My first experience with planning corporate travel was awful. I’d never planned a big company trip before, but I worked on a small team, so someone had to do it. Suddenly, there were all these details and decisions to manage. It was overwhelming – awful really. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly nail it right on my first try.
Planning corporate travel can be a landmine, but you don't have to learn the hard way. Here are the top travel manager pitfalls and mistakes to avoid, so your team's business travel always runs smoothly.
Corporate Travel Mistake #1. Proceeding Without Defined Expectations
I initially thought I just had to book my team’s trade show exhibitor space, and reserve hotel rooms, no problem. But after much confusion and stress I realized I was actually responsible for:
- Booking flights
- Planning transport to and/from hotels
- Reserving refundable hotel rooms
- Booking rooms for business dinners / happy hours, and client meet & greets
- Planning where my team would eat each meal
- Providing expense process instructions
- Creating a team travel plan/event guide
- Providing a suggested packing list
- Managing all trade show details including
- Booth shifts/schedule
- Booth packing, shipping, and tracking
- Trade show signage
- Reserving booth space, carpet, carpet padding, electrical, wifi, and booth cleaning
Lesson learned: make sure you know exactly what you’re responsible for planning. Especially if you work on a small team, you may be expected to wear more hats than you think. Review your corporate travel policy (if you have one). Work with your manager to understand specifics on what you’re expected to deliver for each business trip you plan.
You will also likely realize that your corporate travel policy isn’t defined enough. If so, create some suggested rewrites/additions, so you and your fellow administrators won’t have jump through the same hoops every time.
Corporate Travel Mistake #2. Booking Directly Through the Hotel
As any travel manager knows, booking corporate hotels can be one of the very worst parts of the planning process. It’s why I recommend not booking directly through the hotel. I could go on a long rant here, but to keep it short, every time I’ve tried working through the hotel directly I’ve run into the same issues.
First of all, prepaying the bill. Most hotels have limited prepayment options, and setting up direct billing for each trip is tedious. Also, if you’re not able to prepay the rooms, you risk dealing with credit card authorization issues. Even if you’ve filled out an authorization form, sometimes it’s not processed correctly.
I know this because it’s happened to my team multiple times. More than once they’ve been denied check-in until the cardholder showed up. Or they’ve had to foot several thousand dollar hotel charges on personal credit cards.
Directly booking with the hotel also makes expense tracking difficult. Plus you usually have to book each room individually, which is a huge hassle.
Luckily, there’s another option. You can save precious time with our free corporate hotel booking platform. You’ll save an average of 26% on your groups’ rooms, and can easily prepay and or set up direct billing. You’ll also get automated expense tracking and 24/7 customer support.
Lesson learned: the right travel management tool can save you hours of anxiety.
Corporate Travel Mistake #3. Forgetting About Important Timing Factors
When I was first managing corporate travel planning, I didn’t realize how important timing is. For example, forgetting to factor in things like time zone changes when you create the itinerary. It turns out your team doesn't appreciate not getting to eat dinner until 10 p.m. home-time. Here are some timing considerations to bear in mind as you plan.
- With major airports like Denver, you may need to allow for extra time to shuttle from one side of the airport to the other during a flight switch or layover
- Factor plenty of transport time into the itinerary
- Research how bad the traffic is in the destination city, allow for lengthy delays
- Check when your team members’ passports expire
- Is this a popular event or destination? If so, schedule hotels in extra advance, they'll go quickly
- What is the forecasted weather? If it’s -10 degrees, don't plan on your team doing much walking
Finally, consider if your industry or organization requires lots of rescheduling. I recommend booking flexible hotels – use a hotel platform like ours that lets you search and filter by cancellation options. Also, use airlines like Southwest that allow you to switch flights for free.
Lesson learned: consider how timing impacts your team’s travel. Think about logistics timing, destination factors, event ramifications, weather, and industry timing.
Corporate Travel Mistake #4. Assuming People Know How to Expense
Another common mistake is assuming your team understands your company’s travel expense policy. Namely what to expense, and how to expense it. Make sure they know how to handle typical trip costs like:
- Hotel room wifi
- Transportation: car rentals, Uber rides, taxis, airport parking, shuttles, etc.
- Emergency supplies (ex. new computer charger if one dies)
- Client meetings (coffee, dinner, etc.)
- Hotel minibars
- Baggage check fees
Lesson learned: if there expense confusion, your corporate travel policy needs overhauling.
Corporate Travel Mistake #5. Not Asking for Help
I was green when I first started planning business travel. So green in fact, that my company hired event planning consultants to coach me through my first couple of projects. It was the smartest, most cost-effective thing they could have done, especially for a high-stakes trip like a trade show.
Because until I worked with the pros, I didn’t ‘know what I didn’t know.’ My consultants taught me things that never would have even occurred to me. Like why you should write a travel guide for your team. And why you should include a suggested packing list and dress code guidelines.
Lesson learned: you don’t know it all and you don’t need to. Ask expert planners and travelers for advice. Subscribe to top travel publications to stay abreast of trends and tips. I recommend Skift, Inc and Entrepreneur's travel sections, and Business Travel News (BTN).
Here’s wishing you and your travelers have trips full of flights with no delays. May you get the best hotels with the cleanest of linens and Uber drivers who never get lost. Cheers!