A growing number of business travelers is trading the appellation “road warrior” for “day tripper.” Tighter corporate travel budgets are prompting these frequent fliers to complete their roundtrips in one day, rather than assume the expenses of a hotel stay and meals while on the road. Also, it comes with the perk of not being able to entertain, which cuts travel expenses further. These jaunts tend to involve flights of no more than three hours, even though some people are going coast-to-coast and back without bothering to check in to a hotel.
For some, it isn’t just a case of budgetary discipline, though that factor will never disappear in a recessionary environment. Business travelers are also drawn to the notion of being able to get home at night. Even a late-night arrival means plopping your head on your own pillow and having breakfast with the family.
Of course, these one-day runs are grueling. Even for a two-hour flight, you have to get to the airport an hour early, and unless you live right next to the airport, you’re probably looking at another hour to get there. So, to catch a 6 AM flight, you’re leaving the house at 4 AM (with a wakeup of around 3:30 AM at best), and you’re not touching the ground at your destination until 8 AM … assuming there are no delays. Depending on traffic and distance, you get to the office at 9 AM and work the entire day. To catch a 7 PM flight, you leave the office at 5 PM to get there an hour early. After two hours in the air (again, assuming nothing goes wrong), you’ll probably get home by 10 PM. That’s an 18-hour day; it’s tough.While the actual cost savings is being questioned, in my experience, it’s substantial. In 2003 and 2004, I made frequent runs from Boston to New York. With the rate my company had with the Delta Shuttle, coming home at night was a no-brainer. On longer trips, the savings may not be as substantial — as you have a higher fare and likely a less expensive hotel than you’ll find in Manhattan — but you’re still looking at more than $200 a night, assuming a $150 room and meal expenses.
The cost savings, however, may come at the expense of your health. Some experts see this sort of aggressive travel as rough on your body … and I can tell you it’s a bit rough on the spirit, too. But, if you have enough time between one-day runs, it isn’t so bad at all.
And, don’t worry: even though you lose the hotel points, you’ll still pick up the miles.