Not all travel executive planning is created equal; getting your executive to their destination requires plenty of foresight and preparation, not to mention patience.

Want to learn how the experts do it? We called on three EAs and spoke to regional travel experts Webjet, to get their insights and, more importantly, their tips and tricks! We began by asking them to define executive travel planning, before listing the skills they felt were necessary along with the main challenges of the task. Finally, they shared their pearls of wisdom and key tools to keep on top of it all.

Gabrielle Saddler

Gabrielle Sadler: Executive Assistant to the Australian Chairman at KPMG

How would you define executive travel planning?

Executive travel planning is getting your boss from A to B with the least amount of fuss so that they don’t have to worry about anything.  You need to think about flights, ground transportation to and from the airport, hotel accommodation, dining reservations, meetings and event details so it can be a complex itinerary.

What are the top five traits or skills needed by EAs to do this part of the job successfully?

The top five skills are:

  • An eye for detail or accuracy
  • Forward thinking
  • Asking questions (about timing of all meetings/dinners/dress code)
  • An ability to listen to what your boss wants to achieve on the trip
  • Keeping your boss’ partner informed of arrangements

What are the challenges with this aspect of the role? How do you overcome them?

Always check whether a visa is required or a vaccination.  As well, if your boss has an APEC card (providing entry to some countries without needing a visa), make sure it is not expiring. The same goes for their passport and if a new passport has been issued, make sure APEC are advised of the new number.

What’s one insider tip or pearl of wisdom you would be willing to share with other EAs around executive travel planning?

Always triple check your typed itinerary (especially ensuring you have flight times correct).  I like to start typing this a week before my boss leaves on a trip as sometimes it is a movable feast and needs to be updated at the last minute.  You can then just go into the itinerary you have typed and change it as you go, until you are ready to print out the final version.

Is there a particular tool you like to use for your travel planning that you’d consider indispensable? 

Book a limo company that has an Australia-wide network to save having to organise different limo companies in each state.  It saves so much time to put all the interstate bookings into one booking.

Emma Lindell

Emma Lindell: Senior Executive Assistant at ICD Property

How would you define executive travel planning?

Planning start to finish travel for your executive team incorporating the travel and potentially also planning the meetings.  Ensuring the travel is hassle free for your boss and pre-empting potential problems.

What are the top five traits or skills needed by EAs to do this part of the job successfully?

  • Organisational skills
  • Negotiation techniques to secure cost effective deals for the company
  • Technology across the online booking systems, apps and finding new technology to make travel easier for your boss
  • Teamwork and relationship building
  • Flexibility of your time 24/7

What are the challenges with this aspect of the role? How do you overcome them?

Some of the challenges I have faced with executive travel have included people missing flights, flights cancelled, hotels in the area all being booked out, lost luggage and phones left in limos.  It is important to have initiative to resolve issues, communicate with your travel provider and research other options available.  The last thing you want to do is to let your boss down.

What’s one insider tip or pearl of wisdom you would be willing to share with other EAs around executive travel planning?

Take the time to read about the latest flights/hotels around Australia and overseas.  Executive travel is not just booking actual travel for your boss, it’s about being knowledgeable about the travel industry so you can be one step ahead with the latest and greatest information.

Is there a particular tool you like to use for your travel planning that you’d consider indispensable? 

I use the WeChat app with my executives so we have instant messaging and document sharing when they’re travelling.

Sharon Judd

Sharon Judd: Executive Assistant to Group Managing Director at Slater & Gordon

How would you define executive travel planning?  

To me executive travel planning is being across every detail of your executive’s trip, whether it be domestic or international.  The more you know about where they are going, the different time zones, any customs issues they need to know about, where they need to be for meetings and so on, the better prepared you are to ensure a seamless trip.

What are the top five traits or skills needed by EAs to do this part of the job successfully? 

