Travel Planning for Executive & Administrative Assistants
When I was an executive assistant planning hundreds of trips for my executive over a 20-year period, I thought I did a good job. Most of the time, my executives were pleased. But I really didn’t understand the intricacies of travel until I became an executive and traveled often. For 22 years, I have been traveling; mostly within the United States. I have had a few trips to Bermuda and the Caribbean but not overseas—this is by choice. So, if I think it is tough being a traveler in the United States, just imagine how difficult it is for the executives who travel great distances often—and have to show up for meetings! Being a road warrior is not glamorous like people think. You spend hours and hours waiting in the airport; dealing with changed scheduled; late flights; bad weather; lost suitcases; rides that don’t show up; uncomfortable beds and noisy hotels. I could go on and on about the difficulties of traveling but I won’t. I hope you get the picture. So anything you can do to make your executive’s life easier when planning travel is outstanding! I am going to share with you, my tips from experience on both sides of the desk on how to plan business travel.
I often hear executives tell me that they don’t think their executive assistant or administrative assistant is doing the best job of the planning of their travel, even though their assistant has been working with them for years. So this subject is a big deal and one you should pay attention to. Of course, every executive has their preferences when it comes to travel. For me, I always want an aisle seat toward the front of the plane. And I prefer to sit on the left side of the plane, as you enter the plane. Some executives do not want less than a 60-minute layover because they don’t want to run through long concourses. You must know what your executive prefers and cater to that. Also, be warned that their preferences can change. So where I may tell Jasmine don’t let me get into a city later than 5:00 p.m., I may change my mind because it is summer and it will stay lighter later in the day; I have been to this city numerous times and know my way around; I know the client and class and can linger a little longer in the morning before showing up for the class.
I am sharing with you a few things to consider when you plan business travel. There are many more considerations and I will be offering online training on this topic later this year with other pertinent topics to make your life great and make you a more effective assistant. For now, consider some of these points as you arrange for business travel. As you go through my business travel checklist, ask yourself:
- Am I already doing this? If so, are you doing this every time?
- Do I need to do a better job?
- If I’m doing this, why not? How soon can I implement this action?
Business Travel Itinerary should include:
- Weather report for each day leader will be in the arriving city and other cities he will be visiting during his trip.
- Any issues or events in arriving city that could affect leader’s travel into the city or when he arrives or departs the city.
- Main contact’s cell phone number (for emergencies or in-transit arrival delays or changes).
- At the very top of the first page, have a noticeable box with ALL contacts’ names and telephone numbers. The leader should not have to hunt through the itinerary to locate these if he needs them quickly.
- Frequent Flyer Club Information – locations of clubs at the airport(s).
- Will food be served during the flight? If so, is it a snack or meal?
When traveling for business, a leader should leave the following items home:
- Copy of his/her itinerary (and other important information)
- International trips: Copy of passport (photo and visa pages)
- Unneeded credit cards
When booking flights, the assistant needs to consider:
- Layover time—should not be too long but must be long enough for the leader to walk through concourses and make his connection.
- Is this the best time of day for the leader to depart local airport based on when he needs to arrive?
- Is this the fastest route? Sometimes it is better to wait at the airport for a later flight that is a direct flight then to take an earlier flight with connections and arrive home later than the direct flight.
- Upgraded seating available? When can you check for availability and how many hours before his flight will he be notified—24 hours?
- What other benefits does leader have with the airlines and his Frequent Flyer status?
Other business travel preparation tips for an assistant:
- How can I more effectively work with the travel agency to find the most efficient ways to structure leader’s travel given all factors of each trip, i.e., time frames, travel dates, meetings with customers, dinners, time to and from airports, etc.
o Ask about other options that better suit leader’s requests.
o Do some of your own research about the flight(s) and then speak to the travel agent.
o Tell them to confirm that this is the best, most efficient, most convenient route for leader’s travel.
- Have you thought through the schedule the travel agency gave you? Once the schedule has been identified, think through the entire trip as if you were the traveler—does it make sense?
