Aaaah the wonderful world of travel! For many, travel is all about leisure and fun… but for others travel is a necessary evil… a complex labyrinth to learn and navigate for the sake of conducting business. When it comes to meetings and events, travel is often an added layer of complexity on top of something that’s already complex – enough to make your head hurt! Basically, the sky is the limit to the hassles and heartaches you could be facing if this somewhat daunting task is approached in disarray. The great news is: since we’ve already invested our time and energy learning these lessons (albeit sometimes via the “School of Hard Knocks”) and believe whole heartedly in paying it forward, we are sharing our tried and true tips to help pave the way for a turbulent-free flight as you rise to the occasion in planning and managing events with a travel component.
First, when air travel is involved – plan early! Seems so elementary, but gone are the days of 24-hour holds (back in the “olden days” airlines were willing to hold a ticket price for you, without any money down, for 24 hours while you made a decision – and guaranteed your seat while it was on hold!). With the 24-hour hold, the 24-hour refunds were also retired (in those same olden days airlines would actually provide a full refund, no questions asked, as long as you cancelled within 24 hours). In fact, the airfare market is so volatile that in the moment that you think you’re locking in a great fare, it could be snatched right from under your little mouse! The further in advance you begin the plan fares (when demand is likely down), the likelier you are to find fares that fit into your budget, and flights that coincide with your timelines.
Then, take the time to learn the “system” of air travel reservation rules:
Advanced Fare Tiers
Did you know that even in this volatile market, prices fluctuate somewhat logically in accordance with a graduated date-of-purchase to date-of-travel relational sliding scale? Well they do! So rather than being caught by surprise in a huge fare increase, be proactive and plot travel reservation deadlines by working back from your meeting/event date. Those tiers are: 60, 30, 14, 7, and 3 day advanced purchases. Obviously, you want to hover around the 30+ day advance for the best fares. Although, you may get some steals at the last minute, when you are working with a group, on average, the best fares will be secured 30-60 days in advance.
Usually designated by a letter, like “Fare Class J,” most of us don’t know what these are until we try to do something with a ticket (exchange, refund, change, transfer) and are told that we can’t because of the “fare class.” I realized early on that I’d be ahead of the game if I actually took the time to learn (or document) how each airline assigns classes. It’s a bit arbitrary and proprietary to their own logic, but it will save you a world of hurt later to at least be aware of the purchase, refund, and transfer rules for each class of ticket. And, prioritize on this one – learn the classes for the airlines you are most loyal to (and fly frequently).
So here’s the deal, each city or state could have multiple airports, but each airport in the world has a unique three-letter code, not to be confused with any other airport. Imagine the horror of purchasing multiple tickets for meeting/event attendees for the wrong airport, because you assumed telling them to fly into “Chicago” was clear enough? How about the limo driver that arrives at Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) for a passenger that has flown into the Chicago Midway Airport (MDW). See how that simple code could prevent a ton of confusion and aggravation?
In short, equip yourself with the knowledge to navigate the complexity of travel with ease. We’re not saying adding travel to your already complicated meeting/event logistics will ever be easy… but, we are encouraging you that can navigate the nuances of the challenge with ease.
Image courtesy of elessar_x