How can state and local government travelers stretch their travel dollar? Planning, policies, and the discipline to stick to them are key. Try these proven methods:

1)    Have a strict travel policy in place. Put controls on spending for travel. Without these controls, all other efforts will be wasted.
 
2)    Make sure people are following your travel policy, if you have one. Going outside the system will be costlier.

3)    Some governments permit their employees to search online for the best airline or hotel deals they can find. Most likely, these are not the best deals available. Working with a set of “preferred vendors” with pre-negotiated rates offers a better buy. A travel management company will allow you to get the best deals because they know how to do the negotiations with various vendors.

4)    Plan and pack well for trips, so you take the least amount of luggage needed. Packing lightly can save $200 or more per trip.

5)    Restaurant savings can be arranged before trips. When you have booked a hotel for the trip, go online and find the restaurant chains that are nearby. By pre-purchasing gift cards from the restaurant—at a discount—travelers can often save up to 50 percent on meals. Then, expense the card and any overage.

6)    Loyalty pays. Savings and benefits can accrue from keeping your business with certain airlines or hotels. Many credit card companies will grant free miles or hotel points based on usage of their product. We have clients who receive between 20 and 50 free room-nights by booking travel with certain credit card companies.

Goran Gligorovic is executive vice president of Omega World Travel, a global travel management company. Based in Fairfax, Va., Omega services government, corporate, meeting, and leisure clients throughout the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia.