How to classify and communicate your permissible travel

By |2021-03-30T20:24:02+00:00March 30th, 2021|Business Travel|

This post is part of our Return to Travel Sooner and Safer Series based on the 5 Steps to Return to Business Travel Sooner and Safer e-book and is based on a recent 15-minute Shep webinar, Classify your permissible travel policies.

The rules of travel look very different today than they did before COVID slammed the breaks on business travel in Q1 2020. Travel policy and approvals were previously primarily driven by cost and ROI. Today’s business travel, on the other hand, moves beyond cost control and needs to focus on what type of travel is acceptable or “permissible” based on multiple characteristics. 

Classifying your permissible travel tries to answer the question of why and who can travel to where and when. However, the problem in answering these seemingly simple questions stems from a lack of alignment at a company level. What’s important for your marketing team is not important for your IT group nor sales team. What seems job-critical to accounting seems trivial to HR and so on. Trying to get the entire organization aligned around what, as a company, is allowed (what is permissible) is key to getting your travel program back up and running. Without this cross-departmental agreement, you’re in for a long few months of arguments and self-interested justifications.

Who, when, how, where, why?

If a misaligned leadership group sounds troublesome, imagine the amount of employee confusion this scenario creates. Your sales team is probably wondering, “Am I allowed to jump on a plane to have my first meeting with a sales prospect or only when I’m going to close a deal? Does the deal have to have a certain value for the travel to be permissible? Can I go to conferences?” Now extrapolate that to the support team, the implementation team, and the recruiting group. The traveler should understand and be aware of why policies and approvals exist, who to contact for questions or help, when travel is allowed or not allowed, how to book travel, and where to get the information they need to ensure it’s also safe to take the trip.

Introducing: The permissible pyramid.

While talking to travel managers about classifying travel, we came up with what we’re calling the Permissible Pyramid framework that we presented during a recent 15-minute webinar. As a triangle, we score travel along three vectors to determine a particular trip-type’s permissibility: urgency, impact, and remote-ability. There certainly are more complex and sophisticated ways of evaluating and classifying travel, but we found that this framework is simple yet focused enough to create a strong foundation for the next iteration of most companies’ travel policies. Let’s talk about the three sides of the pyramid.


Each trip type should be evaluated on the typical time-sensitivity it is associated with. Each trip type is then ranked on a high-to-low urgency spectrum. The ratio score would start at 1 for non-urgent travel, up to a 10 being the highest, most urgent.


The next step is to rate how impactful each trip type is to your business or department. Another way to look at this is ROI. What is the return on your investment? Will this trip type earn or save your company a lot of money? High ROI trips would be rated 10 with the lowest being 1.


Remote-ability – probably a made-up word 🙂 – relates to whether a particular trip-type can be done remotely. By this point, we’ve all spent endless hours of our work (and personal) life on Zoom, so evaluating whether a virtual interaction is appropriate should be easier than ever. Things that have to be done in person would score a 10 with the score going down the less essential physical presence becomes.

Classify your travel

Each of these three vectors has a 1 (low/no) to 10 (high/yes) ratio that you score, allowing you to add them up to create a permissibility score of anywhere from 3 to 30. The lower the score, the less essential and permissible the trip and the more layers of approval you need to obtain. This score becomes an easily agreed upon way for you to score different kinds of trips, regardless of which department they may benefit, and get alignment across the entire leadership team.

Create a table

Here is a quick and dirty way to put the pyramid to work and classify your travel. Using a spreadsheet (download the template), identify travel types within each department and lay them out in a column. Then score each trip on their urgency, impact, and remote-ability. Tally up the scores at the end of each row and decide where the break-points in your permissibility tiers lay (eg. 3 – 10, 11 – 20, and 21 – 30).

Here’s a link to download an example that you can use as a template. Just open the Google table and make a copy to your Drive folder or download it as an Excel file. On the example, we’ve identified eight possible travel types:

  • Implementation
  • Sales closing
  • Repairs/Servicing
  • Hiring
  • Training
  • Sales Intro
  • Team Building
  • Learning/Conference

Once you have your travel-type list, get your department heads and stakeholders together and start scoring. In the example, implementation and repairs are usually both quite urgent and have to be done in person so would score very highly on urgency and lack of remote-ability. The impact would depend on the job, the customer, and the account value.

Create a key

The next step is to create a key that you use to rank the travel types according to their scores, classifying whether they are permissible, need approval, or are not travel permissible. Then match them with required approval layers. Here’s how our example breaks down:

Score: 21 – 30

Classification: Permissible Travel 

Approval: Manager

Score: 11 – 20

Classification: Extra Approval Needed 

Approval: Manager and Department Head

Score: 1 – 10

Classification: No Travel 

Approval: Manager, Department Head, and CEO

While your trip types and approval hierarchy will be more nuanced and specific to your business, this framing provides a quick and easy way to start your return to travel process.

Here is the webinar I hosted walking through this concept and showing examples:


Another valuable resource worth sharing is travel consultancy, Festive Road’s, Permissible Travel Framework, which is a much more in-depth way of classifying travel if you want to take the next step.

This post is part of our Return to Travel Sooner and Safer Series and is based on the 5 Steps to Return to Business Travel Sooner and Safer e-book which you can download by clicking this link.

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