Here’s my theory: there are two types of people. One type loves going on vacation and derives the most enjoyment from being on vacation. The other type loves the planning part as much as — if not more than — the vacation itself.
If you’re one of the vacation planning enthusiasts, you might have thought about being a travel agent. Travel agents are one of the more “old school” at-home workers, and it’s a proven industry that just gets more and better suited to remote work as time goes on, internet tools get developed, and even the most remote parts of the world begin to get online.
So, if you’re the person in your family who just revels in putting together the perfect itinerary for your upcoming trip, if you know all the deal sites, travel hacks, and best ways to see the world, then maybe being an at-home travel agent is the perfect job for you! Let’s take a closer look at this gig.
Why Be an At-Home Travel Agent
Being a travel agent is incredibly helpful for people who are planning their vacations. There are tons of decisions to make and plans to consider, and being able to help people make the right choices for their families — and discover options they would never have found before — is an incredibly satisfying way to make a living.
In addition, the overall industry of at-home travel agent work has a lot of options. You can choose to work for a company in a more traditional employment arrangement, or pick something that’s much more entrepreneurial in nature and take on a lot of the benefits and responsibilities of freelancing.
When I spoke with Andrea Joyce, an independent vacation specialist with Cruises Inc., I asked her why she wanted to be an at-home travel agent. Here’s what she told me:
My motivation was 15 years ago when I wanted to find a way to help provide for my family and be a stay at home mother. This job has provided me with flexibility to be there for my children when they need me, to travel, to help people put together their dream vacation, as well as providing me with the income I need.”
She really hit the nail on the head for why this type of work-at-home arrangement is so fantastic. You’re making a huge difference in the lives of your clients and customers to help them plan their ideal vacations, and you’re making a huge difference for yourself and your family by bringing in extra income from home.
As you think about becoming an work-from home travel agent, think about how much flexibility you want for your “time on” and how much you’re willing to do your own marketing — greater flexibility often comes with the need for greater marketing efforts. Just remember — marketing is something that can be learned, and most organizations that set you up to be your own independent business will also offer marketing training and resources.
If you’re an enthusiast of a particular type of vacation, or a specific location, you can put your enthusiasm and expertise to work for you. It truly is what you make of it.
Do I Work for Myself or for a Company?
As a travel agent, you can work with an agency, create your own agency, or “go big” and work for a corporation. Many travel agent jobs with major corporations will look a bit more like customer service, with set schedules and whatnot. They might not be as flexible as you’d like, but you also have the benefit of joining a well-established company.
For example, if you want to be a travel planner for a cruise line, you may need to be available by phone for customer service operations. On the other hand, if you’re part of a boutique cruise-planning agency, you might be able to have extreme flexibility as long as you’re able to be response (and take the occasional daytime call when necessary).
You can learn more about host agencies and get a feel for the right approach to you by visiting Host Agency Reviews. This site really gives you a good overview of “the lay of the land” so you can understand a bit more about how travel agencies are structured, and get a feel for where you think you might fit best.
Types of Companies That Hire Remote Agents
If you want to work from home as a travel agent, you’ve got all kinds of options. Quite a few companies and industries are hiring work-at-home travel agents, so with a bit of patience, you can find something absolutely perfect for you. You can also try a few different types of remote travel agent positions over time, once you know the lay of the land a little better.
Some of the most commonly known ways to work from home as a travel agent are with these companies:
- Cruises — Companies like Cruise.com and Cruises Inc. hire at-home agents to help customers book their dream cruises, shore activities, and more.
- American Express Travel Counselors — One of the concierge services that American Express offers its customers is the travel counselor. These at-home agents are available 24/7 to help with booking travel arrangements, event tickets, and more. It’s a high-end service and does require some background in travel agency.
- Red Butler — This opportunity is particularly interesting. Red Butler offers all kinds of virtual services for their customers, and it isn’t a travel-specific agency but it does have a travel-specific arm.
- Various Disney-oriented organizations like Travel with the Magic. Many of these are commission-based, and you receive a portion of the booking fee for every booking you make. If you’re a Disney enthusiast, helping other people plan their dream Disney vacation is a great way to make money online!
- Though not necessarily work-from-home travel agent positions, you will also regularly find work-from-home travel jobs with the following companies: (Watch for openings on FlexJobs)
- Carnival Cruise Lines
- Working Solutions
- World Travel Holdings
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Holland America Line
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Shanty Creek Resorts
- Travel Leaders Group
- Best Western
- Hotel Tonight
- Omni Hotels
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts
- ACTIVE Network
- Carlson Wagonlit
How Flexible Are the Hours?
