There’s more to being a travel agent than loving to travel — and every year, both the risks and the rewards seem to get bigger. We asked established travel advisors to share their best tips on how to get started in 2019. Here’s what they said:
Assess your skills and time
Before starting down the path, consider whether you have the skills to run your own business: attention to detail; willingness and energy to work hard; a customer-service mentality; computer skills; and communication, problem-solving and sales skills.
Be sure you have the funds and the time to invest until your business begins to pay off. Be prepared to not travel much in the ear
ly months of your career (but do travel as much as you can), and to spend three to five years before you really make a good living at it.
Try it out
Get the real scoop by talking to some agents, and then shadowing one for a day or two, to find out what it’s really like. Many agents suggested working in an office for a few hours a week; some suggested a real internship of two or three months. “Listen, help, file, field calls and just pick up what it takes,” says MaryAnn Fusco at MSW Travel in Miller Place, New York.
Research the opportunities
Do your due diligence. Research host agencies and franchises; interview the three that seem to be the best fit. (HostAgencyReviews.com has a lot of useful information.) Investigate the legal requirements in your state.
“A good host agency is one with: no or low fees, competitive commission splits (no more than 20 percent and options that are even less), supplier overrides, live and online training,” says Brian Blumhorst. “It also provides a community, with personal relationships with suppliers so you can give some extra flair and service to your clients, and a community of colleagues that give you that feeling of not being in this alone.”
Define a target audience, and determine how you will reach them. Find something you are passionate about to specialize in. Michelle Pharr, for example, started her travel agent career as a destination wedding specialist. “The quickest way to build a clientele is through groups, as they recommend others,” she says. “And I had just three go-to suppliers: I used Royal Caribbean, AMResorts and Pleasant Holidays.”
Get a formal education
“You will need training and lots of it,” says Cathy Udovch at Travelstore in California. “Look for schools or organizations that teach about the travel industry, or an agency that has a training program. Right now, start studying up on world geography, why someone would want to go to a country, what countries are nearby, and the top things to do there. Look at major cruise line and tour operator itineraries to get a feel for when it is a good time to go. If you can walk into an agency with that information in your head, that is one less thing you need someone to teach you.”
Consider joining an association like ASTA, which offers an online training course titled “How to Become a Travel Advisor.”
Conquer the devil in the details
Be sure you understand net versus commission, health insurance, E&O insurance, and tax and legal requirements in your state. Brush up on your business and sales skills. Write a business plan that lays out your costs, fees you plan to charge and commissions you will earn, so you see clearly how much you have to sell to make a living.
Think about branding and marketing
Research how to choose a name for your agency; it’s best to start out right rather than having to change midstream.
Start building a book of business
Start with friends and family with a mentor watching over you, suggests Denise Hangsleben, but don’t count on them. Get out there and meet potential customers. Join clubs, religious groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and talk travel everywhere you go. “People will talk to you if they see you regularly,” Hangsleben says.
Be ready for rejection
This is a sales job, and not everyone you speak with will buy. “Don’t cry in your coffee because clients booked themselves,” said one agent. “Make a voodoo doll and hope they miss their flight.”
A parting thought
One successful travel advisor had this to say: “Becoming a travel agent in 2019 is not a job, but rather starting your own business. The selling comes easy with time, experience and passion. But it will take time, strategy and perseverance. Most importantly, enjoy the fun and rewarding ride.”
Thanks to all the travel advisors whose thoughts are included here without direct attribution: Terrassa Asare, Tony Day, Mike Edic, David Tolman, Teri Hurley, W Will Medina, Lainie Melnick, Geoff Millar, Celeste Mitchell, Phyllis Samowitz, Ayasha Teague, Tracy Whipple, Paulie Wimbert and Susanne Griffing Yonts.
Receive the Dreams Wedding in Paradise Package (a $999 value) complimentary! From the ceremony to the cake, you’ll have everything you need to say “I do.”
This package is complimentary when booking at least seven nights in the required room category or higher, or if five rooms any category are booked for at least three nights. This package also applies for renewal of vows ceremony.
