Getting paid to travel is more common than you think and it’s not just CEO’s and travel bloggers.
Some people are paid to set up new locations for their company. Others are paid to check and report on locations and properties. There are certainly people who get paid to travel as a hobby. And, many travel to locations to learn about the company they work for or to train other employees. There’s at least 20 other ways to get paid to travel including nursing, electrical trades, cosmetologists, and truck drivers.
These jobs happen at all levels of a company’s hierarchy. The lower you go, the less likely it is that you will find a job that pays you to travel or that allows you to reap many perks but there are a wide range of jobs that can help put you on the path to travel for free.
Most of the time the only thing in a job description that is specific to travel is that it says there’s a percentage of travel required in that position. When I was younger, those jobs that stated there was 50% or more travel scared me, I didn’t want to be away from home that much. But, over time I realized that few people are willing to take on those positions for that reason and it doesn’t have to seem so scary.
With the right mindset and creativity, some positions that require travel can be turned into opportunities for free travel for you and your family.
If you are lucky enough to have or find a job that allows you to travel, here’s my insights into how to make the most of the travel experience they’re providing. If you travel frequently or just occasionally, these are things that will make your travels easier and more fun. But, as always, nothing happens perfectly and we should never expect the same experience every time.
How to travel for work
First time business travelers and even some seasoned business travelers should be aware of some things that can help make the travel experience more enjoyable. The first thing is to fully understand what your company allows for travel.
If your company provides a company credit card or travel-related account, there are usually specific rules about who can use it and how. Follow those rules to avoid getting in trouble. Some companies pay you directly and expect you to pay that bill while others just pay the bill based on your expense report.
If you pay the bill yourself, make sure you are reimbursed appropriately and timely. Pay attention to reimbursement timing.
If you are allowed to use frequent traveler programs and keep the points for yourself, make sure you keep track of your account and use them before they expire. Here’s where loyalty matters, you should pick 2-3 programs that are of highest value to you and use them to your advantage. The reason to pick several is because depending on where you travel to, you may not have access to as many choices in hotels or flights. Some programs may not have the best prices in a specific location.
Did you know that after so many years of travel, you can reach lifetime status in some programs? That means you can get discounts, bonus points, and other perks for life and never have to qualify annually for it again. So, even after you’ve stopped traveling for work, you can still reap the benefits in your leisure travels.
Your business trips could wind up providing opportunities for free vacations because of your loyalty to a few companies. If you are currently traveling for work and not utilizing these programs, you are missing out.
If you’re paying and being reimbursed, it might be even more beneficial to you to get a travel credit card. You’ll build status and points faster. You have to use the credit card wisely though, pay for things you would normally pay for anyway, then it’s easier to pay it off monthly and get more points every month.
If you fly frequently, you should have TSA precheck or Global entry and maybe even CLEAR also. Some travel credit cards will reimburse you for the purchase of those services. Compare credit cards carefully as the annual fees can range from $50 annually for the Navy Federal Flagship Rewards to $650 annually for American Express Platinum. Both cards offer reimbursement of one or more of those trusted traveler programs that make getting through airport security a breeze.
Do I need TSA pre-check, Global Entry, or CLEAR?
If you only travel within the United States, TSA pre-check may be all you need. For $78, you get 5 years of smoother processing through security although not always guaranteed. You typically can experience waits less than 5 minutes without having to remove your shoes, belts, laptops, and light jackets. Your children under 12 can come through with you and it’s available at more than 200+ airports.
If you travel internationally, Global entry includes TSA precheck and allows a more seamless expedited re-entry to the United States for $100 every 5 years. The re-entry kiosk is only used for you, not your travel companions including children. They must have their own.
CLEAR makes the entire process even easier for $189 annually. You can add up to 3 family members for an additional $60 per person and children under 18 can join you in line for free. Only available at 40+ airports nationwide.
Another perk from travel credit cards is rental car status which could mean the difference between having a premium car waiting for you when you arrive to waiting for a car to be returned or transferred because the location is out of cars.
