I started to write this review of TRAVO, and I thought to myself: there’s no value in giving my opinion about something when there’s no context. Yay, I can see how long it’s going to take me to get across town. Yay, I can see that there’s a cheaper hotel around the corner. So what? It would be like when I studied Business Studies at college and had no clue when or where I would ever need to know about ROI.
So I thought about how best to review this product, especially for those assistants who are perhaps new to the profession, or new to booking travel. I started thinking about all the times over my career that this could have helped me. So that’s the direction in which my review will be taking;
Where In My Career Could TRAVO Have Helped Me?
1. When I spent hours trying to find the exact flight my boss wanted
This sounds like I was being dim, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that. My boss had to be in Frankfurt for a meeting, and wanted to come back on the 2pm flight. Our TMC told me this 2pm flight didn’t exist. The closest one was 5pm, so I held that one for him and explained the issue.
He had to be back in London for some family function and was adamant that he would be on the 2pm flight. I asked him where he’d seen it, and he said it was on Bloomberg. I went back to the TMC and asked them to check again. Still they told me that this mystical 2pm flight didn’t exist. I was now stuck between a rock and a hard place. One person telling me that there was a 2pm flight, and someone else telling me there wasn’t.
Had I been using TRAVO, I could have simply taken all the listed flights to him and let him pick one he wanted in the first place. Annoyingly, there was one at 1pm that he ended up taking. The thing is, when you are passing on information from someone else, you aren’t in a position to challenge when you’re being told you’re wrong. It turned out the flight he wanted didn’t run on Fridays! If you’ve ever seen that bloody Bloomberg flight thing, you’ll know how annoying it is. It lists all flights between two cities, and on another part of the page it ticks on which days it runs. So if your boss doesn’t look at it properly, he’ll be asking for flights which don’t exist.
So, how might TRAVO have helped me here? I could have emailed him a screenshot of all the available flights before he had looked at Bloomberg. Problem solved.
2. When I had to fill out everyone’s Travel Profile Forms
If you’ve ever moved TMC, or started using one for the first time, and had to do this for everyone, you’ll know what a total and utter pain in the backside it is. No-one knows their frequent flyer numbers, or their passport number. Some of them don’t even know their own address (I wish I was joking). There will be one person who brings in every single piece of travel documentation they have ever been given (including their ex-wife’s out of date passport) for you to traipse through and extract the three pieces of relevant information that are there.
And then, even if they manage to fill them out on their own, while you’ll get some people who will fill it out and email it back to you, you’ll also get some people who will decide to print it out, fill it in by hand, and then hand it or scan it to you. You then have to spend the next 3 hours trying to decipher handwriting. Which, of course, we all love doing!
At TRAVO, you can email them a link so that they can fill it out themselves. Wonderful! You can go in and override the bits they get wrong (like their name – again, I wish I were joking!), but largely they do most of the work themselves. Great! And this goes onto my next point:
3. Working out how early people like to be
This sounds a little specific, but when you are a salesperson who travels sometimes four times in a week, you like to have a certain routine. I had one person who would refuse to get to the airport more than 45 minutes before their flight. They insisted in rocking up, going through security, and walking straight onto the plane. Which is all well and good when there aren’t long delays at security, but they never seemed to care about that (and missed a few flights in the process).
In TRAVO, they can specify how early they like to arrive at the airport. Which is super handy when you are looking after 25 salespeople who travel about 15 times a week between them. It’s impossible to remember everyone’s little quirks, so things like this which can land you in hot water when they get back, help you no end.
4. When my boss went around the world…twice
Everyone has their Trip From Hell, and this was mine. My boss decided that he would combine two monster trips with a holiday, thus creating the biggest and most expensive trip I have ever booked in my life.
I had to do the entire schedule on Word (a printed copy which he wanted to take with him), and the put all of the calendar entries into his Outlook. Which all worked fine once they were there, but it took me the best part of a day just to put them all in, taking into account not only all the different time zones, but also the change from BST to GMT. With TRAVO, the calendar entries can be dragged into Outlook – which would have saved me SO MUCH TIME!! And also money. I must have spent at least £3.50 that day on chocolate, just to try and combat the stress I was under.
There were also visas to arrange. 7 of them! Which was a nightmare in itself and for the three weeks I was organising this trip, I genuinely didn’t know if I was coming or going. I didn’t dare take any time off in this period for fear that something would change without me knowing, thus jeopardising the whole trip!
5. When I booked my boss on the wrong mode of transport
Yep, there are the odd occasions when even us PAs aren’t perfect. I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? I’d made the ultimate mistake and booked my boss on a flight to Paris when he thought he was on the Eurostar. Cue carnage when he rocked up at Kings Cross, only to check his schedule and find out he should have been at Heathrow and had now missed his flight.