Your Dreams Wedding in Paradise will include:
- Symbolic ceremony
- Wedding organization and personal touch of on-site wedding coordinator
- Preparation and ironing of couple’s wedding day attire
- Complimentary room for one member of the wedding couple the night before the wedding (based on availability and upon request)
- Bouquet(s) and/or boutonniere(s) for the wedding couple
- Wedding cake and sparkling wine toast for up to 10 guests
- Special turndown service the night of the wedding
- 15% discount on all Spa treatments (boutique purchases not included)
- Newlywed Package
- Welcome letter
- Fresh fruit
- Bottle of sparkling wine
- Breakfast in bed with mimosas (reservations must be made in advance with concierge)
- Late checkout for the couple (based on availability and upon request)
- Free anniversary nights (stay a minimum of five paid nights over first anniversary date and receive two additional nights free, or stay four paid nights over first anniversary date and receive one additional night free)
Terms & Conditions
All weddings, regardless of size, must be booked a minimum of 30 days in advance of the wedding date. Subject to availability and double occupancy only. Prices and package subject to change without notice. This package cannot be combined with the Dreams Eternity Honeymoon Package for both to be received complimentary and the free wedding package cannot be deducted when purchasing other packages. 15% discount on spa treatments cannot be applied to spa packages or combined with any other spa promotion or offer. Please note restrictions apply when combining the complimentary wedding package with the Group Savings for Every Season and Groups Savings that Clique promotions. See promotion terms and conditions for details.
Once wedding is confirmed, it cannot be canceled within six months of the date of the wedding without a fee. For weddings booked within six months of the wedding date, the wedding cannot be canceled without the penalty. The cancellation penalty is $100. The complimentary wedding package may not be available during all dates and times at the discretion of the resort.
*Additional fees apply for service of a judge or minister. These fees vary by resort and will be confirmed by the wedding coordinator.
Welcome to AMResorts
AMResorts is a collection of luxury resort destinations, each with its own unique personality. Raising all-inclusive to a New Level of Luxury®, every one of our resorts features Endless Privileges®, Unlimited-Luxury®, or Unlimited-Fun®, that offers sun-soaked beaches, elegant accommodations, a world-class spa, gourmet dining, unlimited premium drinks, and many other pampering amenities.
Travel insights from The Fives Hotels & Residences
Tying the knot amidst the peaceful sound of the Caribbean waves, gentle sea breeze and stunning Playa del Carmen sunset is a dream come reality at The Fives Hotels & Residences; the collection of luxury hotels designed as refuge for the senses, with the best wedding experience in Playa del Carmen.
Under its All Senses Inclusive concept, The Fives Beach and The Fives Downtown make up the brand’s portfolio of one, two and three-bedroom properties that go beyond traditional lifestyle brands by delivering authentic local experiences for an unforgettable wedding or honeymoon. And with over 5,600 square-feet of indoor event space and spectacular outdoor venues, year-long sunny skies, beautiful beaches and world-class dining, The Fives Hotels & Residences is the perfect backdrop for your special day.
With more than 11 venues to choose from, The Fives Beach Hotel & Residences provide guests with indoor and outdoor settings edging the sea, sand and sky. Amongst the favorite outdoor options include The Sky Deck, a fantastic location on the rooftop of the main beach building with a 260° panoramic view of the stunning waters of the Caribbean Sea, as well as The Beachfront Gazebo, a romantic wooded deck, based on a geometric structure that fits any type of décor.
For indoor options, couples love Club 82 Wine Bar, a beautiful space that overlooks the Mayan forest and is perfect for small weddings and The Fives Salon, an intimate glamorous venue that accommodates up to 140 wedding guests.
The Fives Downtown specializes in intimate settings including the Fives Rooftop, a venue that’s ideal for sunset weddings with endless views of the surrounding blue waters. In fact, people love this stunning view so much that The Fives Rooftop offers an “Over the Water” ceremony where couples say their vows while floating over the pool with paradise as the backdrop.
Were some friends and family unable to make the trip? No worries, select The Fives Hotels & Residences locations allow guests to watch the ceremony via Live Stream to share in on the fun.
The Fives Beach and The Fives Downtown boast numerous culinary creations that combine global cuisine with local flavors through an incredible collection of restaurants sure to awaken the senses. For weddings, selected menus are planned with each couple to ensure that the flavors and presentation reflect their preferences. The Banquet Kit contains a varied selection of menus for all tastes including three or four course meal services, family style or food display.
The Bridal Suite
Get ready in the Bridal Suite, a swanky waiting room fully equipped with mimosas, refreshments and a quick bite to eat for you and up to five of your closest friends and family members. The Bridal Suite also has a private shower, bath, treatment table and plenty of space for hair and makeup.
The Fives Hotels & Residences has a variety of wedding packages fit to suit every budget and style. When you book a wedding package with The Fives you can expect modern altar decorations, fresh floral arrangements, private group dinners and exclusive spa discounts. And to ensure that your special day goes as smoothly as possible, The Fives will arrange for a wedding planner and an on-site wedding coordinator to help you every step of the way. The wedding planning team is ready to cater to your every wish, from special entrances on camelback to attending the needs of religious ceremonies, the resort’s well-experienced staff can bring every couple’s vision to life in a stress-free setting.
