1. Clarify Objectives
Truly professional assistants always start with the end in mind. Inquire about the larger picture and purpose the trip. Try to find out what would have to happen in order for this trip to be considered “successful” from the executive’s point of view. Then ask yourself: What can I do to help make this happen? This question should be like a motif running through the entire planning process.
2. Know the Budget
Determine what sort of budget exists for the trip. This will serve as a useful reference point throughout the planning process. It is also helpful to break the global budget down into ingredients such as airfare, transportation, accommodations, etc. Some assistants will have to determine the budget themselves; others will need to ask the executive or the accounting department.
3. Go to the Archives
If possible, contact any assistants or staff members who were responsible or involved in the executive’s travel arrangements on prior trips to see what sort of insights can be gleaned from their experiences. They may have already done much of the fact-finding labor for you, and they may have made blunders you will want to avoid.
4. Traveler’s Details
Gather the details necessary for making reservations and booking flights. These should include the traveler’s:
- Full name (as it appears on drivers license or ID)
- Email address
- ID/drivers license number
- Phone number (necessary in cases of cancellation or delay)
- Credit card number and expiration date
Have these on hand (legible and organized) when it comes time to make the actual reservations and bookings. If you are asked to provide any additional details, make a note of this for the next trip.
5. Permission Granted
Make sure the executive’s passport is valid and will not be expiring in the near future. Certain countries require vaccination forms and Visas, so these matters should also be taken into account and dealt with if necessary, as should travel insurance. If the executive will be attending a conference, make sure to reserve his seat as early as possible.
6. Tea for Two
Find out if the traveler will be joined by colleagues, staff, or family at any point during the trip. Consider what steps should be taken to accommodate these people. Ask if there is anybody the executive would like to sit next to on the plane.
7. To and From the Airport
Don’t forget to take this important detail into consideration. Will the executive be driving his own vehicle to the airport (and leaving it in long term airport parking), or will somebody else be driving him? Will he use a car/limousine service, Uber, taxi, public transportation? How much luggage will the executive be taking, and must any of it be checked?
8. The Schedule
This may be the most important part of the preparations. Make a list of exact dates and times the traveler needs or desires to be at each destination, from the beginning of the trip to the end, including when she needs or desires to reach home. Accuracy is critical here, so make sure to double check every detail.
Know the exact location, time, and nature of each meeting, engagement, or event the traveler will be attending. This information will become crucial when it comes time to deal with transportation and hotel reservations. The more information you can gather, the more effective you can be.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell
9. The Frequent Flyer
Find out if the traveler has any existing frequent flyer accounts, credit card airline rewards, hotel loyalty programs, etc., and what priority should be given to using these.
10. Flight Preferences
Make a list of the traveler’s airline, airport, and travel class preferences. Standard travel classes are: first, business, and economy. (Keep in mind that differences between first and business classes are not standard, so you’ll have to do some research). Be sure to inquire about the traveler’s seating preferences within the preferred class: aisle, window, front or back of plane, exit row, bulkhead seat, etc. Also, does the traveler have meal preferences or restrictions? Will the he need Wi-Fi or a power connection in order to work while in the air?
11. Transportation Preferences
Determine what sort of transportation the executive will want use during the trip: car/limousine service, Uber, rental, taxi, or public. Some companies get car rental discounts, so find out if your company has such an arrangement. In the case of car rental, you will of course need to inquire about the type of car.
12. Hotel Preferences
When it comes to choosing a hotel, find out where her priorities lie: proximity to business engagements, proximity to airport, comfort and quality, a particular hotel or hotel chain, etc. In the case of a conference, check the option of booking a room in the hotel hosting the conference. Of course you’ll want to inquire about preferences such as room (single, double, twin, or suite), bed size, meals, gym, spa, Wi-Fi, etc.
13. Travel Agent
And of course, find out if the traveler prefers to work with a particular travel agent or agency, or if your company has an internal travel department that handles travel arrangements.
14. Research and Return
After gathering all of the above information, do not run to the phone or computer to start booking flights and making reservations. First, do some added research (unless you’ve got a reliable agent doing the research for you). It could be that while the traveler said he would like to stay in Hotel A, he is not aware of a great deal at Hotel B, or the ideal location of Hotel C. Go back over each of the above thirteen boxes, this time thinking outside the box a bit. Record your findings and sit down with the executive for a second time to present him with any thoughts or suggestions.