Is it your job to help host a conference or other event that will require a large number of visitors to come into town? The responsibility of travel planning usually falls not on a team of people, but on one person. This guide will walk you through the process.
Gather information from the staff lead
You’ll need to know the date(s) of the event, the time the first day’s programs will begin, and event end time. Find out the number of participants, each participant’s contact information, whether your organization will be covering some or all of the participant’s travel, and travel dates. For events lasting more than one day, some participants–usually presenters or special guests – will only attend on days their presence is requested.
Next, create an event details document. If there’s more than one staff member involved in planning, note which staff members are working on specific parts of the event, as some visitors, such as presenters or members of partner organizations, will have different points of contact.
Create a spreadsheet with guest information
This should include the guest’s name, associated company, telephone number, email address, city of travel origin, date of arrival, and departure date. Include a column for the nearest airport, as well as columns for a point of contact name, email address, and telephone number. When working with upper-level management, you’ll probably be coordinating with an administrative assistant.
This spreadsheet will guide you through the travel arrangement process. It can be color-coded to visually assist you in the planning process. For example, confirmed travel plans can be highlighted in green, while travel plans in process are highlighted in yellow, and those that haven’t been confirmed can be red.
Make contact with the visitors
This step allows us to introduce ourselves, as well as confirm information we’ve received. When making initial contact, send an email with a noticeable subject line, such as “RESPONSE REQUIRED: Travel Plans for [Name of Company] [Name of Event].” This will encourage the traveler to reply. Ask for confirmation regarding the traveler’s name, contact number, date of birth, and dates of travel. Confirm preferred departure and arrival airports, as well as the point of contact, if someone other than the traveler. Collect this information by creating a fillable PDF form that can be returned via email.
Pick your hotel
When planning conference travel, it’s best to get a hotel block, which will require a contractual agreement with the host hotel. Find the hotel that’s willing to give the best deal, and that’s in close proximity to the event. If the event is taking place at a hotel, negotiate the hotel block as part of the event planning process. This will ensure that you lock in the best rates.
Review the terms of the contract prior to signing. Many hotels require 80% occupancy of the rooms in the hotel block before additional fees. Contracts also outline the date(s) of the block, with some flexibility for surrounding days. If you’re having a conference where most guests will only be staying overnight, I’d suggest signing a contract that covers a hotel block for one night, but that has language stating that dates up to two days before and after the date of agreement will also be honored at the same rate.
Review each traveler’s city of origin, preferred airport, and planned departure date to match potential travel companions. If six travelers plan to leave Atlanta to head to Washington on the same day within the same time period, it’d be easier to book them on the same flight.
Select travel methods
When discussing business travel, professionals often think exclusively of flights, but traveling by train is also acceptable. If your visitors are within three hours of your location, consider visiting the Amtrak site to find affordable options. Most times, trains are cheaper than flights and take the same amount of time as a flight (including baggage and wait times.)
When searching for flights, use travel fare aggregator sites such as Travelocity and Expedia to compare flights. When ready to book, use the airline’s company site, which will often have the lowest rate and not include any hidden fees. If possible, you’ll want to make travel plans 45 days prior to travel for the best rates. Be sure to use your matched travelers’ list to save time during the flight search.
Provide the airline with the traveler’s personal information, including their name as displayed on identification materials, contact number, and their date of birth, which should have been collected in the form sent during initial contact.
Confirm travel plans
- Send booking list to hotel. The booking list provides the hotel with the information they need regarding who will be staying at the hotel on which nights, and who will be covering the cost of the rooms. If your company is covering the cost of the rooms for all travelers, the booking list should include only the names of the guests. If the company will only be covering some rooms or some nights of a traveler’s stay, this should be clearly documented and confirmed by cross-checking with your guest spreadsheet.
- Send an email to the travelers with confirmed travel dates. This email should include information about the conference’s start and end times, the dates of their hotel stay, along with the address of the hotel, and the date, time, and confirmation number of their flight. The email should include attachments of the individual confirmations you’ve received from the hotel and the airline, as well as your contact information.
- Update guest information spreadsheet and send to staff lead. After all steps are complete, send the staff lead and supporting team members an email with the updated guest information spreadsheet, including flight and hotel confirmation numbers for each traveler. Should the travelers reach out to these staffers, everyone will be in the know.
Are you also in charge of managing travel for your coworkers and members of your staff? Find out tips and tricks for making the process as seamless as possible.
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