Not only do packages include distinctive and personalized services tailored to each couple’s dream wedding, they also include benefits to enjoy an unforgettable honeymoon. The Fives offers newlyweds the perfect place to relax after the excitement of the wedding. Guests can live an authentic honeymoon experience in Riviera Maya, Mexico, with spa services, decorated suites to highlight the romance and special discounts for popular tours and attractions.
From far-flung exotic locales to beautiful beaches and budget-friendly options—we have suggestions for any and every type of honeymoon.
Trying to figure out where to go on your much-deserved postwedding getaway? Whether you’re looking for some R & R with your new spouse or an adventure in an exciting locale, we’ve got you covered in our list of the top 50 places to honeymoon.
Search hot honeymoon spots by style:
10 Most Romantic Beach Honeymoons
Most Romantic: Bora Bora, French PolynesiaTHINKSTOCK
Most Romantic: Bali, IndonesiaTHINKSTOCK
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Most Romantic: Harbour Island, BahamasGETTY IMAGES
Most Romantic: Cape Town, South AfricaTHINKSTOCK
Most Romantic: Savannah, GeorgiaTHINKSTOCK
Most Romantic: Santorini, GreeceTHINKSTOCK
Best Beaches: Koh Tao, ThailandTHINKSTOCK
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Best Beaches: Miami, FloridaSHUTTERSTOCK
Best Beaches: Florida Keys, FloridaTHINKSTOCK
Best Beaches: FijiTHINK STOCK
Best Beaches: Little Cayman, Cayman IslandsTHINKSTOCK
Best Beaches: Maui, HawaiiTHINKSTOCK
Best Beaches: Ibiza, SpainTHINKSTOCK
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Most Exotic: Cappadocia, TurkeyTHINKSTOCK
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Most Exotic: Machu Picchu Pueblo, PeruTHINKSTOCK
Most Adventurous: Galapagos Islands, EcuadorTHINKSTOCK
Most Adventurous: Greenough, Montana
Most Adventurous: St. LuciaTHINKSTOCK
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Most Adventurous: Papagayo Peninsula, Costa RicaTHINKSTOCK
Most Adventurous: DominicaTHINKSTOCK
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Best Budget: Palm Springs, CaliforniaTHINKSTOCK
Best Budget: Whitehouse, JamaicaTHINKSTOCK
Best Budget: Québec City, CanadaTHINKSTOCK
Best Budget: Buenos Aires, ArgentinaSHUTTERSTOCK
Best Budget: Tulum, MexicoTHINKSTOCK
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In a world of over-visited tourist attractions, a smart traveler’s bucket list is malleable and changing often. More travelers than ever are swapping busy Rome for Amman, Mexico for Colombia, and Thailand for Vietnam—opting to see the path less-traveled before the crowds find them. Plus, new access and affordability like emerging air routes can also shake up your travel priorities—how many people went to Iceland before WOW air launched its budget flights?
New Destinations for Your Bucket List
Last year I shared the unexpected places that had moved up on my bucket list, and now there are even more new destinations to uncover.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Newly accessible and affordable for Americans, Brazil recently began offering eVisas online for about $40—a big change from the $160 fee and in-person appointment that were previously required. And airlines are following suit: Chilean carrier LATAMand new budget airline Air Italy both now offer flights to Brazil, with Sao Paulo being the main hub for LATAM (and pretty much all U.S.-based airlines). And while Brazil might make you think of rainforests and Rio beaches, an introduction to Brazil should begin in its concrete jungle: Sao Paulo.
The largest city in South America, Sao Paulo offers affordable luxury thanks to an advantageous exchange rate for Americans that turns Michelin-star restaurants and shopping on fashionable Oscar Freire Street into bargain experiences. Sao Paulo is famously international, from the Japanese sushi in Liberdade and the Italian food in Bela Vista—but you can also get a hearty helping of Brazilian food in at a churrascaria or buffet. Nearby beaches like Praia Grande are only a couple of hours away for a change of pace on a day trip, but spoiling yourself in Sao Paulo can easily be the main event of your first visit to Brazil.
Where to Stay: Located in Sao Paulo’s trendy Jardins neighborhood, the high-end Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel has sprawling views of Sao Paulo’s endless skyline. Upgrade to a roomy business suite to lock down a sky-high view, and for added access to a sleek lounge serving unlimited hors d’oeuvres and bar specialties on the top floor.
If you’ve never heard of the “Venice of China,” Suzhou is about to take over your day dreams. This city of 10 million is accessible via bullet train from Shanghai, but it looks a world away. Bridged canals and manicured gardens meld Chinese cultural icons (think temples and pagodas) with Venetian-style waterways. Cruise the Suzhou Ancient Grand Canal on a sightseeing ship, or take a rickshaw-style boat ride for a more intimate guided experience.
