Travel Agent FAM Trips: What They Are + How to Find Them
Ahhhh.... the travel industry. It's a beautiful industry and one we here at HAR are lucky enough to work/play in!
Here's the thing. People outside the industry usually have two conflicting thoughts about travel agents. When they find out I work with travel advisors they'll sometimes ask if travel agents still exist (very much so and I send them this link). Then they immediately think I'm a travel advisor and ask, "Do you get to travel a lot? For free?!?" to which I answer yes, as a producing travel advisor you get to travel a lot and sometimes for free or at a significant discount. Producing is the key word here. :)
What I can never figure out is how you can think travel agents aren't around if they get to travel all the time to gorgeous destinations for free or reduced costs. Isn't that a dream job for most?!
These enviable trips are called FAM trips and they're key to travel advisors being invaluable resources to their clients. (For those of you dying for some 'me time' on the beach, don't worry, FAM trip is short for familiarization trip. It DOES NOT mean you have to bring your family with you on the trips. 😂 In fact, if +1s are allowed, it is often at a little higher cost but often FAM trips are just for advisors.)
So let me break down what a FAM trip is, what happens on one, where you can find them, and the question I know you all are asking, how you can get invited on a FAM trip! Ya ready?
What is a travel agent FAM trip?
Let's clarify one thing. A FAM trip is not the same as travel agent discounts on personal travel. For that, you can check out our article with over 200+ travel agent rates we lovingly keep updated for you. :)
A travel agent FAM trip is a trip offered by a vendor, destination or another entity in the travel industry—like an industry association, a host agency or a travel consortium to travel advisors—allowing the travel agent to experience the product/destination so that they can better sell it.
Travel advisors are salespeople at their core and like any salesperson, they can sell more when they experience the product or service. Vendors and destinations know that travel agent FAM trips are a cost-effective way to increase sales and all the pics the travel agents post while on the FAM are darn good PR and advertising!
I'll tell you a secret: once you become a travel agent and start connecting with industry colleagues a) you will get out of offices all. the. time. from colleagues traveling to awesome places and b) your social feed will be crammed full of pics from your industry besties traveling around the world. :)
What are the types of FAM trips?
Those social feeds crammed with enviable travel photos I just mentioned? Well, they are meant to be marketing the destination/property/etc. That could literally be the only hour the advisor was able to enjoy the pool or beach. Like most things on social, the reality of a FAM trip is often much different than what the photos painted.
Let's break down FAMs into a few categories so you have a better idea of what to expect. And for the record, I just created these categories since I really feel like we need to differentiate them so please help me grow this industry lexicon and start throwing them around in industry forums! 😂
Exactly what it sounds like. These are the majority of FAM trips and they are meant to maximize your time in the destination. This means that you're often up at 6 am, on your feet all day visiting multiple properties or having in-destination experiences like a pasta-making class or white water rafting, and you don't hit the bed until 10 or 11 pm. They are tons of fun, but they are also tiring! It's like traveling with your ADHD friend that is inexhaustible. :)
The company or destination that organized the FAM trip wants you to see and experience as much as possible so you have a jam-packed schedule from sun up to past sundown.
These are still working FAMs but have a more relaxed schedule, as in you won't be touring 4 resorts in Jamaica a day and then have evening activities. :) You might be staying at a dude ranch and each day have an activity or two planned. Or you might have attended a conference and signed on for the pre/post tours where you get to do a guided activity each day and then return to your hotel at night.
When your agency starts really producing, these FAM trips will open up for you. They're really awards trips for top agencies but I think they also function as a FAM because they may include visiting a few properties and the host really pulls out the stops so you can experience all they and the destination have to offer!
They're typically fully comped and the FAM trip host will have all sorts of great things planned for you! It's a lot more networking and fun than work. :)
What happens on a travel agent FAM trip?
Your itinerary will vary based on the type of FAM trip you're on. As I mentioned earlier, working FAMs have jam packed schedules!
