Starting a Travel Agency from Home

January 19, 2019

If you're thinking of starting a travel agency from home, you're in luck. The start-up costs are relatively low and there are plenty of opportunities for someone with the passion to sell travel. If you use a host agency, it will make the process of starting a travel agency waaaaay easier (especially if you're a total newbie!). When working with a host agency, there's very little risk, and the up-front costs are relatively low! For those new to the industry, we're a huge fan of the host agency route. 😊 

We have a ton of articles on the site about choosing a host agency. But here are a few steps you'll want to take before you even decide on a host!

Getting Ready to Start Your Home Based Travel Agency?

I know. It can be totally overwhelming. But if you're starting a travel agency from home, these steps will help prepare you to feel 10,000% (no those extra zeros are NOT typos!) more confident when you start making a short list of host agencies. What are the preliminary steps you need to take when starting a travel agency? Funny you should ask . . .

1. Travel Agency Niche: 

A niche is your friend. It will help you establish your brand, create your travel agency name, and navigate the world of consortia when you get to that point. Starting a travel agency without a niche is like traveling without a compass (or, let's be honest, a smartphone).

2. Choosing your travel agency's name: 

The host agency will want to know your travel agency name for their records so have one ready before you choose a host. You'll also need it for other documentation (listed below). Read our "Tips for Choosing Travel Agency Names" for some guidelines. 

3. Choose a Business Structure (LLC or Sole Proprietor or Corporation): 

You'll want to talk to your tax advisor to see where you'll get the largest financial benefits. This article here will give you the down and dirty on how to choose

How do you decide on a business structure? We'll walk you through it here.

4. Register DBA/your company with the state: 

DBA is an acronym for "Doing Business As." If you choose to become a sole proprietor, you may need to register it with your state as a DBA. The Small Business Administration (SBA) website shows how to register your company's name by state. If you are an LLC, the SBA also has a state by state guide on how to register your LLC.

5. Get an EIN (optional, but recommended):

Technically, you may not need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) since you can use your social security number with certain business structures. However, I personally prefer not to give out my social security number if I don't have to and I also like to get my pencils lined up from the get-go. In general, I would recommend getting an EIN when starting a travel agency. Also, make sure to check in with your tax professional when it's tax filing time—for certain business structures, you may still file under your SS# even though you have an EIN. Confusing, I know. That's why you go to the professionals! 😊

6. Set up your travel agency financials: 

Again, you don't need a separate business bank account or credit card if you're a sole proprietor, but you'll have wished you'd had set one up come tax time! Separating your personal account from the business account from the start makes accounting easier and will help you keep track of business expense write offs. Lastly, if you're anything beyond a sole proprietor, you want to keep your money separate to reiterate to the IRS that you and your business are separate entities for tax purposes!

Looking for a step by step guide to getting your financials in order? Fancy that! We have one here!!!!

7. Create a business plan for your travel agency

We have a travel agency business plan template that can help you really get a handle on the vision and logistics for your agency. It can help give you direction and feel uber prepared with a long-term game plan!

8. Read our Home Based Travel Agent Resources page: 

I put together a page with loads of links so you don't have to scour the web. Here she be, the Home Based Travel Agent Resources page. 😊

Not only that, connecting with host agencies can't be easier! You can go directly to their profile to write them via Host Agency Reviews' Q&A feature. The beauty of this is that tons of agents will also get to learn from your question too!

Have a burning question for a host? 1.) Click on their profile 2.) Click "Question and Answer" 3.) Ask away!

HAR's Free 7-Day Setup: A Step-By-Step Guide to Start a Travel Agency from Home

Phew. That was list was a little overwhelming wasn't it? The fact is that there's a lot of groundwork that needs to take place in order to start a travel agency. Wouldn't it be nice if someone would just email you a step by step guide with a list of things you need to do to start a travel agency? Wouldn't it be even better if it were totally free?

Funny you should mention that! Host Agency Reviews' FREE 7-Day Setup: A Travel Agency Challenge .

