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Travel Agent Resources

Do Travel Agents Travel for Free?

By Courtney Eisen

July 27, 2023

As a travel agent, one question that often comes up is whether or not we get to travel for free. The answer is yes, but it's not as simple as it seems. There are certain considerations and nuances involved in this aspect of our profession. In this article, we will explore the topic of travel agents traveling for free and shed some light on the matter.

FAM Trips: A Toxic Subculture

FAM trips, which stands for familiarization trips, are offered to groups of travel agents from multiple agencies. These trips provide an opportunity for agents to explore different destinations and properties. However, there is a toxic subculture within the travel agent community that solely focuses on hopping from one FAM trip to another. These agents use these trips as a way to socialize and network with other agents rather than genuinely learn about the destinations they visit.

Unfortunately, hotel general managers and key staff often view these agents as individuals simply looking for a free vacation. As a result, when these agents need a favor from the hotel, they are less likely to receive exceptional treatment. It's important not to adopt the mentality of wanting something for nothing. LuxRally Travel, for instance, discourages group FAM trips for their agents as it goes against their values of professionalism and class. Instead, they encourage agents to focus on growing their business and providing excellent service to their clients.

Free Travel With Purpose

On the other hand, there are instances where travel agents can travel for free with a purpose. Let's say you have sent a significant amount of business to a particular hotel without having visited it yourself. In such cases, it would be perfectly acceptable to request a visit to get a better feel for the property and engage in revenue-centric discussions with key personnel like the General Manager or Revenue Manager.

However, it's crucial to strike a delicate balance. Understand your value to the hotel and what you can reasonably ask for. If you consistently send guests who book the most expensive penthouses and suites, then it's fair to expect a suite for yourself. But if your clients are not big spenders, be mindful of the burden you may be placing on the hotel. Consider the occupancy levels and be content with a free regular room if that is what is offered.

Real Familiarization Trips

For top-performing travel agents who have built a significant book of business and have high-spending clients, there is another level of free travel available. If you have a reputation for bringing tremendous volume to properties or are considered one of the top agents for a particular brand, hotels may welcome you with an upper-level suite. This allows you to test the property firsthand and assess its suitability for your clients.

During these visits, your purpose extends beyond personal enjoyment. You evaluate the staff's service quality, the food, and accommodations, and even tour the penthouses to create a walk-through video for your clients. It's an opportunity to ensure that the property meets the high standards expected by your clients and to maintain your reputation as a trusted advisor.

In summary, yes, travel agents can travel for free through hotels and cruise lines, but it must be done with a clear purpose of generating revenue for both the agent and the property. Respect for hotels and cruise lines is essential in this industry, as your reputation and relationships with General Managers and Global Sales Directors play a crucial role in making significant strides. Remember, the travel industry thrives on favors, so use them wisely and responsibly.


Do all travel agents get to travel for free?

Not all travel agents get to travel for free. However, they have many opportunities to secure free travel if they take the initiative and get their IATAN card. The chance for free travel depends on factors such as the agent's performance, client base, and the relationship they have with hotels and cruise lines.

How can travel agents ensure they are taken seriously by hotels, cruise lines, and other vendors?

Travel agents can ensure they are taken seriously by maintaining professionalism, focusing on growing their business and providing exceptional service to their clients. Building strong relationships with hotel General Managers and Global Sales Directors is crucial for gaining respect in the industry.

Can travel agents request specific accommodations during their free trips?

Yes, travel agents can request specific accommodations during their free trips, but it's important to strike a balance and consider their value to the hotel. Agents who consistently bring high-spending clients may be able to request suites, while others should be content with regular rooms based on availability and occupancy levels.

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