If I were to generalize, I would say that on a FAM trip expect to be wined and dined at different properties or restaurants. You'll tour various properties where you'll see different room categories as well as meet with key staff that will allow you to better serve your clients.
When it comes to cruise ships, their FAM trips are often called Seminars at Sea when you get to sail on the ship and ship inspections when you tour it while it's in port.
And equally as important on FAM trips is the networking and bonding that happens with your host and fellow travel colleagues. Most advisors have their family and then they have their 'travel family', which are the colleagues they get to travel around the world with. As we all know, travel bonds people like nothing else!
You'll also take tons of pictures to share with clients and use for marketing. Fam with Intention has a paid course on what to do before, during and after your FAM trip to make sure you maximize the experience.
Keeping track of everything you see and do, as well as the people you meet on a FAM trip is challenging. HAR has free ship inspection forms as well as free site inspection forms that can help you out. And if you are looking for something way more snazzy in app form (paid), check out MyFamTrip or FamGuru.
How much do travel agent FAMs cost?
I Wish I had a specific answer for you but FAM prices will vary from completely free to a decent discount. Here's what you can generally expect from a FAM
What's usually included on FAM trips:
What's usually not included on FAM trips:
- Tips for your drivers, bellhops, guides, housekeeping, etc. (These people work incredibly hard and depend on tips so make sure to bring cash.)
- Your travel insurance (never included)
Where can I find a list of travel agent FAM trips?
Great question! Here are a few places you can find FAM trips listed.
HAR's INDUSTRy calendar
We have a great list of FAM trips on HAR's free travel industry event calendar that you can check out. Often times travel industry events in popular tourist destinations will offer pre/post-add-ons that allow you to experience the destination at a discounted rates.
Online subscription websites
Other online places to find travel agent FAMs are destination-specific websites like MexicoFamTrips.com, CaribbeanFamTrips.com and JamaicaFamTrips.com. There are also a few subscription websites that offer FAM trips like Famtrips.travel and FAMrates.com. But here's another secret, the real FAM deals that are generously subsidized are not publicized. They are invite-only or require you to apply, where the competition is stiff.
Travel Consortium + Host Agencies
Your host agency and/or consortium are one of the places where you can find the generously subsidized FAM trips. Only members of their networks have access to these FAM trips and there may be sales or other requirements you need to meet. They may send out an email with the opportunity or they may reach out to advisors they know would be a good fit for it so that's another reason to cultivate those relationships with your host and consortium!
DESTINATIONS and vendors
Another place where you can find severely discounted FAM trips is through destinations and preferred suppliers like cruise lines, tour operators, destination management companies (DMCs), and resorts. When you sign up as an advisor with them that gets you into their database and you'll receive information on upcoming FAM opportunities.
These FAM trips may be emailed out to the entire database and you have to apply, or it may be that the organization reaches out individually to their ideal travel advisors. Again, build those relationships so you're top of mind. :)
How the heck can I get invited on a FAM trip?!?
Love your enthusiasm! Let's back up a step because the first requirement is that you're a travel agent. If you aren't one but think it would be a cool career (it totally is), check out our free 7 Day Set Up program that guides you through setting up your agency.
The next requirement hurdle is you'll need to be a producing advisor. On rare occasions, new advisors without a history of sales can be invited on a FAM trip, but you'd have to show you have the potential to bring in sales. This is usually done by showing your network of friends/colleagues/clients as the target demographic for that particular FAM trip. Another option for newbies is you can show that you are serious and focused on selling that particular brand/destination/trip type.
Other than that, each FAM will have its own requirements which they'll communicate to you.
You now are fully educated on one of the best travel industry secrets... FAM trips! I hope you can experience one soon as they're amazing experiences. :)
If you're an advisor that landed on this article, I would LOVE to have you share any FAM experiences or advice in the comments below!