travel planning for assistants

Tips for Planning Someone Else’s Travel

Planning travel for others is no simple matter and administrative professionals know this better than anyone else! Each traveler has personal preferences and unique quirks that make travel planning a true art form. As an admin, you are already a pro at putting yourself in other’s shoes and predicting their needs, even before they know what they need! However, travel is full of unpredictable changes. We’ve spent the last couple of months talking to some of the top admins in the game to find out what they are doing to stay ahead of the curve and keep travelers moving on time and in style. Here are some of their tips to help you stay on top!

Flight Preferences

Booking the perfect flight is not as simple as one, two, click. It’s about picking the right airline and, of course, timing! When picking between airlines, start with the basics: preferred airlines and flight class. For the flexible traveler, pick flights based on their in-flight amenities. JetBlue and Virgin America have broken into the market for luxury air travel by providing premium services like in-air Netflix or Amazon streaming, Wi-Fi, and in-seat outlets. Questions to ask yourself when picking an arrival time: do they prefer to fly in the morning of or the night before; how much time will they need to get to the hotel before the meeting; how much time will they need to prepare before the meeting; do they prefer direct flights?

Seating Choice

As airlines try to maximize profits by minimizing legroom, seats are getting less and less comfortable. Make sure to find out if the traveler would prefer to save money or to save their legs. For a happy medium, look into Economy Plus tickets. These seats provide extra legroom at an affordable price.

Baggage

All airlines, with the exception of Southwest, charge for economy class passengers to check baggage. If the traveler prefers to just bring a carry-on, do your research and make sure their luggage will fit in the overhead bin. If they’re going to be checking baggage, make sure you factor that into their travel time and give them plenty of time to check their bags and pick it up at their destination.

Hotel Preferences

Try to book the traveler in their preferred hotel chain. If the chain is not available in their destination, definitely make sure all their preferred amenities are available to them. If their favorite hotel is there, call ahead and ask for some specific amenities, such as a particular pillow type or bottle of water, to be there waiting in the room. When there are multiple hotels that seem to be of similar caliber (equal star rating and equal amenities) check out their location. Given two identical hotels, always pick the one that is closer to either the meetings or the airport. This will save them time and the headache of traffic.

Meals

Except in the case of “foodie” travelers, most people will pick restaurants based on convenience and location rather than the hottest artisanal eats. However, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Using resources like Open Table will allow you to see all the top-rated restaurants around your traveler’s meetings and hotel. It also helps you make reservations in an instant.

Bonus: booking reservations through Open Table earns users Dining Points which can be used to redeem things such as a Dining Rewards Gift or an Amazon gift card.

Local Transportation

The last piece of the planning puzzle is organizing ground transportation. The first step here is finding out whether the traveler would prefer to drive themselves or to be driven. When booking a rental car, the two most important considerations are the pickup/dropoff locations and, of course, the comfort of the car. Try to find rental companies that have in-terminal counters to make the process as quick and easy as possible. If the traveler prefers to be driven, there are three options: car service, on-demand, and taxis. On-demand car services such as Uber and Lyft have revolutionized ground transportation during trips. If you choose to use Uber and Lyft for your traveler, make sure their phone already has the app downloaded and is properly linked to their credit cards. A popular nationwide car service is LimoLink which allows you to schedule a car to pick up the traveler at specific locations during a specific time.

Printable Itinerary/Better Safe than Sorry

You can plan all you want, but if the traveler doesn’t know where to go, then it’s all in vain! The best way to keep them on track and in the know is to make sure their full itinerary is as readily available as possible. Be sure to import all of their travel plans to their preferred calendar. Then create a printable itinerary that is a clear timeline. Both digital and physical itineraries should contain the following information. For flights, including the time, airline, flight number, and if possible, terminal number for the airport. Hotels should include reservation number, name, address, phone number, price, and check-in/out times. If any car service is booked, clearly mark the pickup times as well as the company’s name, number, and the assigned driver’s name. Last, but not least, is the meeting information. Include time, location, phone numbers of relevant contact people, and appropriate attire.

