Often a big part of any personal assistant or executive assistant’s role is to arrange travel for their boss. This can be domestic or international travel and for some, it may mean frequently working across multiple time zones. To ensure a smooth journey for your boss, it’s important that these trips are well prepared and researched with detailed planning. This will allow him or her to make the most of their time away and perform successfully in any meetings or pitches scheduled.
With the ease of modern technology, so many meetings can now be held without the need to travel. But nothing beats the face to face interaction when trying to build relationships, so if there is a business need for travel, you, as the assistant will want to make sure it comes off without a hitch!
In this article, we look at various ways to ensure you plan the perfect trip.
Find out your boss’s preferences
Before you start any planning, it is important to understand how your boss likes to travel. He or she may like to arrive at their destination the night before their meeting, to adjust to any time zones or to allow for any delays. They may also rather sit by the window or aisle on the flight, have specific meal requests, have hotel preferences, etc. By looking at previous trips, it should give you some idea of these preferences, but this is a good question to ask at the start of the process. You want to ensure they are comfortable and any potential travel stress is minimised, particularly when travelling to a foreign country where there may be language barriers and cultural differences. It may not always be possible to achieve all of their preferences, especially when booking last minute, but if you pre-empt this, you can have it covered before it becomes an issue.
Have a to-do list
A PA / EA should always have an active to-do list constantly being updated and ticked off, but it is never more important than when planning a trip. There are so many things to remember and having a list will ensure nothing gets missed. Make use of PA tools to help you stay on track and organised.
Know the budget
All company travel will need to get authorised, so it is important to have a clear understanding of the budget before starting to plan the trip. That way you don’t waste time looking at options which may be too expensive. The business may have preferred rates with certain suppliers. Be prepared to compare rates to ensure you are getting a fair deal.
Prepare a detailed itinerary
Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. Imagine you are the one going on the trip and start your planning from the office and follow it through; taxi to the airport, where to check-in, which gate and lounge to use, etc. Following a step by step guide should ensure you don’t miss anything and that your boss has a clear set of instructions to follow to avoid any potential issues. It is recommended that you prepare a detailed itinerary, which you can have printed off, giving a step by step explanation of the trip with all relevant contact details to hand.
Research the destination
This does not just cover the best places to visit, eat, stay, but also any cultural differences. For example, different countries have different ways of tipping and greeting one another and your boss will not want to offend anyone accidentally. You may also want to provide a few basic phrases such as ‘hello’ and ‘thank you,’ which will all help to create a good first impression. You will be able to access a weather report so you can advise on suitable clothing to take - it is these extra steps which your boss will be so grateful for and will make you stand out as an exceptional assistant.
Keep track of expenses
You may have access to the company credit card to make the bookings and everything you spend needs to be accounted for and expensed. You don’t want to waste time going back through your emails and bookings at the end of the month/quarter to make sure you have all of the receipts you need. Instead, print them off as you go along or upload them to the relevant portal (whatever system your company has in place) to save you time at a later date and ensure nothing gets missed.
Get the correct currency and documents
If you are using a travel agent when making the booking, they should be able to advise you on what documents are required to enter into the country you are visiting, this includes visas and specific vaccinations. However, it is always worth researching well in advance as these things can take a while to attain. Along with this, it is also helpful to get the right currency for those travelling. Print off all of the travel documentation in advance so your boss has a hard copy with him or her at all times. In addition to this, it is important to make sure your boss’s passport is in date and the trip is covered by a travel insurance policy.
Other people on the trip
Often with business travel, your boss won’t be the only person on the trip and therefore it is important to liaise with the other individuals or their PAs/ EAs to ensure everyone is working to the same schedule. Your boss may want to make sure he or she is staying in the same hotel as other colleagues or is on the same flight to use that time to prepare together for their meeting ahead.
Maximise any dead time
The time travelling to and from the airport and waiting for the flight can be considered ‘dead time’ but you as the PA / EA can utilise this. Perhaps arrange conference calls for your boss or use it as an opportunity to have a catch up with you before they are uncontactable for several hours on a flight. Busy executives are often time-poor and are used to having their diary back to back, so this should be no different. Time is money and this is a great opportunity you can make the most of for them. All business lounges should have high-speed Wi-Fi available, but, again, this is worth checking in advance.
Have a backup plan
‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’! Always have a backup plan up your sleeve. What do you do if the taxi does not show up or the flight is delayed? By always having a backup plan, you can quickly make alternative arrangements if necessary, to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.
Re-confirm everything before the trip
Sometimes trips are booked weeks, months, even years in advance and so you must check and double-check all details before the trip takes place. This means re-confirming every step of the journey to ensure people are where they say they will be, at the given time. Also, you can make sure there haven’t been any changes in the flight times and hotel bookings.
Before your boss leaves on their trip, it is important to make sure all of their devices are fully charged. You may want to send their partner details of where they are staying and relevant timings. You could provide an adaptor for charging electronics or make sure they have the company credit card. It is the little extra touches which will make such a difference to your boss and will take the support you provide up a level.
Once your boss has left for their trip, the support you provide needs to continue. Being aware of any delays will allow you to keep updated on any potential problems before they arise and most importantly, have alternative options ready to go. So much of this is out of your control but your boss will want quick solutions to ensure the trip remains a success and, after all of your hard work arranging it, you will too.
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