Finalising your itinerary can be one of the most time consuming and frustrating steps of the travel planning and booking process. Especially since VAs are not in the same office and may not even be in the same timezone. However, as long as you have your remote and your guide, you can finalize your trip and pick your channel in an instant!
Curate Additional Options
Whenever you send a trip for approval, be sure to send additional options and suggestions. Time is of the essence when booking. Every VA has experienced a sudden increase in prices because they are waiting on final approval from their travelers or they are locked in back and forth emails while trying to finalise choices. You can minimise these costly emails by suggesting additional options to your travelers. Always suggest at least one option for each of these questions:
- Are there any cheaper options for my flight, hotel, or rental car?
- What if I want to fly in earlier?
- What are the closest hotels to my meeting?
- Can I travel with my preferred brand?
You can save yourself a lot of headache by anticipating these frequently asked questions. This will also help you avoid making repetitive searches. As you go through the list of results for flights, hotels, and rental cars, take screenshots of options that answer these questions. Then when you send over the itinerary for approval, include the screenshots in the body of the email and clearly label them as “Cheapest” or “Earliest” so their questions are answered before they even have to ask you!
As you continue to work with a particular traveler, you can even add their frequently asked questions to their profile so you can anticipate their questions even better the more you get to know them.
Handle Follow Ups
As I said, time is of the essence and travelers are notorious for being bad about responding to emails. You should handle follow ups by being proactive and setting reminders for yourself. The closer the start date and time of a trip, the more persistent you should be in getting final approval.
However, VAs are rarely able to devote all of their time to a single task or client.
VAs are masters of multitasking which means you are constantly moving between projects and making sure that you are able to finish all of your work. This can sometimes lead to trips or follow ups falling through the cracks. To avoid this, you can use tools like Boomerang or FollowUpThen which allows you to set up timed automatic email reminders. Boomerang allows you to set up alerts if you haven’t received a response for a particular email and FollowUpThen lets you set up SMS alerts for extremely time-sensitive emails.
Accommodate Booking Preferences
As soon as you get your traveler’s final approval for their trip, it’s time to book their selected options. This is where you can utilize your traveler remote again to help save you a lot of time when finalizing these bookings. The first section of their profile will provide you with all of their basic information that is required for every booking. The most important section of the remote, however, is going to be their loyalty programs. Every traveler is now trying to maximise their loyalty status and earn as many points as possible. Whenever you book, make sure that you include all of their loyalty numbers. If they haven’t created one yet, you can check to see if any of their existing programs are code sharing partners with the flight you are about to book. If not, then you can really go above and beyond as a VA by creating a free loyalty program on their behalf. Any time you do this, add it to their profile so you can help them continue to earn points.
Note Confirmation Numbers
After booking your traveler’s flights, hotels, and rental cars add their confirmation numbers to their itinerary. This is one of the most important steps of the entire trip planning and booking process. Your traveler is going to want to all of their trip information in one central location. Using your guide, you can create an end-to-end itinerary for your traveler. As you create your itinerary, here is some information to include:
- Basic Booking Information
- Confirmation numbers
- Date and time
- Contact information
- Event Information: Your traveler should have provided most of this information to you when you were creating your itinerary guide.
- Date and time
- Links to presentations
- Ground Information
- Recommended departure times based off traffic and preferences
- Links to driving directions
- Parking information for events
- Airport Information
- Terminal number
- Transfer information
- Hotel Information
- Front desk/manager’s name
- Additional hotel amenities
- Nearest necessities (ie nearest coffee shop)
Remember that Google Maps is your friend here. You can use it at every step of the way to help map out your traveler’s itinerary as the go from meeting to meeting. To make creating end-to-end itineraries easier, you can create a template that will allow you to enter in different flight, hotel, or event information in a uniform format. You can see an example of TRAVO’s printable itinerary here: https://goo.gl/1PzJHs
Before your traveler leaves for their trip, make sure that everyone is on the same page for communication expectations. Properly navigating trip communication will save both you and your traveler a lot of heart attacks and will prevent you from having to be on call 24/7. Establishing clear communication channels happens in 3 main steps:
- Establish hours of operation: To establish hours of operation, look at your traveler’s schedule as well as their local time zone to see when you should be available for questions. Your goal here is to cover as many of your traveler’s working hours as possible, without having to stay up until 3 or 4am. Obviously there are emergency situations which can happen outside of these hours, but having these hours will help relax while your traveler is on a trip.
- Download and agree on a messaging app: Many travelers and their VAs communicate via email. However, inboxes can be extremely cluttered and can lead to missed communications. Instead of further cluttering your email and risk missing time-sensitive emails, download a messaging app. This will help you differentiate between critical and noncritical messages. You can also set separate notification noises for this app so you will know if you are receiving an email or a message from your traveler.
- Stay ahead of curve balls: Anytime you book a trip, be sure to sign yourself up for change notifications. This way, you will automatically receive an email or text notification any time your traveler’s flight gets changed, delayed, or canceled. As soon as you get this notification, you can start searching for solutions without having to wait for a separate message for your traveler. Receiving these notifications can be critical, especially if a flight is delayed while your traveler is in the air. You may be able to work everything out for them, before they even land and receive a change notification.
Your last step when creating an itinerary is exporting it and providing it to your traveler. Travelers are extremely dependent on their mobile phones, so provide a mobile version of their itinerary whenever possible. You can start by adding all of the information to their Outlook or Google calendars. You can use the end-to-end itinerary you have already created to easily finalize their calendars. Just like before, be sure to include events, driving directions, and confirmation numbers.
Let TRAVO Do the Work!
TRAVO makes finding the right channel for your traveler simple. As VAs research and go through the thousands of options of flights, hotels, and rental cars, they can curate additional options from right on the results page, without having to take additional screenshots. Then, they can send the trip for approval with a click of a button. Any time a VA logs in to TRAVO, they can easily check on approval statuses and send reminder emails through the platform. Any time a traveler approves or declines an itinerary, they can include notes or feedback which are sent to the VA. After booking, confirmation numbers are automatically added to the itinerary so VAs don’t have to go through their emails to search for confirmation numbers, or manually enter any information. All TRAVO itineraries are living end-to-end itineraries which update to include estimated traffic times, turn by turn directions, and any additional notes you may want to include. Last, but certainly not least, all TRAVO itineraries are mobile friendly and can be exported with a single click of a button to Outlook, Google Calendar, and Microsoft Word. Sign up for your free TRAVO account to start creating profiles and planning your next trip!
About the Author:
Tae Lee is the CEO and Founder of TRAVO, the trip planner for administrative professionals. Prior to founding TRAVO, Tae served as executive vice president of Operations and Technology at the leading video advertising technology firm, ZEFR.