Many administrative professionals are tasked with making travel arrangements for their bosses, company executives, key team members, or important guests/clients. There are many details involved in this work, and a number of things can go wrong if not planned carefully. A staff member who is a talented and effective travel manager can be a critical asset to an organization and, as the world continues to grow more interconnected, this role will only increase in significance.
Even if this is not one of your current duties, you should still take the time to learn about coordinating business trips because it is a great skill to have and one that is always in high demand by C-suite personnel. Whether you are arranging a three-day jaunt to a conference across the country or organizing a three-week tour of ten countries for your CEO, review these basic strategies to ensure the journey is successful and productive.
Does the boss have a favorite hotel? How about a favorite airline? Does she prefer a window or aisle seat? What is her ideal departure time – early in the morning, late at night, or somewhere in between? What type of rental car will work best for her? Are there any meal restrictions that you need to be aware of? What amenities will she expect at her destination? Does she require access to a gym? Does she like to sleep in a king-size bed? Is it a deal-breaker if Wi-Fi is unavailable in her hotel room? Little things become extremely important when you’re far from home and on a lengthy business trip, so do your best to find out what will make your boss comfortable and what she cannot live without.
As you begin to set up a business trip, you must remain cognizant of timing. Make sure that you build extra time into the schedule to account for late flights, trouble with directions, or delays at hotel check-in. Compile a list of appointments for the entire trip and then schedule each meeting strategically to maximize your traveler’s time and productivity. Create a checklist of all items that must be packed (this is especially important for sales meetings that require visual aids/presentations).
Consider shipping large materials or other items that may be difficult to travel with (allow plenty of time for these resources to arrive and contact the hotel to let them know when to expect the package). When it comes to equipment such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, make sure to arrange some sort of backup (like a flash drive) for important files. Finally, you must be sure to get the boss’ frequent flier number, find out what the weather will be like at each destination and what clothes would be most appropriate (both business attire and comfortable clothes for travel), arrange a rental car (if necessary), and identify prospective dining options your traveler may enjoy.
Once you have devised a travel plan for your boss that covers all aspects of his impending business trip, the next step is to take this basic blueprint and turn it into a comprehensive itinerary. The best thing about a travel itinerary is that it puts tons of detail in a very small package (usually just a page or two), so rather than having to scramble to find his airline e-ticket/boarding pass, hotel reservation, or rental car confirmation number, your boss will have immediate access to all the information he needs. Much like the trip itself, the itinerary needs to be well organized.
For multi-leg trips, you can break it up into days with each date heading in bold so the program is easy to peruse. Be sure to include key details such as the names of airports, hotels (do not forget contact information!), restaurants, and entertainment opportunities. Add a separate section with driving directions or street addresses so that your boss can easily tell a cabbie where to take him. Once you have completed the itinerary, keep the original file for your reference (make an emergency backup, too), email it to anyone in the company who may need it, and print copies for your boss and his significant other (if necessary).
Organizing an international business trip presents another set of issues to worry about. Time zone changes, local customs and cultural differences, safety and security concerns, visa guidelines, necessary vaccinations, and passport requirements are just some of the potential complications that you will need to deal with to ensure that the head honcho’s overseas travel does not end up causing an international incident. A lot of this will require a fair amount of research. You will need to research business etiquette and professional decorum – Will the boss’ counterparts come to the meeting bearing gifts? What is the acceptable greeting? What constitutes good or bad behavior?
Familiarize yourself with the destination country’s immigration and customs procedures and pass this information along to the traveler. Keep in mind that you will need to budget extra time to go through the customs line and submit to potential searches/additional security checks. Find out what currency is used locally and review foreign exchange rates to find out the true cost of products and services (you may want to create a reference sheet/conversion chart to include in the boss’ itinerary). Finally, you will need to provide directions to the nearest US embassy in case your traveler runs into serious trouble.
Business travel is a significant investment of time and resources for many companies, but it is becoming increasingly essential as commerce continues to break down borders. Administrative specialists who are able to minimize the costs associated with these business trips and reduce the stress experienced by their globe-trotting executives will become more valuable and enjoy better job security, so make yourself irreplaceable by earning a reputation as your company’s go-to travel coordination expert.