Become a Travel Agent in the US: A Step-by-Step Guide

July 8, 2024

We've all been there.... laying on a white sand beach and thinking "man I could get used to this! I am totally going to become a travel agent." Let's talk about how to make that thought become a reality.

We've all been there.... laying on a white sand beach and thinking "man I could get used to this! I am totally going to become a travel agent." Let's talk about how to make that thought become a reality.

In today's blog, we are going to cover all of the things you will need to know before you begin your adventure to become a travel agent (or as we like to call them travel “advisor” but more on that later!).

What Does It Mean to Become a Travel Agent?

First off - a travel agent is a professional who helps clients plan, book, and organize travel experiences, from simple vacations to complex international trips.

Becoming a travel agent can be an exciting career choice as this career offers the opportunity to explore the world, work with a wide range of clients and turn a passion for travel into a rewarding profession. Travel agents enjoy the satisfaction of making people's travel dreams come true while constantly learning about new destinations and cultures. Plus the money ain’t bad at all!

Step 1: Skills and Qualifications to Become a Travel Agent

The key skills needed for success as a travel agent

Every successful travel agent possesses excellent communication skills, attention to detail and problem-solving abilities. You will be spending the majority of your time listening to your clients and what they want to achieve. Your only goal is to craft them the perfect vacation. You must be able to listen, communicate well and of course be able to work under pressure.

The #1 qualification of a travel agent

Trust. Your clients must feel like they can trust you - and if they cannot then that’s a big problem! The trust that you build with your clients is won over many trips, but it can be broken in an instant unfortunately. Being an honorable person is super important to start off in this career.

Step 2: Degree vs Certifications to Become a Travel Agent

Educational backgrounds that can be helpful

While not always required, degrees in tourism, hospitality, marketing, sales or even business management can provide a strong foundation. Knowledge of foreign languages can also be a significant asset in this field if you are going to specialize in a certain niche.

BUT it is important to remember that you should never be required to hold a certain degree to become a travel agent.

Specialized travel agent courses and certifications

The Host Agency that you align yourself with should offer certifications or an onboarding program to help you get started. This is an important step to think about because you are going to be expected to generate leads and demand from scratch! Evaluate every single host agency or consortium with these questions: “What courses and certifications do you provide me?” and “What ongoing education and programs do you offer for your agents?”

How someone answers you is super important (read on to see how Famvia Travel does things!).

Step 3: Choose Your Path: Host Agency vs. Independent

Independent Travel Agent Route

Starting your own agency requires developing a business plan, securing necessary licenses, choosing a consortium and setting up your operations. While it offers more freedom, it also comes with greater financial risk and responsibility. You will be starting from 0 and have no access to higher commission levels (unless you have prior experience and can join a consortium - but watch out!).

Starting out as a brand new, independent travel agent is extremely challenging and not practical for 99% of folks wanting to become a travel agent. Instead, you will be MUCH better off selecting a Host Agency to work with.

Host Agency Route

Established agencies (aka “Host Agencies”) offer training (at least they should!), connections to travel suppliers and of course better commission rates. No 2 host agencies are alike. Some require you to be full time and others allow you to work your own hours. Every Host Agency will take a cut of your commission check. This is not a bad thing though as every Host Agency has a multitude of backend operations to handle like collecting those commission checks from each travel supplier, marketing and more.

Obviously, a good host agency should provide you with a TON of resources for the percentage of commission they are taking from each trip. Typically, a host agency will take 30% - 40% (we’ve even heard of 50% ouch!) of the gross commission from each trip you sell.

Step 4: Join Famvia Travel

Famvia Travel is a Top Host Agency

If you have read this far, then you probably figured out by now that a Host Agency is the route that you need to go. There are 100s of Host Agencies out there in the US that all promise riches and resources. But do they actually follow through? We think actions speak louder than words and we have actually had travel advisors join Famvia Travel from multiple top host agencies in the US. If established travel advisors are moving their travel brands over to Famvia Travel it must be for good reason!