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32 thoughts on “Tips for Planning Someone Else’s Travel”

  1. I can see how it could be really beneficial for a business to make sure that they know a good model for ground transport when traveling. Making sure that they get to the places that they need to on time would be really beneficial to them. It was interesting to learn about how important it is to look at the pickup and drop off locations.

  2. It would be wonderful if booking the perfect flight was as simple as one, two, click. Something that helps me when I travel is to set aside time in my day to focus on travel plans. That way, I’m not trying to cram in searching for transportation and hotel options. I think it makes the process a little less stressful.

  3. I put my bosses trip information in a colored, Pendaflex (Divide-It-Up) file folder with 3 tabs. Each of the tabs has a label – one for Flight info, Hotel Info and Meeting Prep. I put all the pertinent information under the tab related to his trip. For the flight info, I put his flight itinerary, rental car and google map directions. Under hotel I put his hotel confirmation and then in the Meeting prep I provide him with a prep sheet with information on the person he’s meeting with. I also create a call report sheet for him to record information following his meeting (he’s not a fast typist). I then type up the call report when he returns and save the information in a file folder in word called Call Reports. I save the call reports under the individuals last/first name so that I can access the meeting notes should he meet with the same person again (I also copy the call report information in the individuals record in our database. I also google information on the individual to pull up bios, etc. that provides more information on the individual. My boss and I have a great system to make sure he has all the pertinent information needed related to his trip.

  4. Gloria von Gesslein

    I’m always looking for tips and ideas to make traveling arranging easier and better for my execs.

  5. Keeping historical records of lodging and the traveler’s feedback on each place is really helpful in booking return trips. The traveler is more comfortable knowing the hotel will be one he likes and can count on to meet his needs.

  6. The Travel Planning webinar and handouts have been invaluable in planning travel for my executive. The trifold planner is so helpful to me and my executive. I am so grateful for each member of the Office Dynamics International staff and for the great tools that you provide. I am more prepared to face each day knowing I have the skills and tools to excel every day. Thank you for all the great articles during April — you are a blessing in my life.

  7. Travo sounds great, but we use our own travel company and go through them. I put together itineraries and give my staff driving directions, interesting sites near the conference venue, and a shuttle/taxi information. There were some good tips to remember when arranging travel for your staff.

    1. Donna, a lot of our users work with travel agencies as well. That is why we added in a button on our checkout page specifically for users with strong travel agency relationships to send their personalized itineraries over to the agency to book. We would love to hear more of your feedback about items you would like to see added to TRAVO, much like a feature to easily find interesting sites near a conference venue. Thank you for these awesome travel planning insights!

  8. TRAVO sounds very cool. Checking it out today. For my VP, I would add the time/location of where he was going to be on his Outlook calendar when he traveled abroad. so he could look at it and know the time he was supposed to be somewhere in the country that he was in. If he had to call or email someone back in the States, he also knew what time it was there at a glance. I would also print out a copy of his calendar in case he didn’t have internet access or cellular service.

  9. This may have been addressed already on an older blog post that I haven’t kept up with. But a great tool for getting meeting availability matrices on openings, prefs, polls is doodle. Doodle.com Has this been discussed here on the site yet? Any one else use it that wants to weigh in on it?

  10. This is so very helpful! Thank you for posting this.

    I wanted to share an example of a personal trip I assisted in planning for my boss. He was going on a missions trip to Africa; however, as most executives, he was far too busy to research anything to do with the cultural expectations, food, and other information that would be useful for him to give forethought to in preparation for the trip. In my spare time, I researched and printed off some of the best articles for him regarding his travel. I am more paperless based, but not him. He finds paper and the visual effect of it necessary, and in this instance, it served him quite well because internet access, hence any information held on a cloud, was not readily available in the areas in which he was traveling. Keeping this all in mind, I printed each article, highlighting what was essential, so he could skim, if needed. I placed this all in a thin, pronged folder for him to carry with him and made sure he had this the weekend before he left for his trip.

