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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.