The flexibility you have comes down to which company you join and what type of role you’re taking on. There are two basic approaches to working from home as a travel agent. One is to take a role with a set payment of some sort, like a salary or an hourly rate. These will be a traditional employment model, except you’d be working from home instead of at the office.
The other way to be a travel agent is to look for an agency that hires agents on commission. As a commissioned travel agent, you’ll be able to take charge of your work to a much larger extent. You’ll be set up as a contractor and given access to the company’s resources, including things like software and leads.
As a commission-based contractor, your income would be tied to the amount of work you take on. You can work full-time hours 9-5, you can work evenings while your kids are asleep, or you can just book a trip here and there when you want some extra income.
The approach with this type of work-at-home setup looks more like running your own business, which offers you a lot more flexibility but also requires a bit more self-direction. (That said, your agency should offer lots of resources available to you to succeed. You won’t truly be on your own!)
What You’ll Need to Get Started
Some remote travel agent jobs — like the one with American Express — will require prior travel agent experience. Others are completely open to entry-level travel agents, which means you’ve got great opportunities no matter what your experience level is.
It’s extremely helpful to have your own travel experience under your belt so you can understand not only what it’s like to plan a vacation like the ones you’re selling, but also what it’s like to be on one. You can make recommendations based on personal experience, which your clients will find very helpful. I’m not saying you need to start taking mega vacations all the time to be successful as a travel agent — just that it’s helpful if you’ve got your own experiences to lean on.
Logistics-wise, you’ll need to have some sort of home office set up. Some positions will require specific technology (like a certain Internet speed or even a separate phone line), while others will let you conduct your working hours whenever and however you want.
What Are the Resume and Experience Requirements for Being a Travel Agent?
You don’t need special education or a degree to be a travel agent. That’s one of the great things about this line of work! The most important thing you need to be a great travel agent is an enthusiasm for helping people plan great vacations. That said, you might come across some job descriptions with specific requirements and such, like any traditional job description might have.
Most travel-related businesses that are hiring travel agents will be looking for experience either as a customer service representative or in the travel industry. It will also benefit you if you can show experience working from home. If you’ve never had the job title of Customer Service but you’ve had a role that involves dealing with the general public, you can certainly position that experience as relevant.
Many travel agent opportunities, however, will be looking more for your enthusiasm and experience planning trips than they will a specific work history. If you’ve never had a job in your life but you go to Walt Disney World three times a year and you live and breathe “the mouse,” you’ll likely interview well with a Disney-oriented travel agency.
No matter what, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate administrative skills like organization, professional interaction with customers, and the ability to work within a budget. You’ll also need to have the skills and attributes that will make you successful working at home. These include things like being self-motivated (instead of having the presence of a boss to keep you accountable) and the ability to stay organized and meet deadlines. You might, depending on the role, also need to be willing to pull some unconventional hours here and there.
Finding Work-from-Home Travel Agent Work
Depending on what type of work you want to do, the way to find it may vary. One sure-fire thing to do is check the careers pages of the organizations you’re interested in joining.
You can also search the job boards — my favorite is FlexJobs — for remote travel agent work. Keep checking these regularly to see what kinds of opportunities come up and jump on them quickly.
Some at-home travel agent opportunities (like most of the Disney-oriented ones) let you join up any time, because instead of filling an opening like a traditional employee, you’re starting your own small company, almost like an affiliate or a franchise of a larger travel company.
One thing to keep in mind with these opportunities is that there is sometimes a cost to get started. If you’re working for a traditional company, with a traditionally structured job, don’t expect to pay startup fees (aside from getting your home office up and running). But some travel agent companies will require a joining fee and/or fees for the mandatory training you’ll need. It’s commonly said that any work-at-home job that requires you to pay money to join is a scam… and while this is typically true and good advice, some of the at-home travel agent jobs you’ll find will be perfectly legitimate. As always, do your own research.
Are There Any Work-at-Home Travel Agency Scams?
As there are in nearly every profession, there is a common scam going around that tries to trap people looking for at-home work as travel agents. It’s a variation of the all-too-common check-cashing scheme.
Avoid being taken in by scammers by looking for any kind of payment arrangement that involves you receiving legitimate money from your clients and then turning around and sending a portion of that money via wire transfer to someone in another country. That’s a clear red flag that you’re being scammed.
That said, there will be time when start-up fees are required and legitimate. If you’re going to be an employment-based travel agent, your employer will most likely cover the costs of starting up your home office. But if you’re joining an agency that’s hiring you as a contract worker (and you’re therefore technically starting your own business,) you might have some start-up fees for things like insurance and special training (which is common for Disney-focused travel agents in particular).
Have you ever thought about working from home as a travel agent? I think it looks exciting, and it’d be fun to learn about all the different destinations and approaches people want with their vacations.