How to Plan an Incentive Trip on a Budget

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Incentive trips are a smart, essential investment for any company, including major corporations and small businesses alike. Offering incentive trips for employees can directly contribute to stronger business results, in addition to a multitude of other advantages.

And here’s more good news: an outstanding incentive trip is possible even if you’re working with a limited budget. In fact, with some savvy budget hacks for travel planning, there are plenty of great company trip ideas that are far more affordable than you might think.

What is an Incentive Trip?

Essentially, an incentive trip is a reward that an employer can offer employees who achieve exemplary results. In contrast to professional retreats or similar training and education-based experiences, corporate incentive trips are intended for pleasure, not business.

Typically, corporate incentive travel is reserved for employees that have gone above and beyond. A thoughtfully-planned trip can serve as a token of appreciation, as well as motivation to continue to excel. In most cases, a company will plan an incentive trip to reward employees for meeting specific objectives, for example, hitting a certain sales goal.

What are the advantages of corporate incentive trips?

  • Motivate employees to achieve key objectives
  • Show appreciation for superior job performance
  • Boost employee morale and productivity
  • Strengthen relationships among teams/colleagues
  • Serve as an attractive benefit for prospective employees
  • Create lasting memories that contribute to a positive company culture
  • Provide opportunities for employees to interact with peers in a different way

How to Plan an Incentive Trip on a Budget

No matter what type of business you operate, budget is most likely one of your top priorities in any discussion – and planning incentive trips for employees is no different. Using a strategic approach and a few handy incentive travel hacks, you can save money without sacrificing the quality of the experience.

Use Credit Card Points

Travel credit cards can be a smart way to turn everyday expenses into future savings, especially if you know how to use credit card points for incentive travel. Points can help reduce – or even completely cover – the cost of plane tickets, accommodations, and more.

Travel in the Off-Season

Whether you’re planning an employee trip to a popular tourist destination or a hidden gem, there’s almost always going to be an “off-season” in which fewer people visit the location. This can equate to major savings across the board (because demand is lower) and offer the perk of reduced crowds and easier access to sightseeing, dining, and other highlights.

Negotiate a Food Budget with a Specific Vendor

You can reduce your overall food budget for incentive trips if you work with a single vendor as much as possible. This can give you more negotiating power and simplify the planning and budgeting processes. If your employees will be staying in a hotel, it is often fairly easy to negotiate a reasonable food budget.

Allow Ample Time for Planning in Advance

Just like any family vacation or trip with friends, incentive travel can be far more affordable when it’s planned well in advance. When you have enough time to compare various options, you’re far more likely to find affordable tickets, accommodations, and more. For example, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically the least busy travel days, so you can book the trip accordingly to cut costs.

See If It’s Possible to Negotiate Lower Rates with Vendors in Exchange for Marketing Materials

In the past, the Miller Tanner Associates team has been able to leverage the video footage we film during incentive trips to negotiate with venues/vendors. For example, when we planned an incentive trip to Lisbon, local vendors were happy to offer reduced rates in exchange for access to footage of their venue in use – the epitome of a win-win scenario. Our team was able to cut costs, and vendors gained a major asset in the form of footage to use for advertising purposes.

Consider How to Include Incentive Travel Costs as a Tax Deduction

If you plan an incentive trip intentionally, you can incorporate details that may qualify for cost savings on corporate taxes.

For example, at Miller Tanner Associates, one of our budget line items is dedicated to donations and charitable efforts. In 2017, we hosted an employee trip that included a team-building event focused on giving back to children in need. The activity centered on improving a community orphanage for children born to incarcerated mothers, so we paid for it using our donation budget line item. When it came time to come up with ideas for employee incentive trip gifts, we purchased items from a charitable organization. Not only did this also fit into our donation budget line item, but our employees truly appreciated knowing that the gifts they received helped make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Because our donation budget line item is tax-deductible, MTA was able to spend thoughtfully while also maximizing our savings.

Company Trip Ideas: Activities on a Budget

Ideally, an incentive trip will feature an activity that makes a lasting impression on your employees. You can plan memorable and creative activities for employee incentive trips, and you can do it all while sticking to a budget.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas for incentive trip activities and events:

  • Wellness activities such as a spa or yoga retreat, golfing, hiking, mindfulness experience, or even whitewater rafting
  • An awards night that honors employees for their accomplishments, hosted at a local historical site so you can get creative without overspending
  • Attending an annual event, such as a film, music, or cultural festival
  • Participating in a community social responsibility (CSR) to provide an opportunity for employees to have a positive impact and serve the community by collecting donations, supporting a local need via manpower, and other activities
  • An “Amazing Race”-inspired scavenger hunt that allows participants to explore the many sides of a locale without requiring significant spending

Host an Incredible – and Affordable – Incentive Trip with the Leader in Corporate Event Planning

Employee incentive tips can be both rewarding and budget-conscious, especially when you have the right travel hacks, resources, and expertise on your side. With so many details to juggle, incentive trips are typically a task best navigated by a team of professionals.

Miller Tanner Associates is a specialized corporate planning event planning company that provides tailored services to our clients, including incentive trip planning. We can partner with your business to pull off an incentive trip that exceeds expectations but not your budget, so your company can reap the benefits.

Contact MTA for a personalized, expertly developed solution today!

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