What meetings, luncheons, or dinners should be scheduled? (Always think: what, who, when, where)
- Team Dinner
o Who needs to be invited?
o Restaurant, club or other facility?
o Any special communications from you to the team?
- Town Hall Meetings
- Customer Meetings
- Business Colleagues
Restaurant Name: _________________________________________
Dress Code: _____________________________________________
Type of Meal: _____________________________________________
Guests Attending: _________________________________________
Confirmation #: ___________________________________________
Special Food Requirements: ________________________________
Other Special Requests: ____________________________________Meeting Materials:
- Leader’s notes, folders, files (soft or hard copies)
- Handouts and other documents
- PowerPoint slides (saved to USB?)
Cash for Travel:
Make sure leader has cash a few days before he departs. Here is a suggested list. Find out Leader’s preferences. This will depend on the length of his trip and where he is traveling to. An example is
$1.00 (10 bills)
$10.00 (6 bills)
$20.00 (6 bills)
$50.00 (4 bills)
$100.00 (3 bills)
Does leader want Traveler’s Cheques? If so, how much and in what dollar amounts?
- Cell phone
- Cell phone charger (or Universal charger)
- Laptop (and carrying case)
- iPad (and carrying case)
- Spare batteries
- Lighter (for emergency/power outages at hotel due to storms)
- Plug adapters and voltage converters
- Trench coat
- Casual attire
- Business attire
- Workout attire (including tennis shoes)
- Business suit or sports jacket
- Toiletries (place in appropriate baggies if taking a carry-on suitcase)
- Personal items
- Medical items:
o Prescription medications
o Sinus medicine
o Throat lozenges
- Boarding Pass
- Business cards
- Pens and/or special notepads or portfolio for writing
NOTE: Carry-On Baggage Although there is no regulation for common items such as clothing, reading materials, cameras and laptop computers, the TSA regulates the number of liquid items, such as toothpaste, shampoo and bottled water, permitted in carry-on luggage. Travelers must pack their liquid items in a single, clear quart-size bag. Each item in the bag must be in a 3.4-oz. or smaller container. Airline passengers can also take small scissors, those with a 4-inch or shorter blade and tools that are 7 inches or shorter with them on the plane, although larger tools are prohibited.
Departing leader’s home first day of travel:
Town car service to the airport and schedule the pickup for the leader when he returns home.
– Times (allow sufficient time get to the airport; are certain days busier at departing airport than others, such as Monday?) What times of day are busiest for driving to the airport?
Town car service (driver needs to be there when leader arrives)
If yes, where is driver meeting leader?
– Bottom of escalators
– At baggage claim
Does leader need to call the driver upon his arrival?
Will the driver be holding a sign with his name on it near baggage or at the baggage carousel? Or will the name card be placed in the car window for the leader to see curbside?
Taxi pick up – Where are they located? Is there a taxi booth or does leader just step outside to the curb?
Will an individual be picking up the leader from the airport? If so, provide all details.
Car rental? If yes, provide all details.
Travel time (not miles) to destination: ________________
Phone #: ______________________________________________________________
Confirmation #: ________________________________________________________
Cancellation Policy: _____________________________________________________
Non-smoking room: _____________________________________________________
Room type: King or 2 Queens/2 Doubles ____________________________________
Prefers room be located away from the elevators and very end of hallway
Does Leader prefer certain floors (lower vs. higher in case he has to exit for fire)
– Charge at $ __________ per day (or 24 period)
Concierge Floor requested
Yes ____ Hours of operation __________________
– Where in the hotel?
– Hours of operations
Reciprocal club near hotel?
Restaurant(s) in the hotel:
Restaurants within walking distance (full-service/fine dining vs. casual)
Phone # ________________________________
Emergency Medical Information for International Travel: provide details
Transportation from Hotel to and from Scheduled Meetings/each day:
Mode of transportation:
Time of departure from hotel:
Who will be meeting leader? Exactly where will they meet leader once he arrives? What time?
Don’t just plan travel—try to imagine that you are taking this trip. You want every detail covered. If you support a female traveler, safety and security will be their #1 concern. Good luck. I hope you feel like you have some good checklists started to help you plan better business travel for your executive now.