Where to Stay: Affordable China is the perfect place to get a lot of luxury for a crazy-affordable hotel. Hotel Soul Suzhou has sleek, modern interiors that will break up the pattern of the city’s traditional gardens and architecture for just $50 per night.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If Wyoming seems like an underwhelming spot for bucket list, you’ve probably never considered Yellowstone-adjacent Jackson Hole. The forest-nestled valley is on the rise after recent recognition from big-name artists like Kanye West, who made it his newest recording location. Its reputation has been updated from winter ski town to opulent year-round relaxation getaway.
Dubbed by Vogue as the Serengeti of North America for safari-style glamping and wildlife safaris, Jackson Hole also offers hot-air balloon adventures, fine dining, hot springs, and a burgeoning collection of art galleries for equal parts family-fun and romance options.
Where to Stay: Hotel Terra Jackson Hole is a favorite for its spa, infinity pool, frontiersman-inspired glam interiors, and a fine dining restaurant with a pizza oven and impressive wine bar.
Europe’s most hidden gems are rising in popularity thanks to over-tourism in Western Europe hotspots like Barcelona and Venice, but there are still plenty of new destinations tourists haven’t overtaken quite yet. For a unique European getaway that will take your back in time to the Middle Ages, opt for Estonia’s colorful old towns, medieval castles, and surprising array of national parks. The capital of Tallinn exudes the charms of Russia with a Western European touch, and is a favorite stop on Viking Ocean Cruises that include the Baltic Sea.
Where to Stay: If you’re more of a landlubber than a cruiser, stay a while in one of Tallinn’s surprisingly affordable five-star hotels. Hotel Telegraaf puts visitors in the city center (and the lap of luxury) for under $200 per night.
Bawah Reserve, Singapore
Singapore has moved up on many a bucket list as a new destination thanks to the Crazy Rich Asians movie, but you might not have the island state’s tiny Bawah Reserve on your radar just yet. Located off the coast of Singapore, the Bawah Reserve is made up of six private islands that string together a rare ecosystem of lagoons, beaches, coral reefs, and private overwater bungalows.
The reserve has only been open to tourists since 2012 when this part of the Anambas Archipelago was transformed into a secluded sustainability retreat.
Where to Stay: The Bawah Island Resort’s 35 luxury suites attract adventure travelers with a taste for the finer things and extreme privacy. Upscale dining, a spa, and private swim decks make it a worthy alternative to busy Bali—but be prepared to pay just as much, if not more.
Jordan is having a moment for its hiking trails and the worldwide appeal of Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World—but it’s capital, Amman, is equally deserving of a visit. Easily doable in a weekend before heading south to take a dip in the Dead Sea and explore the ancient ruins of this small desert nation, you can hit up Amman’s world-class museums, Roman amphitheater and citadel, art cafes, and shawarma shops for an affordable cultural getaway. Walking and cheap taxis will easily allow you to see everything, from mosques and ruins to trendy Rainbow Street eateries and a beloved Jordanian microbrewery, Carakale Brewing, for tasty craft beer and far-flung views of the surrounding biblical landscape.
Where to Stay: Affordability is the name of the game in central Amman. There are small hotels and boutique hotels from $40 nightly, plus larger, comfortable options like The Boulevard Arjaan by Rotana for as little as $130 per night.
The Falkland Islands
If you’re dreaming of getting to the Antarctic without spending thousands on a polar cruise, simply hopping a flight to the tip of South America could soon be the best way to make it a reality.
Travelers looking for a hiking paradise even more remote than Patagonia might soon be able to fly to the Falkland Islands thanks to emerging demand for a new air route to the Archipelago: LATAM was just named by the local government the “preferred operator” for the prospect of new weekly flights to the islands. With the Chilean airline already expanding across South America in 2019, it seems we’ll soon be closer than ever to spotting penguins in their natural habitat.
Where to Stay: Once you’re there, hotels like Malvina House Hotel, located near the Falkand Islands Museum and a sprinkling of restaurants, are far and few.
Dry Tortugas National Park: Key West, Florida
A bucket list spot you’ll want to see before it disappears, Dry Tortugas National Park sits 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is a piece of military history floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico’s rising sea waters. The hexagonal fortress that sits on tiny Dry Tortugas island is deteriorating from weather, storm damage, and lack of maintenance—but its brick interior can still be toured today. The white sand beaches of Dry Tortugas are a popular for snorkeling, camping, and scuba diving. You can also walk the seawalls of the fort, which will put you right over the shallow turquoise waters.