What does Famvia Travel offer as a host agency

We are proud to be one of the fastest growing travel startups in the US. We got here by providing insanely good value to both our guests and our travel advisors.

For our Guests, we offer a free travel dashboard and travel rewards program.

For our Travel Advisors, we built a tool (we lovingly call, “SORS”) which powers all of the content on, but more importantly all of the travel bookings you will manage for your guests. Rather than spending thousands of dollars a year on multiple SaaS tools, marketing software and more - SORS handles it all for you for free. Yep, we never charge our travel advisors a penny for access to all of the tools we bring to the table. The travel industry has never seen anything like this and we are just getting started.

Sounds like a mission you can get behind? Become a Famvia Travel Advisor now!

Step 5: Gain Relevant Experience

Industry certifications that can boost credibility

Consider certifications from organizations like CLIA which will give you access to benefits from travel suppliers but also recognizes you as someone who takes this seriously. These credentials demonstrate your expertise and commitment to professional standards.

Building a network within the travel sector

Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with experienced travel agents in your area. Networking can lead to mentorship opportunities and potential job prospects. The network you build on your own with travel suppliers will always help you personally to become more recognized in your local industry.

State-specific requirements for travel agents

Always stay on top of and research your state's regulations, as requirements vary. Some states require travel agents to register or obtain a seller of travel license.

Step 6: Specialize in a Niche or Three

Popular travel niches

Consider focusing on areas like luxury travel, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, family travel, or specific destinations. Specializing allows you to become an expert in a particular area of travel.

How specialization can set you apart in the market

Niche expertise can help you attract clients looking for specialized experiences and potentially command higher fees. It also allows you to tailor your marketing efforts more effectively.

Don’t make the mistake of focusing on everything

Because you can’t! If you try to do too many things and onboard too many travel suppliers you will become overwhelmed really quickly.

Step 7: Develop Your Business and Marketing Skills

Essential business skills for travel agents

Develop proficiency in areas like accounting, customer relationship management, and negotiation. Understanding contracts and travel insurance is also crucial. You are going to be building your own travel brand and it’s important to understand the business mechanics behind this.

Marketing strategies to attract and retain clients

Learn to create a strong online presence through a killer social media strategy. Implement email marketing campaigns and consider content marketing to showcase your expertise. It’s all about showcasing your brand and making yourself known as the expert in your circles.

Step 8: Stay Updated with Industry Trends

Importance of continuous learning in the travel industry

The travel landscape is constantly changing, with new destinations, travel technologies, and consumer preferences emerging regularly. Staying informed helps you provide the best service to your clients. CLIA releases an annual survey and annual assessment which is critical to knowing what is happening in the industry, whether you sell cruise travel or not.

Resources for staying informed about travel trends and destinations

Subscribe to industry publications, attend travel trade shows, and participate in familiarization trips. Online courses and webinars can also help you stay current with industry developments. The Monthly Famvia Travel Newsletter is a great no strings attached way to know what’s going on in our world of travel. 


Recap of the steps to become a travel agent

  1. Think about if you truly have the skills necessary to devote towards becoming a successful travel agent
  2. Decide whether you want to try the insanely hard route of becoming an independent agent or join a host agency (like Famvia Travel!)
  3. Invest in your brand through experience, education, specialization and staying current.
  4. Keep marketing yourself!

Encouragement for aspiring travel agents

Reminder: it’s hard work to start a new career and especially building a travel brand from scratch. However, it can also be incredibly rewarding. It can be rewarding monetarily but also emotionally too. Being able to help friends, family and your clients enjoy their trips is one of the best feelings in the world.

At the end of the day, Famvia Travel has created the best process for becoming a successful travel agent whether you have experience or not. Learn more about the process by scheduling a call with someone from our Advisor Success team today!