Had we been using TRAVO, whilst this would have still been a complete disaster, he could have very easily seen how long it would have taken him to get to Heathrow, and what flight options would have been available to him when he got there.
What actually happened was that he came into the office and yelled at me as soon as he saw me. I then went into the loos and cried, knowing full well that it was my fault that he had missed his meeting, and then hid behind my computer screen for the rest of the day, egging on the clock to get to 5.30pm as quickly as possible so I could go home. Worst day ever.
6. When I needed to book someone a bland meal
Ok, so I didn’t have to book them a bland meal, but they were super annoying so they deserved it. In TRAVO you can select which type of meal you’d like your passenger to have on the flight. So the next time someone complains incessantly that they have to get up at 4am to catch the flight THEY asked for, to get to New York in time for the meeting THEY scheduled, book them bland! *evil laugh*
There are also times when TRAVO would not have helped
In order to make this a balanced review, I need to explain that TRAVO is not the saviour of all that is travel. There are times when it really wouldn’t have helped me. Such as:
1. When the Bland guy needed to sit next to the toilet
Again, he didn’t have to be next to the toilet. I’m sure he didn’t actually want to be there. But he annoyed me so much that I put him there. Yes, perhaps I’m the meanest PA ever, but we have to deal with so much shit on a regular basis, that we have to get a few laughs now and again. And what better way to get them than to get some revenge on someone who was really annoying.
Most travellers are nice, helpful, and are genuinely remorseful if they have to change their trip. To those people: THANK YOU! You make our jobs that little bit better. And we especially love it when you bring us chocolates back from your trip. You are the people we will use the company air miles on so that you get a nice surprise upgrade when you get to the airport. You are the people we will secretly tag as VIPs with the IT service desk so that when you call them they actually help you.
To the people who annoy us: we will get revenge! Be that booking you a bland meal and sitting you next to the toilet, or deactivating your security pass so that you have to sign in and out every day for a week. Or even making sure that you always end up in the meeting room with no windows. Trust me, that’s not an accident. So if you keep getting unlucky at work, ask yourself: “when was the last time I was nice to my assistant?”.
2. When my boss wanted room 203
I once had a boss who split his time between London and New York. His home was NYC so when he was there, he stayed at home. However, when he was in London, not only did he want to always be in the same hotel (not an unreasonable request), but he also always wanted the same ROOM NUMBER. I kid you not. Apparently this specific room had a certain view that he liked, which no other room had… (I’ll leave you to make up your mind about what that might have been).
So I had to make that dreaded phone call to the concierge of this (luxury) hotel, to ask that Mr X always had this room number. I thought I would die of shame on the phone, trying to make my request sound like a normal one. I had to explain that, yes I realised that you had other, better, rooms that Mr X had been in. I also understood that room 201 had basically the same view. I had to sit on the phone and argue my point for about 45 minutes. If that concierge lady happens to stumble across this blog, know that I am very sorry, and I do fully understand the level of stupid that must have come across that day.
3. When BA refused to change a flight time to get my boss home in time for dinner
In BA’s defence, I never actually asked them to. But that’s what I was asked to do! Us PAs often have a joke about not being able to control the airline flight schedules, but have you ever been asked to contact the airline to see if they could “just make it a couple of hours earlier”? Well I have, and I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.
Most people will work with that one person who is just an arrogant bastard. Be that because they have had such an extremely privileged background that they are simply used to getting their own way all the time, or because they are just an arse. There’s always that one person who asks you the most ridiculous things: “why is the printer paper not white enough?”; “why have the canteen stopped serving garlic bread on pizza day?”; “why do I have this rash on my arm?”; “what should we do in a disaster situation if email stops working?”
So, even a tool as good as TRAVO could not have been able to help me persuade BA to move their flight.
4. When I had to find the missing translator
I’ve booked many a translator in my time (my favourite being a lovely lady called Twinkie!) but only once has one gone missing. It’s slightly terrifying when you get a phone call from a panic-stricken exec, making out that their life is in danger, when they are in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, and Raul his translator has wandered off. Luckily the panic lasted not more than a few moments when Raul was spotted across the street buying some kind of mango. It was a weirdly satisfying thing knowing that I was the one he called, however it would have been monumentally more helpful to him at the time had he called Raul on his mobile (which I had helpfully included on the schedule), rather than me in the middle of the night.
So unfortunately for me and my beauty sleep regime, TRAVO could not have stopped my boss from calling me in a panic in the middle of the night.
So that’s TRAVO. Basically, it’s really good at doing what you are supposed to do. It’s not great at all those little extra things we get asked to do, but do I wish I’d had this 10 years ago? 100% yes. Thank you to the lovely people who designed and built it. It’s clearly been done by people who actually book travel. In my experience, this is somewhat of a novelty.
If you would like me to review something specific, please get in touch! I promise that I will be honest about what I really think about it. However, I make no promises that I will recommend it. I only recommend the things that I love.