The Executive Assistant’s Guide to planning executive travel

Posted on: February 7th, 2017

It’s all in the details

As we see more and more discount travel websites appearing, it is easy to think scheduling travel is an easy job, but that is very far from the truth. In fact, with so many factors involved in any trip today, it’s incredibly difficult to ensure everything runs smoothly, and this is especially true if you lack experience in dealing with air and ground transport provides, booking hotels and so on. For a trip that runs how you want, it needs a lot of research and planning to get right.

The travel industry is constantly evolving, and that makes what you may at first think are easy concepts much more complicated, changing the requirements of the travel planner on an almost daily basis. A good travel planner needs to be able to adapt to new best practices at a moment’s notice throughout the process.

 

Be sure about each decision

Picking the right provider for every aspect of the journey can be daunting with so many options available today, making the right choice is essential, so how do you do that?

Whoever you are planning travel for, you need to understand what they like. Do they focus on staying within a strict budget, or is luxury and style more important? Do they prefer a car service to get around or are they happy with using taxis? These all make a difference, and you can get an idea of what they are looking for by checking the receipts from past trips.

 

Hotel Resources

People think booking a hotel is easy, after all, you can simply go to hotels.com and find the best deal, and book it all online in minutes. However, there is more to it, does the hotel match the standards the traveler is expecting, is it near to the event or meeting they are attending, does it have the facilities they need for a business trip like Wi-Fi? It is not just the practicalities of the business aspects of the trip that are important, what about a gym or workout room, online check-in for time saving and easy travel, 24-hour room service and so on that the person going on the trip may wish to have?

With so many things to consider, you need to start with a list of things that the person you are booking for would like, and keep them to hand as you look for the right hotel to ensure they are all catered for. Your shortlist of 3 or 4 hotels that manage to include everything you are looking for can then be checked for participation in any frequent stay or air mile programs your company may be participating in, further narrowing the choice if possible.

 

Air Travel

The first thing to remember is that airlines are different, the service they provide, even in terms of a first class ticket, can vary greatly. Southwest Airlines, for instance, does not charge extra for bags, while others do. On a note of comfort, available legroom can be hugely different from one airline to another as well.

It is important to find out if the person who is travelling has frequent flyer status with any airline, or even more than one. If so, you can make use of those miles to obtain free upgrades or other bonuses that will make the journey more pleasant.

Check the credit card you use to make the booking for the flights, does it give miles for your most used airline? If not, think about using a credit card that does, those air miles soon add up, and that means more free upgrades.

The aim is to align your booking method and travel preference to maximize any reward program, and finally, it is important to check the airline’s own website for pricing confirmation before booking via GDS, and actual cost can vary. Always remember that if you are booking for several travelers, each one incurs a cost on GDS that must be accounted for.

 

Ground Transportation

Ground based travel is perhaps the aspect that is most frequently taken for granted, and yet, it is the one that can cause the most disruption to a journey. The only thing worse than a car problem is a flight delay or cancellation. Even if the traveler is happy to use taxis, it is still worth taking a look at costs and compare them with booking a reputable car service for the journey from the airport.

By the time you factor in the often long lines waiting for airport taxis, and the stress and annoyance that go with those queues, especially after a long, tiring flight, the lack of air conditioning and variable driving skills when they get a taxi, a 10%-20% premium for a car service can still make sense for the overall trip.

Whoever is traveling will love you if they get off the plane and have a smartly dressed chauffeur holding a sign with their name waiting for them. Then, when they sit in the executive car, with air conditioning, fresh, cool water and room to start preparing for the meeting or event, not worried about the journey thanks to the smooth ride provided by the highly trained professional driver, they will be thanking you again.

 

Getting Organized

Being organized, having everything prepared and ready to go is not only better for the traveler you are booking for, but it’s less stress for you as well.

You should expect confirmation for all of your travel providers, hotel, air travel of course, but you should also receive one from your ground transportation provider as well, something that is just impossible if you use taxis. By using a car service, you can add detailed information on pick-up and drop-off times, vehicle type, cost and so on to your travel itinerary and as such will have a much more complete schedule to work from. You should also receive a ride receipt within 48 hours, making it easier to reconcile travel expenses.

First impressions are important, and that journey from the airport will be the first impression of the trip for the party traveling, and also the parting memory of the trip as they head back to the airport. A professional car service makes a much better impression than waiting for taxis.

There are tools available for organizing travel itineraries and schedules, the best is perhaps Tripit, which allows you to create unique itineraries with details of each aspect of the trip, car service, flights, hotels and so on, all in a single place accessible from just one button click. For travelers themselves and you, it is more convenient and easier to manage.

Remember, GDS bookings do not forward any special requests, you have to email or phone them through separately to ensure the request is received.

 

Keeping track of costs

For both hotels and airlines, a dynamic pricing model is in effect, meaning that it changes based upon demand. To get the best prices, you need to be aware of the best times to book, this is Tuesdays for flights, along with the days of the week with the lowest cost travel.

Another way of adding value without cost is ensuring that the credit card used for the hotels aligns with the points program of the most frequently used hotel chains in your travel system. With both hotel and airline payments gaining points from correct choice of card, the points and miles, which mean free upgrades and free stays, just keep coming. This seems to have become a lost art today, as many just look for the cheapest deal online and take it, but those points have value, always consider them when evaluating costs.

There is a great mobile app for keeping track of receipts for expense reports, called Expesnify, it allows you to quickly scan and save any receipts and then easily create a report with all expenses categorized and the scanned documents attached.

 

Choosing the right ground transportation

In recent years, and mostly for cost savings after the recession, many business travelers have turned to taxi services rather than using a professional car service, but they are doing this without analyzing the actual cost differences, as in most cities the costs will be much closer than many would think.

The average sedan rate for a car service is only between 10% and 20% more than a taxi ride. However, how much do you value a business traveler’s time? Taking into account the waiting in line at the airport, and the ability to actually work during the journey in a chauffeur driven car, along with the reduced stress and added comfort, the taxi is not necessarily the value choice at all.

 

Overcoming Challenges

Whether it is a lone traveler or a party, there are always challenges along the way on any trip. Of course, when something goes wrong during a trip, or a poor choice has been made, it is the admin that becomes the scapegoat for all issues.

Of course, if you make mistakes, it is only right that you take responsibility for them, however, you should not take responsibility for everything when others are also culpable. To ensure this does not happen to you, not only do you need to perfect your organizational abilities, but to also make the most of your teamwork skills.

You can build a relationship with providers and leverage that into a better service, upgrades and so on by limiting the number of vendors you use, while consolidating the vendor choice works even with ground transport today as many can provide nationwide coverage, offering the same high standards of service in every city that the traveling party visit.

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