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Handling Business Travel Gone Wrong

Business travel planning is a deceptively difficult task. Even administrative assistant superstars must remain vigilant during every phase of business travel planning in order to try and ensure a smooth, productive trip for their executives. While most business trips go as planned, providing the traveler with a seamless experience, travel plans can and do go wrong. It’s important, as an executive assistant, to embrace this reality and be flexible enough to handle hiccups, disruptions, and even chaos when it occurs. Whether it’s a missed flight, a lost passport, or a natural disaster, unexpected disruptions to travel plans can be stressful for everyone involved.

It’s important to understand that the administrative assistant’s role in these cases is to be the problem solver, finding solutions quickly and effectively. This requires clear communication with the traveler, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the travel arrangements that were made. It also means being proactive in anticipating potential issues and having backup plans ready should something go wrong. With some careful preparation and knowledge of best practices, administrative assistants can help ensure that their executive’s trip goes as smoothly as possible even when unexpected hurdles arise. In this blog, we’ll explore some practical tips to help administrative assistants handle travel plans that have gone wrong and get back on track as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

Preparation is Key

We believe proper business travel planning for executive assistants consists of three key phases:

  1. Pre-trip phase
  2. Trip phase
  3. Post-trip phase

In two earlier travel planning-focused blogs, we zoomed in on the pre-trip phase of work travel in The Business of Travel: Planning Tips for Administrative Assistants and trip and post-trip phases in Understanding The Trip and Post-Trip Phases of Business Travel.

While every phase is absolutely critical, the pre-trip and trip phase of business travel planning is the most powerful tool in your arsenal in combatting travel chaos. Well-laid plans and backup plans can help you avoid stress and frustration. The most important part of any well-laid business travel plan is built-in contingencies for emergencies. Unexpected events happen all the time, whether it’s a delayed flight or a last-minute change in plans. Too, as an administrative assistant, taking an active role when your leader is out of the office during the important trip phase by confirming their reservations and transportation can help to head off potential problems.

But prepare yourself. Industry veterans will most assuredly tell you that no matter how prepared you are, you will have a trip where something goes wrong. Even the best-laid plans can go awry. It’s during these times that your expertise and acumen are essential in getting your executive back on track. Here are some tips for dealing with travel chaos.

When it All Goes Wrong

When a business trip comes along where everything seems to be falling apart and chaos dominates the itinerary, you’ll have to find a way to manage the disruption and ensure your leader is able to safely navigate the trip and, if possible, accomplish their goals. Here are a few tips on how to handle travel plans gone wrong:

Be Proactive

Don’t wait for things to go wrong before you start taking action. Do your research and have a backup plan in place in case of delays or cancellations. Consider key tactics such as alternative flight options, alternate accommodations, extra clothing, and additional medication should the trip be delayed. Monitor the weather closely, especially on travel days, and pay attention to local news that could impact travel. Keep copies of all travel documents and meeting information (such as passports, visas, birth certificates, itineraries, agendas, and contact information) on hand and always know websites and contact numbers for airlines and hotels beforehand so that any changes or delays can be dealt with promptly.

Make Use of Technology

Smartphones can be a great tool in helping you stay on top of any changes or delays. Use the latest travel apps to track flights and keep records of bookings and receipts. Additionally, by signing up for flight alerts and notifications via email, you will be kept informed of any changes made to your executive’s itinerary which could potentially help avoid any confusion. Modern apps, smart phones, and GPS allow us to track the movements of others. Use this to your advantage as an assistant. If you can see where your executive is, you may be able to help better and more accurately navigate travel hiccups. Of course, ensure your leader is comfortable with this before you make use of this modern hack.

Be flexible and proactive in looking for solutions: If a flight is delayed, don’t panic. Minor delays typically don’t create big travel interruptions if you’ve thoughtfully designed a stellar agenda in the pre-trip planning phase. However, if a significant delay occurs (more than a couple of hours), you may need to start exploring other options. Consider potential alternate flights or road transportation, if possible. If none are available, you can also reach out to local contacts such as hotels or businesses to make arrangements for your leader to have a space to work if needed.

Be Patient

While it’s important to be proactive, it’s also essential to remain patient and stay focused while dealing with the situation. Take a step back and assess the options available before taking any action that could potentially make things worse. Always maintain your professionalism, even when faced with challenging situations as this will ensure better results in the long run. Sometimes, it takes time to resolve a travel issue. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an immediate answer or can’t find a quick solution. Keep trying and eventually, you’ll be able to get things sorted out.

Be Communicative

Communication is key in all aspects of your job, especially when it comes to dealing with travel issues. Make sure you keep your executive updated on the situation by providing them with regular updates and information as soon as possible. You can also reach out to colleagues, mentors, or contacts that may be able to help you come up with solutions or provide assistance for any travel-related issue. Keep your executive informed of changes in plans and progress you are making to solve the issue. Stay in contact with them and ensure they know how to reach you. This will help to calm them down and convey that you’re on top of things and working to resolve any issues as expeditiously as possible.

Finding the Right Mindset

When disaster strikes, the most important thing you can do as an administrative assistant is to stay calm and remain focused. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by chaotic situations, but administrative assistants need to be able to think clearly and act quickly. The best way to do this is to take a few deep breaths and assess the situation objectively. Once you have a better understanding of what has gone wrong, look for ways you can help fix it. Remember this: The more stressed you are, the harder it will be to think clearly and solve the problem. Keep in mind that your leader, colleagues, and clients may also be stressed and looking to you for guidance. By remaining calm, you can give them the reassurance they need that everything will be okay.

Take Flight

With preparation, a cool head, and a flexible presence, you can become a master travel planner who’s equipped to weather any storm! If you’re ready to reach that next level, Office Dynamics can help. We developed a huge library of resources called the Success Store that focuses on helping executive assistants master all the key functions required in their role, become strategic partners with their leaders, and reach incredible levels of professional success. Click here to learn more!


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