  1. Knowledge – you need to know where, when, how and why.  What is the purpose of the trip?
  2. Checking and double checking to make sure that everything lines up and that you have covered off on all aspects of travel; don’t always reply on the travel agent to get it right every time.  I’ve had occasions where I’ve picked up errors that the travel agent has either made or missed.
  3. Flexibility – you need to be flexible when it comes to travel; there will always be last minute changes or times when you have to make a decision because your executive is unavailable.
  4. Put all the details into a document or in their diary so they have all the details on hand.  One thing I do with all flights & airport transport is add them into my diary and into my executive’s in a different colour, such as blue for travel.This way I always know when my boss is in the air and when his stopovers are, so that I know when he is contactable. I actually have a really good travel template which I use for my executive when he travels internationally – it contains all the information he needs including after-hours emergency numbers and all confirmation/reference numbers for all bookings.
  5. Take the time to learn any travel software that the company uses; the more you know how to navigate around the software, the quicker you can make domestic bookings and so on, and find out flights times and availability.

What are the challenges with this aspect of the role? How do you overcome them?

The constant last minute changes.  This can take a bit of getting used to.  I’ve always found that the more I know about my executive’s needs for each individual trip the more I can troubleshoot things before they become a problem.  Managers often think there is no work involved looking after travel, especially when you use a travel agent.  Little do they know how much administrative work is still involved and how much liaising you need to do with the travel agent to cover everything off.

What’s one insider tip or pearl of wisdom you would be willing to share with other EAs around executive travel planning?

I actually have two pieces of information for this question: 

  1. Every role I’ve been in where I’ve had to organise travel, the company has used a travel agent, whether it be a large travel agent or a smaller boutique travel agent.  To me the number one priority is to build rapport and a great working relationship with your senior travel consultant as soon as you can – this is an absolute must.  You need to have the rapport so that you can call on them at any time to assist with travel changes or urgent bookings; you need them to be able to drop other tasks so they can focus on your request and having that rapport already built will assist you greatly. I’m familiar with urgent travel bookings and last minute changes, and you need the experience of your travel agent to often navigate these challenges, especially around international trips
  2. Be curious, research your executive’s destination – learn about the different forms of airport transfers, know where the offices are in relation to where they are staying. If they are going to foreign countries do your homework on what they need to know, such as learning how to book online train travel in London for example.

Is there a particular tool you like to use for your travel planning that you’d consider indispensable? 

This is so basic, but one of the tools that I use frequently is www.timeanddate.com.  I convert the timings of my executive’s international flights so that I know exactly when he is in the air and when he is available for calls or will be checking and responding to emails. 

I used to use TripCase years ago when it first came out, but in the end found it took up to much time with all the changes or the manual additions I had to make, so I went back to the old fashioned word document template.

Webjet’s staff travel executive

How would you define executive travel planning?  

Everything from understanding the purpose of the trip to comparing travel options to getting the best value deal.

What are the top five traits or skills needed by EAs to do this part of the job successfully?

  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Initiative

What are the challenges with this aspect of the role? How do you overcome them?

Arranging trips last minute! Being able to compare all available deals, with Webjet’s 30 minute booking price guarantee takes the pressure off. As well, having a list of the top three hotels for frequently visited destinations can save time when booking itineraries at the 11th hour.

What’s some insider tips or pearls of wisdom you would be willing to share with other EAs around executive travel planning?

  • Always keep your executive’s comfort in mind when planning their travel
  • Compare flight times and stopover durations to ensure they arrive as fresh as possible and consider Premium Economy with its extra comforts, which isn’t as expensive as you may think.
  • Don’t forget to apply their frequent flyer membership numbers so they earn those points
  • Ensure to check hotel cancellation policies before booking, to avoid extra costs from last minute scheduling changes. Some allow free cancellation up to 24 hours before check-in.

Is there a particular tool you like to use for your travel planning that you’d consider indispensable? 

Webjet have a host of features that make the task of executive travel planning that much easier. The ability to compare all major airlines and travel times at a glance. Plus, with RouteHappy now available, bookers can see flight scores and imagery to be confident they are booking the best deal to suit their travel needs.

Want to put see more great articles? Visit our advice section here.

Summary

Executive travel planning requires specific skills sets and has its own unique challenges. We spoke to top EAs and travel experts Webjet, to get their responses to a few key questions. They cover the skills and traits needs to do this part of the EA job well, the challenges of the task, insider tips and specific tools they use to get the job done well. 

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