 10 minutes each session, I'd have used 40 minutes a day. At $2.00 a minute, that's $80 a day for phone use. Note that that's even more than the room cost. Carried across the entire 10 days, that'd be another $800--more than enough to go buy myself a Palm handheld, a wireless modem, and that steak I wanted so much.