While international travel requires all the same steps as domestic travel, it holds some unique pitfalls of which the administrative assistant should be aware.
- Time zone issues, specifically date issues. It is not unusual when traveling to another continent that you will leave on one date and arrive on another date. Don’t make the mistake of one assistant I knew that got her boss to China one day too late to make the key note address he was scheduled to give. When making international travel arrangements, always search for flights based on arrival date, not departure, to be sure you boss arrives on time for whatever meetings she will be attending.
- Jet lag is a serious problem when crossing multiple time zones. It helps, when possible, to build a little bit of recovery time into the travel schedule on both ends of the trip to help your boss equalize to the local time.
- Passports and Visas. Your boss will require a passport when traveling internationally. In your store of data about your boss, always keep things like expiration dates of various documents including his passport. Set yourself a reminder a good 8-9 months in advance of the expiration date to start the renewal process. Some countries will require the passport to be at least 6 months from expiration for travel into their country.Visas are also an issue. As soon as you know your boss is traveling to a foreign country, check to see if they require a Visa to enter the country. The same assistant who sent her boss to China a day late also didn’t look into the Visa process because our company used American Express (cross my heart, it really happened). Luckily our travel agent caught it in time to get the visa before he traveled. Some countries require the visa application to be submitted more than 30 days prior to the travel.
- Climate is an issue if your boss is flying down under (or up over if you are located in the Southern Hemisphere). Remember that when you cross the Equator, seasons are reversed, so if it is summer in Boston, it will be winter in Melbourne. Check the internet for weather predictions to advise your boss on appropriate clothing to pack. Actually, this is just a good general tip since weather varies across the country as well.
International travel is where it pays to have a really good travel agent familiar with international travel. They will often have a service that will walk passport and visa applications through the process (for a fee, of course), will be conversant in the visa requirements, and can help you navigate the minefield of international travel. In the long run, you are better off just paying the extra money to get a travel agents assistance, especially if you are going to a country outside of North America and Western Europe.