A virtual assistant is likely to find him or herself one day charged with the hefty task of booking travel for a client. The art of booking travel, whether for business or pleasure, can be stressful — even if you do it relatively often.
Since virtual assistants usually have access to clients’ calendars, personal information, and/or inboxes, and since a big part of a VA’s job is to lighten a client’s administrative load, it’s only natural we VAs might double as travel agents. However, there are a couple things a VA can know and do to streamline the process of booking travel for a client.
Is your client attending a conference? Giving a keynote speech? Teaching a course at a remote location? Taking the family to Disney World at the tail-end of a business trip? Have they asked you to book it for them? Don’t panic! Follow these handy tips when booking a trip for your client.
Establish a Relationship With Your Contact Person
As a VA, your work is naturally easier when the person you’re corresponding with for your client is someone with whom you’ve already established a relationship. This can be exceptionally true in the process of booking travel.
If your client is attending a conference, or any sort of organized event, ask your client up front who your point of contact will be. If they don’t know, do a little research to identify the event coordinator, or whomever might be serving in such a capacity. Reach out to this person, let them know you’re booking travel for your client to and from their event, and keep an open channel of communication.
Questions will arise, details will come on a rolling basis, contracts and reimbursement information will be hashed out. Having a relationship with your contact person and feeling free to communicate with them is key to streamlining your process.
Know Your Client’s Preferences
You likely already have many of your client’s business preferences committed to memory — or you’re at least familiar with them. If you’ll be booking travel, it is very important to clarify with your client all their travel-specific preferences.
What is their preferred airline and mileage number? Backup airline? Do they like to save up miles, or use miles as soon as they earn them? Do they prefer to travel as economically as possible, or is it important to have the space to work afforded by a business- or first-class flight? Do they prefer to fly early, or are redeyes most convenient? Do they prefer to rent a car, or take taxis everywhere? Are they a member of a hotel honors program? Do they require a king size bed? Nonsmoking room? Mini-bar? Gym?
Have a conversation with your client before you begin to book travel and clarify as many preferences as possible. And keep a list handy for the future!
Keep Pertinent Info Stored Accessibly
You already have a system for organizing key personal/business information your client has shared with you. As a part of this system, include as much of their travel-specific information as possible: passwords, mileage/honors numbers and credit card numbers, account numbers, family contact information, etc.
Keep everything organized for yourself in one place, like in a secure Google doc that you can share and update with your client. You might even include the above travel preferences in this list so that when the time comes to book a flight or hotel, you have everything at your fingertips!
Take Advantage of Apps
It is no surprise that these days there are plenty of travel apps aimed at making your trip as stress-free as possible. Why not take advantage of these apps for your client? With TripIt, for instance, you can create a free account, forward your flight/hotel/rental car confirmation emails to the app, and TripIt will create a fluid, hyperlinked itinerary with all the details in one place. Share login info with your client, and you can both manage and access the itinerary at any time — before and during the trip.
The more work and clarification you put in on the front end, the more streamlined, successful and stress-free your travel booking process will be. And at the end of it all, your client is guaranteed to be thrilled you took the chore off their plate. They don’t even need to know how easy you made it!