From coordinating flight and meeting schedules to selecting the most conveniently located hotels, making travel arrangements for a senior executive (or someone else on your team) requires a lot of planning and attention to detail. Here are some tips to make sure you have everything covered when you’re organizing a business trip for your boss or colleague.
First things first: thorough research
With the ever-evolving nature of health advisories and travel restrictions in today’s environment, it’s essential to research the destination where the executive is heading before you make any bookings. American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has made this task a cinch by building a search tool called Travel Vitals™ where you can find all the latest health and safety details you need to plan the trip. (You may as well bookmark the page now because this may become your favorite trip-planning tool.)
With Travel Vitals, all you need to do is type in the itinerary components into the search field (e.g., the destination city, airport, airline, hotel), and you can instantly see things like whether the traveler will need to quarantine upon arrival, if a negative COVID test is required, and what safety measures airlines and hotels are taking. It also includes details like whether an airport entrance or terminal is closed, which can save the traveler from possibly missing a flight (which would only add to your workload).
Before you book the trip, you should investigate passport and visa requirements to see if any special arrangements need to be made. This step is a must if the traveler may be impacted by the new Brexit regulations and is required to obtain a work permit or other documentation for a business trip. The last thing you want is for an exec at the airport and be turned away at the security checkpoint because they do not have the right paperwork in place.
You also should check to see if the traveler’s passport is set to expire soon. Many countries require a passport with six months validity from the date of anticipated departure. If the traveler needs a passport or visa immediately, we can secure one through our partner CIBT, which offers expedited services.
Think of every detail when booking the trip
When booking a business trip, the reason for travel (e.g., the business meeting) will become a crucial factor when arranging all the other details – from the dates of travel to hotel selection and the ground transportation services required. Make a list of the exact dates and times the traveler should be at each destination and use this as a guide when compiling the itinerary. Especially if it’s an international flight, be sure to build in extra time between the flight’s arrival to the first meeting in case there are any delays or cancellations, as well as give the traveler some time to freshen up before they have to be “on.”
For complicated itineraries that involve international travel, we recommend calling your organization’s travel management company (TMC) and speaking to a specialist who knows all the ins and outs for securing the best rates and routes. For simpler itineraries, you can use the company’s online booking tool to make arrangements yourself. Our own booking solution, Neo™, has a door-to-door booking feature that enables you to simply plug in the dates and locations and, in seconds, it will build a complete itinerary based on a traveler’s preferences and the company policy.
For upper management, there may be some flexibility around policy guidelines. If your company is using a pre-trip approval solution like Expert Auditor™ to deter noncompliant bookings for safety and budgetary reasons, check to see if you could be the designated approver for trips of the executive you’re assisting. This way, the trip request gets recorded, but there won’t be a ticketing delay if you’re booking an out-of-policy first-class seat on a domestic flight.
When putting together the itinerary, you will also want to take into account the traveler’s preferences. Do they like a window or aisle seat? Do they have any special in-flight requirements? Which hotel are they a loyalty member of? Do they prefer taking a red-eye flight and heading straight to a meeting, or would they like to travel a day early to rest up before a big presentation? Do they prefer staying in a boutique or big-brand hotel? Do they like staying at lodging that is close to the meeting location or one that’s central to the city’s top attractions?
Keep a running log of all these details in one spot so you can refer to it when assembling the itinerary. By the way, we keep track of many of these preferences and can build a customized itinerary for VIP travelers who are enrolled in our First™ program.
Don’t forget about ground transportation. How does the traveler want to get to the airport in their home city? Will they drive their vehicle to the airport and leave it in the airport parking or will they take a taxi, limo service, rental car, or use ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft? How about when they arrive at the destination? How will they get to the hotel? To arrange a ride ahead of time, you may use our Ground Transportation service, which offers various options – from ridesharing to limousines. Our thoroughly vetted and screened drivers are on top of flight arrival times to make sure they are there to greet travelers and help with their luggage.
Go beyond making travel reservations
If you are an executive assistant whose responsibilities extend beyond travel arrangements, here are a few additional tips to make an exec’s travel experience go more smoothly.
Despite how much the exec may rely on their mobile device during their trips, we suggest providing them with a printed travel itinerary they can pack in their carry-on in case they are in an area where they are unable to connect to Wi-Fi or are stuck with a dead cell phone.
Even if you have been attentive to every little detail and have plotted the perfect itinerary, there’s always a chance things won’t go according to plan. When they don’t, you’ll want the number of the company’s TMC stored in your mobile so you can quickly get the traveler’s trip back on track. Because we are available 24/7 in any location and our traveler care team has an exceptional response time, we offer prompt assistance from anywhere in the world.
We know travel management isn’t your day job and that you have a lot on your plate, so we recommend that the executive traveling saves our number in their mobile phone so they can call us directly. We’ll be able to resolve the issue faster anyway. Better yet, if they have our Amex GBT Mobile app, they can use it to click-to-call or click-to-chat with a live counselor.
Our Proactive Traveler Care™ solution is a lifesaver when there’s a flight delay or cancellation. It anticipates flight disruptions proactively and automatically contacts an impacted traveler for rebooking assistance.
Tip: Because our travel counselors only can see if an exec’s flight has been canceled when a booking has been made through us, be sure to make the air reservation through the booking tool or one of our travel counselors, not with the airline or an online travel agency.
For emergencies, the executive should have all the contact details for the company’s security team saved in their phone. If your company has our Expert Care™ risk management service, the traveler can also use Amex GBT Mobile to share their exact location using GPS technology for faster assistance.
Today mobile phones are used to manage all aspects of a trip. You can make the executive’s experience much easier by installing a few helpful apps before they leave.
With Amex GBT Mobile, the exec can stay on top of itinerary changes, such as airport gate changes and flight delays, as well as itinerary-specific updates through the Travel Vitals integration.
If they are traveling internationally, we recommend the Currency app to figure out the exchange rates, Google Translate if they don’t know the local language, and Timeshifter, which tells you what actions to take at specific times to get over jet lag more quickly.
You also might suggest downloading the restaurant reservation app Resy, now part of the American Express family, if they prefer scouting out restaurant options themselves. Making a reservation is as easy as a few clicks.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all these travel management duties, especially in today’s environment? Don’t worry. You are not alone. GBT is here to help you and your executive team navigate the current landscape and have positive travel experiences moving forward.
To learn more about how you can support an executive who’s getting ready to hit the road again, check out our “On the Road to Well-being” report.
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