When you opt in, you'll receive a daily email for a week, which will cover information such as finding a name and niche, registering your business, setting up your travel agency financials and so much more. Here's a snapshot of one of the emails below ↴ 

Host Agency Reviews 7 day set up email

Isn't it pretty? It's like hiring us as consultants to help you start your travel agency! Except it's free. (Score!)

Every day you'll wake up to one of these beauties that will clearly outline what you need to do. If you super type A, we even give you an estimate of how long each step will take (just in case you're trying to squeeze it into your lunch break).

It's not just for agents looking for a host agency either! The Setup will walk you through all your options, whether you want to go with a host, find a franchise, or research consortia and accreditation so you can go independent. If working with a host agency is the route you decide to go, choosing a host will come toward the end of the challenge. By the time you get there, you'll know exactly what you're looking for in a host (trust me). When you speak to hosts or a franchise or consortia, they'll be über-impressed with all the research you've already done. 

Can't wait to sign up? I don't blame you. Go ahead and sign up now, we'll still be here when you get back😉 

7-day Setup
Click here to sign up, pronto!

Yup. Still here.

As you can see, there's lots of things to do as you start a travel agency from home. But we're here to offer you a TON of resources and support. So take a deep breath and we'll do it step-by-step together! Once you start your travel agency from home, you'll have lots of other things that will demand your attention so laying the proper groundwork as soon as you can is smart business. 

What to Expect Time-Wise When Starting a Home Based Travel Agency

In general, it will take a few years to get your agency off the ground. This is the case with any entrepreneurial endeavor. We've found that it can take 3-4 years to really start generating a sustainable income.

Here's the reason it can take awhile to get going (especially when you're starting a travel agency from home)

  1. It takes awhile to build a client base and develop your brand
  2. Even when you do make your first bookings, you're not paid until after your client completes their travel (or after final payment for some vendors). So, if you make seven bookings in January but the clients aren't traveling until November, you can see how your first year money might be tight. Let's just say, if you're wanting to walk off your current job, and are thinking that the big bucks will roll in the next month, you might want to reconsider your strategy. 😉
  3. Travel is something most people only do 1-2 times a year. Even with referrals and repeat clients, it can take a lot longer to build steady business compared to a new restaurant or other service industries like a hair stylist. 

What to Expect Money-Wise When Starting a Travel Agency from Home

And money. You probably want to know what you can expect when it comes to money, huh?! 😊I hate to admit it but there is no one set answer. It depends on soooo many factors. The good news is that we were so curious to answer this question that we asked a few hundred new travel agents about their income in the first years of starting a travel agency.

It just so happens we have some hard data on travel agent income and start up costs in first 5 years of business!

Curious about what to expect when starting a travel agency from home? Read "Travel Agency Start Up Costs and Earnings: What to Expect."

That data on starting a travel agency is great. But our data doesn't stop there. We have excellent a huge variety of data that looks at a travel agent income—from every angle. Want to dig into travel agent income data even more? Here's a great reading list that will give you an idea of what you might expect to earn when starting a travel agency: 

1. Travel Agent Income Report: Not to oversell it, but this is totally the article to read to figure out how much a hosted travel agent makes.
2. How do Travel Agents Make Money: Where does the money come from? This is exactly what the article explores. 😊
3. Travel Agent Commission: The income report answers the "how much," but how in the world do travel agent commissions work? This article gives a general break down of how travel agents are paid. 
3. A Travel Agent's Salary: This gives a picture of what different types of travel agents earn (employees, home-based, corporate, leisure, etc.). 

Questions? Ask Away.

I've worked with thousands of agents looking to start a travel agency from home over the years. The travel industry opens possibilities of traveling to beautiful places to help you do your job better. It's important to understand that you still have to (*ahem*) work in the travel industry (boo)—you just get to have a lot more fun doing it than most people (yay)! 

About the Author
Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph Lee

Steph grew up in the travel industry. She worked with thousands of agents in her role as a former host agency director before leaving in 2012 to start HAR. She's insatiably curious, loves her pups Rygy and Fennec, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is kinda quirky.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