Even when a business trip or travel arrangements seem quite straightforward, it helps to have a travel expert by your side. Someone who knows what questions to ask, what curveballs to anticipate, and what opportunities there might be to secure a saving, upgrade or perk!
So, we asked one of our Travel Managers for a few tips. Take notes, because when it comes to corporate travel, it’s good to have a plan in place!
What is a business travel plan?
A business travel plan is, at the one end of the spectrum, a robust game plan which lays out your approach to business travel management, giving you full visibility over your travel programme. At the other end of the spectrum it’s (at the very least) a comprehensive checklist to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
From booking well in advance to researching the destination, creating an itinerary and ensuring you have the necessary travel documents in place, your business travel plan is your ticket to success!
How do I write a business travel plan?
For Customer Success Manager Zay Ferguson-Nair (an absolute authority on business travel planning!), you need to think about the following:
1. Your Travel Policy
At the top of your list? Your business travel plan must reflect your travel policy. Ensure that every flight or hotel room booked is on-policy and on-budget – and when it comes to bleisure or blended travel, be very clear about who is responsible for which arrangements and which costs!
There’s no denying that online booking tools have revolutionised the business travel planning process. But with so many platforms out there, it’s hard to know which one to use. Chat to a travel management company (TMC) about the best options – or about designing a bespoke booking tool to meet your specific needs.
Travel alerts and reminders will ensure you never miss a beat – plus traveller profile fields can store all your traveller’s details from passport numbers to preferences, which is invaluable when it comes to business travel planning.
Make sure your business travel plan incorporates your preferred tech, including any handy apps (like Corporate Traveller’s Sam) which allow you to manage itineraries and receive up-to-the-minute travel alerts.
As an SME, last-minute business trips are unavoidable. After all, when opportunity knocks, you answer! Unfortunately, last-minute trips are also very expensive.
According to Zay, you should plan at least 7+ days in advance to allow you to secure the most cost-effective options. This also allows for more flexibility should there be changes – and gives you a higher chance of availability during peak business travel periods.
Of course, this is not always possible. Then your best bet is a TMC, who will use their network and buying power to secure the best possible flights, fares and rates on the day (doing their best in the face of last-minute requests and changes!).
4. Duty of Care and Traveller Wellness
Did you know that duty of care is party of your company’s legal obligation? In other words, it’s up to you to ensure duty of care and traveller wellness is included in your business travel planning so you can keep your travellers safe for the duration of their trip.
This includes providing adequate travel insurance for local, regional and international travel; educating your staff about the risks associated with their destination; and explaining the steps they should take in the event of a travel emergency (including who they should call and how they should keep in touch!).
Full marks if your travel management platform allows for traveller tracking! If it doesn’t (and it really should), make sure all your traveller’s details are up to date (including cell number, email address and ICE details) and easily accessible. Your plan should also include your TMC or travel agent’s details as well as an after-hours travel support hotline.
In terms of traveller wellness, consider everything from more ‘sociable flight times’ for frequent fliers (there are only so many times you can wake at 3am to catch a flight), hotel amenities (like an onsite gym) and food options (including a good restaurant and room-service options for travellers who get in late).
5. Documents and Details
When it comes to business travel planning, the devil is in the details. Make sure you know exactly what is required in terms of your travel documents (passport and visas); entry requirements (including vaccinations like hepatitis A, hepatitis B and yellow fever); and itinerary information like rental cars, check-in times and payment expectations (for example, is it payment in advance, on check-out or ‘bill back’ to your TMC?).
Business Travel Planning: Top Tips
No doubt about it, Zay Ferguson-Nair has seen it all. According to Zay these are some of the most common whoopsies when it comes to business travel planning. In no particular order:
Often companies rely on the insurance provided by their credit card or financial services provider, without fully understanding the limits of the cover, especially when it comes to medical treatment and lost luggage. Zay’s best advice? Read the Ts & Cs carefully and ensure you know exactly what your travellers are covered for. In addition, make sure travel insurance is at the top (and in bold) of any business travel plan.
As Zay explains, most SMEs are tempted to book the cheapest flight possible meaning that the travel arrangements are nonrefundable and non-changeable. Her best advice is to book flexible tickets which will save you money in the long-run – especially when plans change, or things go wrong. Another great tip: notify your airline in advance if you’re travelling with special equipment or extra luggage – or let your TMC do it for you.
According to Zay, customers often underestimate daily KMs (which can lead to unexpected costs down the line); forget to do pre/post car inspections; do not refuel their cars to save on costs; or note/request additional drivers on the booking. For Zay, this admin is critically important – as is taking careful note of the inclusions offered, for example, insurance cover, windscreen damage, theft, accident etc. Zay’s top tip? Make sure to book cross-border rental cars well in advance as permits can take to 48 hours to secure.
Having a valid passport seems so simple, right? And yet travellers (and travel planners) forget that many countries require at least four blank pages and six months validity! Zay says you need to double-check the destination’s entry requirements and ensure your travellers have a valid passport (with a six-month window to be safe) and enough blank pages to satisfy immigration control.
Documentation and vaccination certificates
Again, it is the simplest things that can trip up even the most seasoned travellers. For example, some vaccinations need to be done in advance (7-10 days prior to departure). Zay’s top tip? Double-check how long visas and vaccination certificates will take, and always (always!) check that travel documents are issued according to the full names in a traveller’s passport/ID/driver’s licence.
The biggest mistake travellers and bookers make? Not requesting early check-in (or asking about bag storage). Zay explains that most international flights get in very early in the morning – but standard hotel check-in is still around 2pm in the afternoon. Zay’s top tip? Always request early check-in where possible – you’ll appreciate the chance to drop your luggage and grab a shower before heading off to your first appointment of the day.
Equally important is the hotel’s food offering. Your traveller will want a decent meal (without having to order Uber Eats) if they get in late after a busy date. Make sure the hotel has an onsite restaurant and 24-hour room service if possible.
Make sure that you let your bank know that you’ll be travelling overseas – they’ll activate your card and allow overseas transactions.
Oh, and while we’re at it, remember to turn off roaming on your mobile phone to avoid international roaming charges. You will still be able to access Wi-Fi, which will be available in most airports, hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Although most travel and accommodation suppliers now have USB ports, Zay still recommends carrying your own universal plug. There is nothing worse than not being able to charge your phone or laptop while on the move!
For Zay, consolidating your corporate travel with one travel partner or TMC is still the best way to save money, benefit from negotiated rates, keep a handle on costs, access game-changing tech and receive expert support when it comes to every aspect of your business travel planning.
Get in touch and we’ll explain how!