How to Become a Travel Agent: Turn Your Passion Into Perks and Cash

Travel hobbyists can parlay their skills into a money-making opportunity with proper training and accreditation.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Edited by Meg Lee

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Raise your hand if you love to travel. Whether you’re often on the road or take a vacation just once a year, you’ve probably heard of travel agents. These folks help plan and book itineraries for you, eliminating a lot of the pain points when it comes to traveling.

These days many people skip out on a travel agent in lieu of booking their trip online, but if you’re a frequent traveler, you may want to become a travel agent yourself. Why? Because it can save you a lot of money — and may even earn you some in the process.

Let’s take a look at how to become a travel agent, why it’s something you may want to consider and the ways it can work for you.

Why become a travel agent?

Have you ever obsessively researched the best hotels in a city you’re planning to visit? How about checking seat maps on an airplane? If getting into the nitty-gritty of travel logistics is something you do in your spare time, you might also enjoy becoming a travel agent.

Not only do you get to plan trips for others, but you’ll also be able to take advantage of special discounts on many facets of travel.

This is true for your clients, but also for yourself. Travel agents have access to a variety of discounted rates on both airlines and hotels, even when booking travel for themselves.

How to become a travel agent

Find a program

Becoming a travel agent isn’t as simple as declaring yourself one. Typically, the first step is to sign up for a program that’ll teach you the basics of running your own travel business.

There are a variety of programs to choose from, depending on your interests and career goals. Most programs will teach you about the business side of being a travel agent as well as how to plan trips, so your courses in itinerary planning and travel insurance will be coupled with business ethics and customer service.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you’re wondering how to become a travel agent from home, don’t worry. Many of these courses don’t have to be done in person; there are online programs that will teach you everything you need to know from the comfort of your living room.

Apply for certification

Once you’ve completed your coursework, you’ll want to apply for certification. Although there is no single standard that designates you a travel agent, there are a number of different identifiers that you can acquire. Some of the more common ones are:

  • International Air Transport Association, or IATA, which allows you to book travel on domestic and international airlines.

  • Travel Industry Designator Service, or TIDS, which allows agents to book trips with a variety of travel suppliers and receive commissions.

  • Cruise Lines International Association, or CLIA, which provides agents the ability to book trips on cruises around the world.

In order to access Marriott’s travel advisor rates, for example, you can use any three of these designations, along with a variety of others.

Each of these associations and identifiers have different implications for your business, so you’ll want to be sure you’ve fully researched them before applying for membership.

Save money as a travel agent

Once you’ve qualified as a travel agent, what comes next? If you travel frequently, becoming a travel agent can be a huge benefit to you, as it offers discounted rates and access to luxury travel options.

Discounted rates

Travel agents have access to negotiated rates that aren’t available to the general public. The exact amount will vary depending on the business. Hilton, for example, will give personal travel discounts of 50% off at newly-opened hotels and up to 25% off at the remainder of hotels within Hilton’s portfolio.

Hyatt, meanwhile, will give you a discount on personal travel of up to 50%, but only during select dates of the year. And although not all airlines give discounts to travel agents, many do.

Regardless, these are some pretty spectacular savings, and if you’re looking to save money on your vacations, being a travel agent can help.

Luxury programs

Becoming a travel agent isn’t only about saving money, however. It also grants you access to many hotel chains’ luxury travel programs.

If you’re big into elite status benefits, this is definitely something you’ll want to consider — especially since you don’t need any status at all to receive these perks, as long as you book through the hotel’s agent portal.

Most major hotel chains have these programs, including Hyatt Privé, Hilton Impresario, Marriott STARS & Luminous, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Belmond Bellini Club, Rosewood Elite, Mandarin Oriental Fan Club and Shangri-La Luxury Circle.

While benefits vary by brand, many of these offers include things like room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check-in or late checkout and credits for expenses like dining or spa services. General consumers aren’t eligible for these programs, but once you’ve become a registered travel agent, they become accessible to you; however, some programs — such as Hyatt Privé — are invitation only.

For the most part, booking rooms through these programs shouldn’t cost more than the standard rate you’d be paying anyway, so you have the potential to get big benefits without shelling out any additional money.

However, note that these numbers don’t take into account any other discounted rates for which you may be eligible, such as those offered to American Automobile Association members and veterans.

Earn money as a travel agent

Of course, becoming a travel agent isn’t all about scoring discounts for yourself. If you’re looking to earn some money, being a travel agent can be a good way to do so.

Note that travel agents operate in a customer-facing role, so you’ll also need to be able to build client relationships and be comfortable with sales. Courses such as those mentioned above can help train you to do this and run a successful business.

If booking travel and organizing trips for others is something that appeals to you, there’s definitely money to be earned. Marriott, for example, gives agents a commission of between 8% and 10% for all eligible stays booked.

If you’d like to become a travel agent

There are a few good reasons to become a travel agent, especially if you travel a lot. Although it takes time and effort to complete training and apply for accreditation, the benefits you’ll receive as a travel advisor can be significant. This is true whether you’re booking personal travel or have built yourself a client base. Either way, there’s money to be had — and saved.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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