    Turns out, he reviewed the information on the long plane ride there, and when he returned with him stories of travel, he was really very grateful to me for that small little touch of service. He would have had far too many “culture shock” surprises had he not known some of this information, and it really made his trip that much more enjoyable. A happy executive equals a happy decision making for the company and a great, happy boss!

    Here’s a quote of his thanks to me, “Mandy, thanks again for your able assistance in SO MANY ways both day to day and in anticipation of this trip. Your support and legwork are appreciated in so many ways.”

    Thank again for these tips, Office Dynamics!!

    1. Mandy, When travel planning, it is often the little details that make such a difference. Though, I would consider what you did for him as a huge detail, that significantly changed his trip for the better. That is an awesome story!

    1. Travel planning is one of the things I have to set everything else aside when I work on it. I have to “get in the zone” with the trip and work on nothing else but the travel. It’s crucial to get it right. Otherwise, we could end up with an executive in a strange city with no hotel room.

    2. Yes, that is one of the main things we hope to help with TRAVO, automating some of the many details in any trip. It is designed to always get the traveler in and to their events on time and with the perfect place to stay. Saving you time!

    1. I did that for my exec years ago. He was a die hard Franklin Covey user so I printed a copy of the itinerary on a paper that fit the covey planner and fixed (with tape or glue) to the front of an envelope that fit the planner. Then I would hole punch it to fit into the planner. Everything associated with the trip, expenses, follow up business cards, notes for me would go into that envelope and when he would return I would sort it all out and manage the expense report.

      Joan prefers a trifold brochure of her itinerary that fits nicely into her purse. She brings it back with the receipts tucked inside and works just as well.

      It’s all about finding what works for the traveler and being consistent with it.

    2. OOOHHH, love the envelope idea @Katherine!! (I couldn’t reply to you directly). I’m going to try that next time!! International travel is the hardest for me. For their last trip, I printed a tri-fold and put the picture of their driver I had hired, and the basics of the trip. I used an excel file to put more details in the itinerary – travel times, mins from location to location, approx cost in Ggp.. etc. It was an excellent trip and they were grateful for the time I put into it!

    3. It is because of this that we added a feature to TRAVO that gives you the ability to download an editable Word Doc of the itinerary to add notes into and print out. This awesome feature was all thanks to Jasmine Freeman’s great feedback.

  11. I have a list of questions that I ask each traveler. Ex. preferences: morning or afternoon flights, seat preferences, etc. and I keep a spreadsheet so I know for next time.

      1. One of the great things about TRAVO is you can make multiple traveler profiles and add a lot of the preferences you listed to their profile. That way when it designs an itinerary for that person’s trip it will automatically take those items into account. We are always interested in your feedback of items you would like to see added to TRAVO as well!

  12. I live in the Midwest and when I’m booking travel for my boss during the winter months our rule of thumb is to always plan connections through an airport in a warmer part of the country. It prevents unexpected winter weather delays or at least stacks the deck in our favor as best we can.

    1. That is a great point, during a snowstorm or any weird weather in the midwest it can be hard to keep the trip moving smoothly. We actually just had a traveler who was stuck in LA but needed to get back to Michigan sooner than the airline who canceled their flight could get them back by, so they used TRAVO to find a flight that would get them home the next day.

  13. It’s also important with seats to know if they prefer isle or window.

    Keeping all their membership numbers for rewards in one place is helpful as well.

    Calling the hotels the day of travel also gets them early checkin and late checkout many times.

    The airlines now offer notification services that you can sign up for text info on the flights.

  14. Some fab tips here! I’m booking more and more complicated travel for some of the ‘Heads of’ that I look after. This has definitely given me some things to think about and add to my existing processes.

    1. Happy that we could help! A Lot of our admin users mostly use us for complicated trips, mainly because it lays everything out in an easy to processes format.

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