By Joe Brancatelli
July 24, 2013--My first big job in journalism was with a publishing company that had a phobia about travel and entertainment spending. Its T&E parsimony caused us business travelers a big problem: The company required a receipt for any expense exceeding $5.

With 35 years of hindsight, I'll admit that those awful times collecting scads of receipts did teach me a lesson: Pay attention to what you spend on the road. Even if you are a big spender (and I am told that I am), it pays to know where your money (or your company's dough) goes.

Which explains why I love pouring through surveys of T&E spending that travel-management firms produce on a fairly regular basis. Two have been released almost simultaneously in recent days, so I am in travel-spending heaven. And here are seven bits of T&E trivia that you should know.

We're getting parsimonious too
My old publishing bosses would be proud. According to T&E management outfit Concur, our on-the-road spending fell last year compared to 2011. According to an analysis of $50 billion in charges, our T&E spend was down an average of 4.5 percent. And our parsimony spread across the board. We spent 8.2 percent less on airfares, 3.8 percent less on lodging, a staggering 11.1 percent less on dining and 10 percent less on car rentals. I attribute the national dining decline to my 2012 dietóI'm a big eater as well as a big spenderóbut the other drops flummox me. Every business traveler I know has been raging about the rising cost of car rentals and I haven't run into many fliers lately who felt their airline fares have fallen.

We're highly caffeinated
Speaking of on-the-road eating, the new report from the expense-management firm Certify suggests that Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) is the favorite place for business travelers to hang. Its analysis of spending in this year's second quarter says 5.2 percent of our dining dough is dropped at Starbucks. That's nearly twice as much as McDonald's (2.84 percent) or Subway (1.82 percent). Coming up fast is HMS Host (1.54 percent). Never heard of HMS Host? You're almost guaranteed to have eaten at one of its places since it controls restaurants and food and beverage kiosks at 100 airports around the world. If you've ever gulped a latte at an airport Starbucks, grabbed a slice before your flight at Pizza Hut or California Pizza Kitchen or guzzled a beer at what you thought was the airport branch of a local brewpub, you've spent T&E money with HMS Host.

Marriott by a mile
If the Certify report is to be believed, a lot of our heads are on beds provided by the gigantic Marriott (NYSE: MAR) family of hotels. The most-expensed hotel brand was the eponymous Marriott chain (9.41 percent of second-quarter spending) and Marriott's Courtyard brand was third with 5.96 percent. That combined total of more than 15 percent surpassed Hilton, which controls the second (Hampton Inn with 6.87 percent) and fifth (Hilton with 4.37 percent) most-expensed hotel chains.

Smaller may not be better
Less is more may be a perfectly good cosmic mantra, but smaller is definitely not better when it comes to our T&E spending. According to Concur, those of us who work for small businesses spend about 25 percent more on T&E than those of us who work for larger companies. The reason? Economies of scale, since larger companies have more leverage to negotiate lower rates with travel providers. Small-business fliers do spend a little less on domestic airline tickets than our large-business peers ($363 on average compared to $424), but Concur wisely notes that's probably because small businesses have fewer branches so our trips are shorter. But small-business travelers pay a staggering 45 percent more on lodging than large-business travelers. Those of us who represent small businesses also paid 57 percent more on average for our car rentals.

The Big Apple is big ticket
This won't surprise any business traveler: New York is by far the most expensive domestic city to visit. When the Big Four on-the-ground costs (dining, lodging, entertainment and ground transport) are taken together, Concur says a business traveler spends an average of $472.06 in the Big Apple. (Two subsidiary New York destinations also made the top 10. Garden City costs $389.44 a night while Long Island City costs $359.05 a night.) Among the other most visited cities, only San Francisco ($407.04) comes close. The least-expensive most-visited American city? Charlotte, where it costs just $248.22 for a night of lodging, dining, entertainment and transportation.

Don't throw too many shrimp on the barbie
As expensive as it is, New York is a piker by international standards. According to Concur, it ranks only ninth on the list of most expensive cities worldwide to visit for business travel. The most costly place to spend a night? Brisbane, Australia at $547.53. In fact, four Australian cities were in the top 10. Sydney was No. 3 at $524.01, Perth was No. 4 at $520.93 and Melbourne clocked in a $475.78. Traditional high-cost towns pale by comparison: Tokyo was No. 2 at $540.91, London was No. 5 at $516.46 and Zurich was No. 8 at $474.33.

We're more tech-savvy than ever
The Certify report does a good job breaking down the costs business travelers expense on a city-by-city basis. The unmistakable conclusion: If it's high-tech, we're spending on it. Some examples: Boingo Wireless, the global WiFi service, was the No. 2 "general" expense listed by visitors to Los Angeles. Square, the company whose plastic dongle turns smartphones into credit-card machines, registered a startling 11.89 percent of all the general expenses registered by business travelers in San Francisco. Uber, which created the phone app that allows you to "hail" a limo, already accounts for 2.59 percent of general spending in auto-unfriendly San Francisco. And don't say I didn't tell you about this last week in our discussion of the changing nature of room service. Seamless.com, the online food-delivery service, now ranks as No. 2 food option for business travelers in New York. It accounted for 4.87 percent of all New York dining charges, second only to Starbucks at 6.91 percent.

ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT This column is Copyright © 2013 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.