Lucy Brazier shares her top tips for successfully organizing an executive who travels a lot                 

As CEO of Marcham Publishing, I have been lucky enough to visit over 60 countries, so I know a bit about what works and what doesn’t when organising travel. Last year, I only spent 12 weeks at home.

Here are some things to consider.

Consult the Calendar

We have a cyclical events calendar that runs year to year. I speak at many of the same events on an annual basis. These go into the calendar first. Successful travel planning begins with a skeleton for the year and things get added as we go along, in a sequence that makes sense. Ideally, I don’t want to be zigzagging across the world – or, as is the case when I am doing my three-week annual tour of America, across the country.

Ask yourself: Where are they travelling to and who else could they visit whilst they are there?

Whenever I travel anywhere, Germaine works with the sales team to make sure that my time is maximised to see as many people as possible while I am there. Whether I’m flying halfway around the world or visiting a city in my own country, it isn’t time- or cost-effective to visit just one person. And there is no point in travelling to a city for a meeting, only to return a few months later. All the details for the trip are added to the calendar.

Key Questions to Ask for International Travel

  • Is their passport in date? Some countries require that you have six months left on your passport and a certain number of clean pages or they won’t let you in.
  • Do they need a visa? Can they simply order the visa online or do they need to visit the embassy to do that? What is the typical waiting time for the visa to arrive once applied for?
  • Do they need vaccinations before they can visit a particular country?
  • Do they prefer to fly during the day or during the night?
  • Are there seat preferences? This can vary by aircraft, but if they have status, you may be able to choose their seat when you are booking, free of charge.
  • Is an upgrade possible and, if so, what is the process? Some airlines do this for frequent flyers.
  • Do they have special dietary requirements that mean you’ll need to order a special meal?
  • Can you sign them up for programmes that will help them to fast-track? Status will do this anyway; however, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry in the USA, for example, have saved me hours and are well worth the money paid to join the schemes.
  • What are their hotel and room preferences? Do they prefer hotel chains with point schemes or independent boutique hotels? Or maybe even an Airbnb? Is a gym a prerequisite? Do they want a pool? What floor do they want to be on – high or low? Do they want a room or a suite? Can they upgrade with their status? Is the internet free or paid?

Consider stopovers and breaks

Ask them whether they would prefer the fastest, most cost-effective route, or whether they want a layover. For example, whenever I travel to Australia or New Zealand, I will do a couple of days of stopover in Singapore or Hong Kong on the way. It gives me a break in the 27-hour journey and allows me to start to acclimatize to the time difference.

You may also want to visit your government’s advice website. What travel advice are they giving currently, especially if they are travelling to a less stable region of the world? If this is the case, you may want to include emergency contact details in your travel pack.

And don’t forget to check them in to the flight as soon as it is possible to do so and forward them their boarding pass. Some hotels also allow you to check in online now.

Of course, you might have a travel agency that handles all of this for you. Many businesses do, but in my experience, usually they lack the personal touch and miss something. It pays to check the details and make sure it’s right.

Building the Itinerary

Let’s look at the actual travel itinerary and what you need to have on it. It must contain every detail of the trip.

Once this is built, it will go into the calendar with all the other documentation; however, you may also want to print a couple of copies for your executive. I have lost count of the number of times that I have landed in a new country and the internet has taken a while to connect. My good old-fashioned paper copy has saved my life on more than one occasion. My husband always appreciates having a copy, too, so he can see exactly where I am and can contact me if he needs to.

Here’s a list of things you need to put into that itinerary (remembering to take account of travel preferences, frequent flyer information and your manager’s preferred hotel point schemes):

  • Car rental details or taxi pick-up times, from where, going to where, with contact details and timings (pick-up and drop-off)
  • How will they be met? At the curb, at the barrier, in the parking lot, in reception?
  • Flight number, airline, flight times (take-off and landing), seat number & frequent flyer numbers
  • If your manager has status, where is the location of the lounge?
  • How many bags can they check and at what weight?
  • Layover/connection times – make sure there is enough time to get from one end of the airport to the other and make sure they are landing and departing from the same airport. In London, for example, I usually land at Gatwick and take off again from Heathrow. That’s a one-hour drive from one to the other, and that’s before you factor in collecting and rechecking bags.
  • Time difference
  • Biographies of people they are meeting, ideally with photographs
  • One pager with the history of the country, cultural differences that they need to be aware of and a few basic words in the local language
  • Hotel details including check-in times, address and contact details. Include some extra details about the hotel’s amenities if they are relevant.
  • Is there a restaurant onsite? Or where are there restaurants nearby for evenings when there are no meetings?
  • Details of the company and person they are visiting, including timings, address, contact details and purpose of visit
  • Are they attending any functions where they need something particularly dressy to wear?
  • Is your executive meeting the client at a restaurant? Contact details and address should be included.
  • Weather – if it’s a short enough timeframe to do so. It helps when they are packing.

Once you have created the itinerary, you can present it to your manager at your morning meeting to review and amend.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes when I am travelling, I can be away for a month. It helps to have the entire schedule from beginning to end in one document, with all these elements. But it also helps to have the day broken down daily in my calendar.

I would also include copies of their passport, their insurance documents, visas, their COVID certificates and any priority entry schemes they belong to. A copy of these can also be kept in the office in case of emergencies.

Your success as an Assistant centres on how productive you can make your manager and how much time you can save them. But these tips are also about ensuring how your time is best spent.

As poet and author Carl Sandburg says:

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

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