Managing travel for a film production can be a messy process. It calls for a high level of organization and a workflow that can scale to meet all production sizes and budgets. We’ve created a list of 9 ways to better book flights for your film crew.
Traveling encompasses three major areas; flights, lodging and rental vehicles. As a result, there’s a lot of details that need to be captured and managed prior to booking. We’ll be reviewing each of these areas, and providing templates and hacks to speed up the process.
1. Capture traveler details using a Google form
Prior booking any flights, hotels, and rentals you’ll need to first capture talent & crew details. Unfortunately, calls, emails, and correspondence with every traveler will devour a lot of time.
Instead, make a Google Form! Google Forms are private questionnaires you can link to talent and crew to fill out. All responses are saved into a Google sheet for easy access afterwards.
Watch this demo video to ramp up on Google Forms in no time.
2. Prepare a Travel Sheet to Input Booking Details
A Good Travel Sheets Saves Time
A Travel Sheet is where you can organize all of your flight, lodging, and rental car bookings. If you have multiple people handling travel, then it’s a good idea to use Google Sheets for the following reasons:
- You’ll have a living document that your team can collaborate on remotely.
- You can export as a PDF, and filter which details to include.
- You can copy an entire row from Google Sheets and paste right into a Gmail message. The formatting stays intact, and makes the information more digestible for the recipient.
Team Collaboration within the Travel Sheet
Instruct those with editing permissions to always keep the sheet updated with new information. It should be a goal to eventually populate all of the empty fields.
Add a column to track who on your team booked which rows (initials usually work). This way you know who to go to if there are questions about a specific travel item.
If a shared document makes you nervous, you can always roll back changes. Google Sheets keeps a full history of updates. In the unlikely event the spreadsheet is accidentally deleted by someone on your team, you can periodically clone backups.
3. Before you book flights for your film crew, create a dedicated travel email address
When you order tickets from a dedicated email account (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org), it provides a central account for all of your purchase confirmations and receipts. You can share the login credentials of this account with the production unit and travel bookers. Voila, everyone has access.
From there, your team can open up confirmation emails, parse out the details you want hidden (i.e. flight/hotel costs), and add additional notes before sending it along to the appropriate crew members.
4. Avoid purchasing tickets from third-party sites
Although you can usually find lower rates on aggregators like Expedia, Orbitz, and Kayak, it’s recommended that you book from an airline directly. Many third-party sites will route you to an offshore callcenters, and give you a hard time about changing your flight.
Yes, fare’s may be higher when you book flights directly, but most airlines offer 24/7 support in the event you need to make a late night change. This is not uncommon with productions.
5. Contact a travel agent (or agency)
Agents can often locate more flight options and save you money on initial bookings. Plus they can help lessen fees and charges should you have to change a booking. One caveat is that most agents are not available in the evenings or on weekends.
Alternatively, online services like Flightfox offers a turn-key platform to enlist an online travel concierge to find the cheapest rates for you .
6. Consolidate details into a single travel document
Why make a single travel email?
When sending emails to your film crew, it’s more effective to provide every traveler with a single, personalized digest of all the info they need (i.e. flight, rental, hotel, etc.) rather than sending multiple smaller emails. This way, your cast and crew can quickly reference a single email for instructions. It also limits the number of threads you have to manage per traveler.
It’s best to avoid attaching documents to emails. Instead, compose everything in the body of the email. This becomes especially important when traveling through locations with limited cell reception or wi-fi access for downloading attachments. Delegate a crew member to take point on creating and sending the travel document email. This standardizes the email structure, and designates responsibility for tracking progress.
Organize details into a table (for easy pasting into emails)
Organizing travel details within a table makes it easier for recipients to understand what is going on, and projects a more professional image. If you’re using Google Sheets, copying and pasting tables into a Gmail message works perfectly. The grid lines and colors are retained and formatted for viewing on the phone.
If you’re trying to paste a table from Excel, the table will either not format correctly, or added as an attachment (not recommended).
Make sure to include all pertinent details
Providing details in the order of travel will make it easier for your travelers. Here are some of the items you should include in your travel digest:
- Transport instructions from home airport
- Transport instructions from lodging to airport
- Hotel check-in / check-out
- Flight information (flight numbers, etc)
- Rental car / transportation info
- Weather forecast for travel days
- Local contacts
- Emergency contacts
- Trip Insurance information
Compose your email
A good example of a subject title would be something along the lines of:
Project name | Uruguay Prod Team | RETURN TRIP 12/01/16 – 12/11/16 Travel Documents
In the email body, add a custom message up top, and paste in the table of travel details you created in Step 1.
Copy Your Dedicated Traveler Email Address
7. Handling changes to travel documents
Best practices sending amended travel documents
- Create a new email.
- Cut and paste info from the previous travel document into the email body.
- Copy the previous subject and prefix it with the word “UPDATED.” For example, UPDATED Project name | Uruguay Prod Team | 12/01/16 – 12/11/16 Travel Documents
- Revise the details in the body of the email in a different font color (i.e. red) so they stand out and aren’t overlooked.
- Add a brief paragraph outlining the changes at the top of the email, and let them know all changes are in red. For example, Your hotel has been changed, new information below in red.
- Ask travelers to confirm they received this email.
- Follow up until you receive confirmation from all of your travelers regarding the changes. This is very important, better to hunt someone by phone / text / email in advance then to deal with further changes because they missed your initial update.
8. Speed up travel time by checking in your travelers online
9. Retain all receipts and track your expenses
All travel expenses should be accounted for in the wrap book the end of production. This includes flights, hotel, AirBnB, taxis, restaurants, travel guides, translators, etc. Digital receipts should be printed and included as well.
Additionally, keep track of all travel expenses within the travel sheet with detailed descriptions, pricing, and payment status.
To ensure we collect every receipt, I often add a status column for receipts and label the cell On File or Requested/Waiting for… This reminds whoever is managing the travel sheet to make sure they have a copy before moving on to another task.
We hope these travel hacks were helpful. If you regularly book travel for production, let us know some of your travel hacks in the comment below, and we’ll credit you in the article!
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