5 ways your ministry can save money on travel

By Luis Lama, Ministry-Travel Expert.

Until Jesus comes back Christian ministries will always need to include travel in their budgets. Jesus made it very clear, after the resurrection, to “go.” Whether you are sending a family long-term, sending a team short-term or gathering people for a conference, we should all practice wise financial stewardship in the area of ministry-travel. There are best practices and services that are available for a 501(c)3 organizations. Don’t wing it. Travel is often a noticeable piece of the budget pie. Here are a few tips to help you practice ministry-travel stewardship:

1.    Don’t schedule every trip during peak season. Airlines and charter bus carriers know demand is high during summer, spring break and winter break. Typically, these are the seasons of the year when inventory becomes the scarcest. Although these time spans are the most convenient for participants (school and work schedules)… not everything has to be calendared during these time frames. Distinguish which activities can be moved to off-peak travel season. You could save a significant amount.

2.    Plan in advance. Planning is a pain but the lack of planning hurts more. Start the communication process with your ministry partners early… especially international partners. Since the travel industry runs on a supply & demand pricing structure AND major airlines publish their itineraries 11-months in advance the best way to snag the best itinerary and rate is if you reserve the day your travel dates are published. You can reserve a block of nameless seats with a refundable deposit! Pay close attention to the due dates. At “utilization” (typically 90 days before departure) you are allowed to adjust your reservation seat count to reflect the more accurate number of passengers your recruitment efforts have resulted in. Start your group contract with an optimistic number of passengers and know your deadline for when to lower your passenger count to avoid forfeiting deposits.

3.    Pay a better way. Travel Industry vendors sometimes charge you the same rate whether you pay through a bank withdraw (check or ACH) or credit. Review your current credit card incentive programs that are available to your organization. Receiving 3% cash-back is one way to trim your travel expense.

4.    Research competitors. Sometimes you can switch an airline contract for a better airline contract during the reservation timeline without any financial penalty. Simply cancel before Utilization and float your deposit over at no charge. Sometimes you are able to trade a forced-layover schedule… for a non-stop itinerary at a better price! Airline carriers often strategically add additional routes as demand grows. Some airlines will lower your contract rate if you ask them to IF in fact the airline published a price drop… often done at the 9, 6 and 3 month marks. When considering an airline switch factor in the luggage allowance, cancelation terms, and how many daily flights the airline takes to your destination. You don’t want to run into a situation where you have to wait 2 days because of a cancelled flight because the airline you switched to doesn’t have daily flights. If you are going to switch airline carriers… do your research and enjoy the savings.

5.    Partner with a travel expert. There are several travel agencies that are completely focused on ministry-travel. They can serve you with a single trip or perform a comprehensive travel review of your entire ministry. Approved agencies sometimes have access to lower rates, better cancelations terms and higher luggage allowance. The industry calls these unpublished travel products: humanitarian, student and tour fares. Think of your ministry-travel agent as a “remote staffer.” In the case of an emergency, you won’t have to be transferred from person to person re-explaining your situation. Having a travel industry expert on your team can save you time, money and headaches.

It is important for ministries to handle finances well and for the travel coordinator to be informed. We owe it to those, who are financially contributing, to not spend more money than necessary. With guidance it’s possible to get from point A to point B in a way that practices stewardship.

Luis Lama, Ministry-Travel Expert, www.SummitTravel.org

This article is submitted by Summit Travel. Summit Travel is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

Related Articles


Upcoming Events