Take the Hassle Out of Last-Minute Travel Planning

Proactive steps for administrative professionals to minimize booking scrambles.

luggage, laptop bags

A late-breaking sales opportunity, customer problem or high-stakes event can leave you scrambling to make travel arrangements for a manager or coworker. Instead of waiting for the next big emergency to drop, you can take steps now to make these requests more manageable. Taking a proactive approach will help minimize stress when these requests arise and ensure a smoother experience for traveling team members.

Try these tips to make these on-the-fly arrangements more seamless.

Gather Essential Details

To save time on back-and-forth with your colleagues, create traveler profile forms that include all pertinent information for booking trips. Ask all your co-workers for:

• Names (as they appear on government-issued IDs)

• Preferred departure addresses and airports

• Frequent flier numbers, seat preferences and special meal requests

• Passport information, if traveling internationally

• Hotel and car rental preferences and rewards program numbers

This checklist from the American Society of Administrative Professionals suggests additional items you may need. If you work with a travel agent, provide them with copies of the forms.

Devise a Pre-Departure Checklist

Prepare a list of essentials business travelers will need in their luggage or laptop bags, such as itineraries, devices, adapters, power cords and presentation materials. Referring to this list will help your colleagues avoid oversights when they’re rushed. If you’re helping arrange overseas travel, see that the traveler’s mobile phone plan covers international calls, texts and data. Be sure they have contact information for the travel agent or other person who will arrange emergency help if needed.

Create a Calendar of Upcoming Events

Some last-minute bookings result from a simple lack of foresight. Proactively check in with managers about upcoming conferences, customer meetings and other events team members will be traveling for. Ask for colleagues’ help in keeping your calendar updated through occasional reminders via meetings or email. Taking the lead will also can save the company money: Flight tickets purchased fewer than seven days in advance cost 44 percent more than tickets bought at least 15 days ahead, according to research from travel and expense management service SAP Concur.

Partner With a Travel Agency

Working with a dependable travel agency can save you time researching flights and planning on-the-ground logistics for last-minute trips. You can also save money through access to airfares, hotel pricing and other deals that aren’t otherwise available. Any agency you work with should offer 24/7 support in case of a flight cancelation or other emergency after normal business hours.

Develop Last-Minute Resources

If working with a travel agent isn’t an option, or you’d rather handle last-minute bookings in-house, have resources at the ready. Flight aggregator sites like Google Flights, Skyscanner and Hipmunk can help you find the best prices and itineraries if you aren’t bound to a particular airline. The features of these services vary slightly: For instance, Google Flights lets you enter luggage counts to find more accurate pricing, while Hipmunk offers an “agony” filter that ranks flights by a composite of price, duration and stopovers.

For hotels, Booking.com or Expedia can point you toward competitive last-minute rates. You may find good rates by booking directly with a hotel as well, since many will drop their prices to fill rooms.

List Your Booking Best Practices

When you’re booking last-minute travel, avoid the most common sources of delays. Aim to book direct flights, if possible — even though they’re more expensive, you’re less likely to miss a connection or lose luggage. Check airline and airport delay ratings to know which ones to avoid. Encourage colleagues to travel only with carry-ons to minimize the risk of baggage-related delays. Though you can’t prevent every possible glitch, anticipating what might go wrong can help you lower the odds that it will.