If you drive to other locations for your company using your own car, you are probably reimbursed for mileage. See if your company will also cover the cost of joining AAA. This will help cover you in case of emergency towing needs and also get you travel discounts.
You may even be able to bring your family on some trips. This is handled differently depending on the company and position. For instance, some might want you to pay for a family member sharing the hotel room. Others have very strict rules about how your expenses are compensated or reimbursed that may make it financially uncomfortable to have a family member travel frequently with you.
If you travel often enough, some of these perks that seem unnecessary become lifesavers during unexpected incidents. So, if you’ve been saying to yourself that you don’t feel like the hassle of signing up for another program, you could be throwing away potential opportunities. It means less stress and worry about the what-ifs because you already have a contingency plan built in.
What are the best programs for new business travelers?
You’ll need to determine that based on how often you expect to travel and where you usually travel to among other important factors. Even if you do not have the ability to get the best travel credit cards, you can always start small and work your way up to qualifying for the better cards later. Like anything, you have to plan to excel.
A smart upward credit mobility plan includes paying off your card or more than the minimum regularly, maintaining lower balances (preferably under 30% of the limit), and keeping track of your credit score and report. After 6 months to a year, try upgrading your starter card. Don’t get discouraged if the results aren’t as expected, improve more, wait and try again. Keep moving forward by researching your travel needs and seeing which cards and programs align well for you. Follow discussion boards and groups that focus on building credit to help you reach your goals.
My Recommended Business Traveler Starter Pack
- Get TSA precheck or Global entry.
- Get CLEAR but only if it’s available at your closest airport.
- Sign up for 2 – 3 hotel loyalty programs (Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Wyndham, etc.)
- Sign up for 2 – 3 airline loyalty programs ( Frontier, Southwest, American Airlines, Jetblue, etc.)
- Sign up for 2 – 3 car rental programs (Avis, Budget, National, etc.)
- Get a travel credit card (it could be branded by an airline, hotel, or a general bank card).
- Create a kit of travel essentials (travel toiletries, toiletry bag, computer bag, carry-on bag, sleep pillow, reusable travel mug and whatever else you need for easy comfort when traveling.).
- Sign up for AAA.
- Keep a spreadsheet of your travel program account numbers for easy reference.
- Get a passport. Even if you don’t need it for work, creative use of those miles could help you take your first international trip for less.
The more you travel and get a feel for what you really like and which programs work best for you, the better and easier it will become.
3 More Things New Business Travelers Should Do
Learn about status matching.
Once you’ve attained an elite status it can be turned into more lucrative benefits elsewhere. Some companies will only match certain hotels or airlines but you can find facebook groups and subreddits dedicated to the subject in order to learn which moves to make. Additionally, you can use Status Matcher to research what has happened for others seeking a status match.
The most frequently matched programs may be the best places to start when trying to gain position in the frequent traveler world.
According to Status Matcher, some the highest match rates reported are:
Airlines – Frontier, Virgin Atlantic, and Cathay Pacific.
Hotels – Best Western, Ascend Hotels, MGM Resorts, and Caesars Hotels.
Cruise Lines – MSC and Virgin Voyages.
Learn about getting the best value for point or mile redemptions.
Most rewards programs will offer you either cash back, points for gift cards, points for items, or points for travel. Point valuations can offer values from 0.5 cents per point to 2 cents per point. You have to consider how much the item would cost you in cash and how much did those points cost to accumulate. Realistically though, our point valuations may also be motivated by real life needs at a particular moment as well.
Learn about airport lounge access.
Having lounge access during delays is a true privilege. Certain card memberships and affiliations make that access possible without paying additional fees and even extends to an additional guest. Lounge access can also be purchased on an individual basis as well. Some business class fares include lounge access. You’ll be happy to have comfortable access to free food, a drink, power outlets, and even showers during a delay.
Hopefully, the seasoned travelers are already doing these things but if not, now’s the time to start. When you’re missing out on family time, you deserve some extra built-in perks. It’s even better when those perks can be shared to provide great experiences for your family on vacation. And if you love traveling, then all the more reason to maximize your travel benefits.