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How to Become a Travel Agent: Everything You Need to Know

Transform your deal-finding skills into a career using this guide.

Are you great at finding reasonably priced flights and hotel rooms? Does making itineraries and solving booking issues come naturally to you? If your answer is yes, you might want to consider becoming a travel agent. And if you're the designated "trip-planning friend," you're already halfway there.

You might think the the profession is outdated, but that's not what the data shows: According to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), 50 percent of travelers are more likely to use a travel agent now than they were in the past. Not only are travel agents needed, but the career's earning potential can be impressive, depending on the type of agent you choose to be. Use this guide to learn how to become a travel agent and kickstart your journey into a unique career.

RELATED: 26 Best Trip-Planning Hacks Straight From Travel Agents.

What do travel agents do?

A travel agent's job is to ensure their clients have the best travel arrangements. Using their expertise, they offer advice and essential details about your trip, make your reservations, book flights and hotels, and manage your travel plans overall. Any hiccups regarding your accommodations are handled by them, and they are the best at finding money-saving deals. Travel agents prioritize your needs, like your vacation schedule and budget.

Their goal is to provide peace of mind throughout the trip-planning process so you can get the most out of your vacation.

What credentials do you need to be a travel agent?

You don't necessarily need a degree to become a travel agent, but getting some training within the field could be in your best interest. This not only makes you an attractive candidate to employers and agencies who may require a form of certification, but also helps you appear more qualified, which can help further your career in the long run.

Even though there might not be a degree in "travel agency" per se, you can opt for a related program like business, economics, or hospitality instead.

how to become a travel agent - travel agent booking a vacation for a client
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What do you need to become a travel agent?

There are different ways to become a travel agent, but anyone hoping to break into the field should definitely keep the following three points in mind.

Decide what kind of travel agent you want to be.

Having a specific focus on the kind of travel experience you want to provide allows you to build the knowledge and resources to best help those specific clients. Suppose you want to work in corporate travel: Building your skills according to your niche clientele and field will help you sharpen the skills you need to develop your expertise.

Learn about the travel industry and its trends.

The travel agency field is constantly shifting, so it's important to stay up-to-date on industry changes and trends to know what you should be offering clients. People's preferences are ever-changing, so knowing what's hot and what's not is crucial. Spend time learning which places are popular and unpopular based on the season, or which restaurants are staple visits. This shows a solid and up-to-date understanding your clients will appreciate.

Build your communication and interpersonal skills.

A large part of being a travel agent is advising your clients and earning their trust, which doesn't happen overnight. Presenting yourself as knowledgeable and approachable can encourage them to trust your judgment and recommendations. This is especially important if you're not working with a travel agency, because you'll have to rely more on your brand and relationships instead of leaning on a company's reputation.

Maintaining a healthy balance of communication between you and your clients is also essential, which means scheduling phone calls, in-person meetings, keeping up with emails, and any other form of communication your client prefers.

RELATED: 9 Ways Flying First Class Can Actually Save You Money, Travel Experts Say.

how to become a travel agent - woman taking notes in a notebook while on her laptop
Kateryna Onyshchuk / iStock

Get certified if you can

Getting a certificate can be pricey and cost hundreds of dollars. So, if this option is not feasible for you, that's understandable. However, while certification isn't a requirement to become a travel agent, it can certainly help you throughout your career. Here are a few certificate programs to consider.

Certified Travel Counselor

This Travel Institute certificate requires at least five years of experience and a Certified Travel Association certification. This course focuses on marketing and building consumer relationships. CTC costs $550 to complete the course and $600 for the CTC Fast Track.

Certified Travel Industry Executive

CTIE is also backed by the Travel Institute and requires at least five years of field experience. This $550 program includes courses on travel business, marketing management, bookkeeping, and travel law.

ASTA Verified Travel Advisor

This certificate is given by the American Society of Travel Advisors and teaches applicants about the legalities of travel and how to solidify relationships with consumers. The nine-course program also focuses on ethical travel advising, agency law, and travel agency compliance.

For ASTA members, the course is $399, and for nonmember independent contractors, it's $598. Travel Advisor nonmembers pay the steepest price, which is $729, and $179 for recertification.

RELATED: 7 Hacks for Flying With Just a Carry-On—No Matter How Long Your Trip Is.

how to become a travel agent - travel agent going over a calendar with a client in front of a computer
PeopleImages / iStock

How much do travel agents make?

According to Indeed, travel agents make an average of $53,924, and salaries can range between $30,131 and $96,506, depending on where you live. But other factors can affect an agent's earning potential, like working independently instead of for a travel agency.

A travel agent's income also depends on their area of travel. The Hotel Agency Review 2023 report revealed that corporate and luxury travel agents earn much more than agents who focus on Disney and cruise trips.

Your experience level can also impact your earning potential, as agents who have worked in the field longer are typically viewed as more qualified.

RELATED: The 7 Best Cruises to Book If You're Over 60.

Do travel agents get discounts on flights?

Being a travel agent doesn't automatically mean you get tons of discounts and deals, but they do have access to perks that can help make planning trips easier and less expensive. Travel agents have the inside scoop on reduced rates because of their relationships with hotels and airlines. As a result, agents share these negotiated prices with their clients to help them save. Agents can, of course, also benefit from this insider knowledge and save money on their own trips.

Thanks to their agents, clients can enjoy luxury accommodations at high-end hotels like Hyatt Privé, Hilton Impresario, Marriott STARS & Luminous, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, and Mandarin Oriental Fan Club, to name a few. These perks range from spa services and later checkout times to room upgrades and complimentary breakfast.

how to become a travel agent - travel agent showing a computer screen to young couple
dima_sidelnikov / iStock

How do you make money as a travel agent?

There are several ways a travel agent can make money in their field beyond selling travel packages or working for an agency.

Travel agents can charge a service fee, which is a base pay clients cover along with any other charges.

Travel agents can also make commissions from their contracts with hotels, tour/excursion companies, cruises, car rental services, and airlines. Add-ons like insurance can also help boost an agent's income, if their client wants it.

Booking group tours can increase a travel agent's earnings because their commission is based on how much their clients purchase, so more people means more accommodations. For example, booking travel for destination weddings or family reunions is an excellent way to book multiple hotel rooms. It's such a lucrative strategy that some agents make group booking their niche, because managing just a few a year can bring in a substantial profit.

RELATED: The Best Day to Book Flights for Your Next Getaway.

Wrap Up

Being a travel agent comes with many perks, but ultimately, becoming one takes a lot of dedicated effort. Taking the time to learn about the travel industry is a great way to expand your tourism knowledge and consumer communication techniques. Refining your skills and becoming certified is one of the best ways to attract and retain clients.

So, if becoming a travel agent sounds like the career for you, join this community of globetrotters and combine your love for adventure, great deals, and helping others plan impressive getaways.

In the meantime, you can sign up for our newsletter to enjoy similar career-building content, as well as the latest in wellness, entertainment, and travel.

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