It’s Tuesday afternoon and your executive forwards you an email that says, “Can you take care of this? Thanks!” As you scan through you see it’s for a conference in two weeks they need to attend. If you aren’t prepared, this could be a high-stress situation for you. Luckily we’ve got you covered with these top-notch business travel management tips!
Executive Assistants are known to be detailed, organized, and “get it done” kind of people; but effective travel management is more nuanced than just booking flights and hotels! Knowing your leader’s preferences, considering the details, being proactive, and wrapping it all together with a cohesive itinerary will make your leader’s travel easier and make you look like a rockstar.
Read on for 5 travel management tips from experienced EAs to make navigating your leader’s travel a breeze.
Create a travel profile
The best way to avoid travel management stress is to start with creating a traveler’s profile for your leader. Whether for business or personal travel, a dossier of your leader’s travel information and logins at the ready will make planning a breeze, allow you to make quick decisions that you know your leader will love, and avoid wasting time going back and forth with your leader over a dozen questions, or worse- guessing.
If you haven’t already created a travel profile for your leader, schedule some time to get this information from them during your next check-in. Remember, leaders love a proactive Executive Assistant!
The Basic Travel Profile:
- Passport number & Known Traveler Number
- Loyalty numbers (airline, hotel, car rental, etc)
- Airline preference
- Home airport
- Seating class, seating type, leg room preference, and emergency row preference (this is a big one!)
The Advanced Travel Profile:
- Preferred travel time (morning, evening, no red eyes, etc)
- Do they prefer to hire a car when they arrive or rideshare?
- Which hotel amenities are deal breakers and which are nice to have?
- Do they have food preferences or restrictions to consider while traveling?
- Will there be a time change or a different currency to consider?
The details make or break business travel
An Executive Assistant’s primary role in travel management is to ensure the entire travel experience is flawless, enjoyable, and easy for their leader so they can focus on their work. Effective travel management will keep things simple for your leader while you live in the details.
As mentioned before, if you know your leader’s preferences you can hit the ground running when you receive that email about the upcoming conference. However, it’s best practice to read it completely first and make sure you know exactly what you are planning for. Make a shortlist of any clarifying questions you may have (ie. There’s an optional networking dinner the night before the conference starts, Do you want to attend? Do you want to use the same budget as last time?), so you can resolve all the unknowns at the outset.
Once you know exactly what the business trip will look like and you’ve taken care of the big, broad basics, start looking at the details. If your leader needs to rent a car, identify the pick-up and drop-off locations and how to get there. Do they need a late check-out from their hotel? If there is a currency change, identify how and when they can change their money. Identify and make a list of restaurants nearby. Research their location and consider if there is traffic, construction, an event, or other factors that may impact their trip.
Most importantly, when living in the details of travel management, keep it simple when you filter it up to your leader. Provide them with the information they will need in a useful itinerary but not the background noise. Including a link to an article that talks about why traffic is so bad in Atlanta is not helpful. Letting them know to expect heavy traffic so 20 extra minutes have been added to their travel blocks is helpful.
Prepare for the worst
Business travel goes smoothly most of the time, but every so often something goes wrong. Your leader won’t have to stress though, because they have a reliable and forward-thinking Executive Assistant who’s an expert in travel management!
As you plan, think through the variables and potential issues, and always plan for the worst-case scenario too. Create contingency plans for these situations that can be easily implemented by your leader.
Common Business Travel Issues
- Missing flights
- Lost luggage
- Hotels double-booked
- Car reservations lost
- Conferences or meetings being canceled
- Your executive being asked to present last minute
- Medical emergencies
The majority of your contingency plans will thankfully never be looked at. However, should the situation arise you will be your leader’s hero. When one of my leaders was traveling and had a medical emergency they knew which ER accepted their insurance and knew where to go!
Debrief after each trip
A strong Executive Assistant strives to find new ways to make their leader’s life easier, and travel management is another aspect where you can continually grow. Schedule a block of time with your executive after their business travel to debrief from their trip. Use this time to identify what went well, and also any pain points you can correct for the next trip. This is also a great time to get their receipts so you can expense them in a timely manner!
Debriefing can help your leader process their trip, share action items you can help them track, and also help you build trust and strengthen your working relationship. Be open to their suggestions even if you think you planned the perfect trip. Try not to take feedback personally: if something didn’t work for them, make a change so it does work in the future.
Have fun with it
Business travel doesn’t have to be boring! As you research the trip and location, keep an eye out for things that will add value to your executive’s time away. If they are a runner, try to find a running route for them. If they are a coffee lover, scout out a top-rated coffee shop near them and carve out time for them to visit.
While your leader may not have time to do or see the things you recommend, it shows that you know them and supports their work/life balance even through your travel management skills!