Luxury and the Road Warrior, Not: Where We Really Sleep and Eat


By Robert McGarvey

Recent data from Certify, the corporate expense management company, underlines a reality I have known for decades – as have you, probably – but it is one unknown to many of our friends and even co-workers who don’t do much business travel.

You know what I mean. Non travelers always think that business travel means luxury. It is comfort squared.  They seem sure that I regularly bunk down in Ritz Carltons – I remember doing that exactly once on a business trip and indeed I was impressed. That I fly in first class (never but even business class is ever more uncommon today).  That I eat in Michelin starred gourmet restaurants (sometimes but only on my own nickel and never for business).

My travel reality is much more Spartan – but the Certify results say that yours are too.

Certify breaks out results by restaurant, hotel, airline.

We travel much more modestly than many believe.

Big news – a sea change in how we get around – also is in the recent Certify data.  Certify noted that use of ride hailing services by business travelers has exploded.  “Review of the past four quarters compared to 2016 data shows an accelerated shift in corporate travel expenses to ride-hailing services, underscoring the industry disruption and change in business traveler preference. Ride hailing picked up 68% of the overall ground transportation category last year led by Uber and rival Lyft, respectively with 56% and 12% of the total. Uber also claimed 9% of all expenses and receipts processed by Certify in 2017.”

Certify indicated that so far services such as Airbnb have not caught on in a major way with business travelers, in contrast to our embrace of Uber and its ilk: “alternative accommodations with Airbnb have nearly doubled each year in the Certify data since 2014, yet it still represents just under .5% of the lodging category overall today.”  I’m with this. I remain unpersuaded that Airbnb is a business travel accommodation that will be liked by many of us.  

But this is prelude. What really intrigues me is where we eat and sleep, be it ever so humble.

Here are the most expensed restaurants, showing percent of the category captured:

Starbucks: 5.22%, averaging $12.94

McDonald’s: 2.91%, averaging $9.34

Panera Bread: 1.71%, averaging $44.35

Chick-Fil-A: 1.41%, averaging $26.63

Subway: 1.4%, averaging $20.26


Our favorite restaurants are these, on a five star scale:

Chick-Fil-A: 4.4

Jimmy John’s: 4.3

Panera Bread: 4.3

Starbucks: 4.3

Chipotle: 4.3

Personally I am all in with Starbucks and Subway, I’m okay with Panera and Chipotle, and, yep, this is about the category and prices of restaurants I expense.  Some of these totals, obviously, have to be meals for several people (you can’t spend $20.26 on a meal for one at Subway, I don’t believe; I spend half that).  

As for lodgings, here is where Certify says we stay:

Hampton Inn: 8.95% of total lodgings, averaging $240.59

Marriott: 8.48%, averaging $272.15

Courtyard by Marriott: 7.4%, averaging $193.11

Holiday Inn Express: 4.63%, averaging $234.64

Hilton Garden Inn: 4.47%, averaging $227.87

Again, yep.  Personally, as I seek to duck early cancellation fees, I have been looking outside the big name brands.  

I don’t recall spending over $300 on a hotel room in the past four years.  So the Certify prices seem right on.

Here, by the way, are our top rated hotels (on a 5 point scale):

Hyatt 4.4
Marriott: 4.4
Westin: 4.4
Hilton Garden Inn: 4.3
Homewood Suites 4.3

No real complaints about those scores on my end.

Note what’s missing from these lists: Ritz Carlton, Kimpton, all the boutique brands.  We just usually sleep in plain jane, mid priced digs.

With airlines, this is what we fly:

Delta: 20.32% of flights, averaging $396.66

American: 18.68%, averaging $316.55

United: 14.44%, averaging $369.67

Southwest: 11.42%, averaging $274.32

Alaska Airlines: 1.6%, averaging $253.14


Your faves aren’t on the top five lists? Here are more extensive results.  

Add all this up and we are flying in coach, staying in one and two star hotels, and we are eating in fast food joints.

Sound glamorous to you?

Of course not.  But next time a friend or family member expresses jealousy about your high flying lifestyle just point them to the Certify data.

Personally I have no gripes about bunking at a Hampton Inn and grabbing dinner at a Subway but luxe they aren’t.


2 thoughts on “Luxury and the Road Warrior, Not: Where We Really Sleep and Eat”

  1. ‘. Now, no matter what class I fly (although it is usually first) I carry my own food. The one time I didn’t due to a schedule change, the food was so bad I could not eat it. Yes, lesson learned.

    So, you are business traveler and do not have the time nor inclination? Try it; you’ll like it!


  2. Whoops, I cancelled part of the post! It should say: When my Italian parents travelled they always brought their own food. Always. I continue to do so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *