Travel Requests: Simplifying the Most Complicated Process

Jeremy Francis

December 7th, 2018 travel management  

Travel requests are just plain hard. Whether you are a solopreneur, or managing the travel plans for hundreds of employees, coordinating travel management in a corporate is either really complicated, or exponentially complicated.

Managing dates, controlling costs, establishing policies, handling payments, and ensuring proper documentation are just the surface level issues the travel request workflow faces.

But trying to tackle the entire travel request process manually only makes things worse. Managing all of the travel requests of a company through emails, spreadsheets, and simple forms is the kind of nightmare that you never wake up from.

But can automating the travel request process even help at all? Or does it just add more fuel to the fire?

What Is a Travel Request?

A travel request begins any time an employee wants to travel for business purposes such as a client visit or a conference. Travel requests have two major purposes: management approval of the travel, and coordinating travel logistics. Both sides involve a lot of communication and coordination.

Let’s look at all the phases of the travel request process.

Phase 1: Travel Approval

The travel request process usually starts with the employee filling out a form that describes the reason for travel, dates, types of logistics required (e.g. air, ground, accommodation), and the expected outcomes of the travel.

The form then should be reviewed by a business manager for approval. By approving the travel, the manager agrees that the travel is required, that the employee is authorized to be out of the office, and agrees to pay for the travel expenses out of that department’s budget.

Next, someone from the finance team usually needs to approve the request as well. This approval is to make sure the travel is in line with the approved department budget and that there is adequate cash flow to fund this trip. Some more extensive or expensive travel may require additional budget approvals.

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Phase 2: Policy Adherence

The next phase of the travel request process is often looked over. Most companies have policies related to travel, but they may be unspoken or undocumented. Even if they are written, sometimes they are not communicated until after the travel is completed, leading to a lot of misunderstandings and confusion.

During this phase, the travelling employee should have explicit information available about what type of travel is authorized, how expenses will be managed, what class of travel is allowed, per diem rates, allowances for food, and even dress codes or expectations of employees when representing the company outside.

Phase 3: Coordinating Travel Logistics

Actually coordinating the logistics is one of the most complicated parts of the travel request process. Some logistics may be as simple as arranging a rental car for local travel, while other travel requests may require ground and air transportation, accommodation, visas, arranging gifts, securing advancements, or assigning a corporate credit card.

If not enough information is given on the form, this requires a lot of back and forth communication regarding the exact times of travel, schedule of meetings, preferred seating, frequent traveller numbers, and more.

Even if everything seems like it is in order to start the trip, extenuating circumstances may require a change of plans at the last minute and a full review of travel details all over again to make sure nothing is missed.

travel request process

Phase 4: Reimbursement and Follow Up

After the travel is completed, the travel reimbursement process initiates. If a cash advance was given, a record of expenses needs to be provided. Otherwise, the employee may need to provide receipts to get expenses reimbursed. The employee might also have reviews or recommendations on specific travel providers like hotels, airlines, and venues.

In addition, a smart travel request process will end with some kind of business summary of the effectiveness of the travel. What was the immediate impact? What might be the future impact? What business intelligence was gained by the travel?

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Leveraging Automation to Remove the Headaches

Even when handled by the most organized people, manual travel requests are incredibly difficult. Using automation ensures better communication and prevents most of the typical logjams that come with the travel request process.

Automating the process starts with a stellar form. The form must present itself as very simple, but must have a lot of power and flexibility under its hood.

For example, if employees are only scheduling local travel, they shouldn’t be bothered with lots of fields about expected arrival dates.

Your automated form can have several sections that display only on specific conditions. The main goal is to get as much information to the travel coordinator as possible to prevent a lot of back and forth clarifications.

In addition to an automated form, the workflow should also be streamlined. You can create a flow that includes the business and finance manager sign-offs. You may also need to create a conditional approval for international trips. By automating the process, the initiating employee doesn’t need to worry that someone was missed out in the travel plans and getting expenses paid won’t be an issue later on.

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As a part of your automated workflow, you can also send updated travel policy documents to employees depending on their type of travel.

The ideal automated travel request application would also have an easy way to chat and communicate in case any last minute changes are required. A travel request that can’t be edited is not of much value at all.

As a part of automating the process, you’ll also want to decide if you want to treat the whole process from request to reimbursement as one process, or split it up. With a system like KiSSFLOW, you could stop a travel request after the final travel documentation is sent, but automatically start a new request for expense reimbursements and follow ups without having to re-enter data.

Simplify Your Travel Requests With: KiSSFLOW

Emails and spreadsheets are no way to manage the complexities of travel requests. However, off-the-shelf solutions usually aren’t flexible enough for what your company needs. The best solution is to try KiSSFLOW, which lets you build your own custom Travel Request app. We have a template you can start with, or you can build your own from scratch. Making an app requires no coding knowledge; just build the form and workflow that fits best with you!

Try KiSSFLOW for free to see how much more simpler your travel requests can be!

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