Travel Agent License + Seller of Travel Registration: Do You Need Them in 2024?

April 18, 2024

So, you want to become a travel agent and now you're wondering what's next. Do you need a travel agent license to get started? Is their travel agency licensing on the federal level? The state level?

Here's the quick answer to your travel agent license question: Depending on what state you live in — or if you sell to residents who live in states with seller of travel (SOT) requirements — the answer is yes, you may need one.

We're glad you're here because we're going to tell you, in laymen's terms, how to get the travel agency licensing you need.

Are you of Canadian persuasion? You can find Canadian regulations for travel agencies here!

What Is a Travel Agent License or Seller of Travel Registration?

First thing to know: we'll use the term travel agent license and seller of travel (SOT) registration interchangeably.

Normal people would call it a travel agent license but since it's not actually a license, the states call it seller of travel registrations. Po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes.

You might be envisioning that a travel agency license requires:

  1. travel agent training requirements,
  2. tests your industry knowledge,
  3. or lays out continuing education requirements.

Well, it doesn't. :) It's best to think of a travel agency license more like a registration, which is why they're formally called Seller of Travel registrations.

Federal + State Travel Agent Licensing

Let's start with the good news: On the national/federal level, a seller of travel license is not required. The US government isn't looking to cash in on travel agencies through registration/licensing fees. Phew!

The travel agent license thing changes a bit when it comes to the state level. While this may sound like a bummer, there's more good news . . . very few states (only four) have travel agent licensing requirements.

In the US, there are four states that have Seller of Travel (SOT) registrations: Hawaii, Washington, Florida, and California.

When we talk about The Big Four SOT States®, we're talking about California (CA), Florida (FL), Hawaii (HI), and Washington (WA).

1. California Seller of Travel

2. Florida Seller of Travel

3. Washington Seller of Travel

4. Hawaii Seller of Travel

5. Other states with travel agency regulations

How do I know if I need a Seller of Travel Registration?

How do you know if you need a Florida Seller of Travel, California Seller of Travel, Washington Seller of Travel or Hawaii Seller of Travel registration?

If I had to summarize this entire article in two sentences it would go like this: If your agency is based in or you have clients in California, Florida, Washington, or Hawaii you will need to register as a seller of travel for those respective states.

If this isn't you, then congratulations! You're dismissed from HAR's travel agency license class.

If you are one of the lucky advisors who operate in or sell to clients in HI, WA, FL, or CA then congratulations to you too, because you're about to sound really knowledgeable at travel industry events when someone asks you about Seller of Travel registrations!

The thing to know about Florida's seller of travel, California's seller of travel and Washington and Hawaii's is that they aren't just contained to state lines.

If you live in New York but you're booking a client that lives in California, Florida, Washington or Hawaii, guess what? You're expected to comply with the Big Four laws.

The Seller of Travel for California, Florida, Hawaii, and Washington apply to any agency that does business with residents of those states. — Daniel Zim

Here's a great explanation from Daniel Zim, travel attorney1:

"The Seller of Travel for California, Florida, Hawaii and Washington apply to any agency that does business with residents of those states. They are extraterritorial laws meaning that the law extends far beyond the borders of the state. The business does not have to reside in the regulating state, the business could reside anywhere in the world but it would have to comply with California, Florida, Hawaii and Washington."

Wondering where your friend Iowa is on this list? Iowa seller of travel was repealed in June 2020.

Next up, we'll take a high-level look at things with our infographic, and then we'll start diving deeper into the nuances and intricacies state by state.

I want to warn you that it may seem overwhelming. But don't worry. You only need to focus on the requirements in states that apply to you. Plus, once you figure out what you need and apply for your travel agency license, you're good to go!

A Visually Pleasing Way to Look at Seller of Travel Laws

We whipped up this neat infographic for you! It's a visual rundown of:

Florida Seller of Travel

California Seller of Travel

Washington Seller of Travel

and Hawaii Seller of Travel

It breaks down cost and complicated info into an easy-to-read visual. If you want to shortcut to a state, just click on the state you want in the infographic.

You have to enter your email to see the infographic, but I promise, it's worth it :). It's a less visually busy way to look at things.

California Seller of Travel + Travel Agency License: Do You Need One & How to Apply

Pay attention to California Seller of Travel requirements since they've gone after agencies that don't have an SOT.

Let's start with the doozie. California.

Because they're one of the Big Four SOT States®, if your travel agency is located in California or you book clients who reside in California, you may need a travel agency license/ seller of travel number in California.

California's Seller of Travel + travel agency license is different in a few ways:

  1. They have a consumer restitution fund that all sellers of travel participate in and pay into.
  2. In addition to registering as a California seller of travel, you need to register for a business ID, even if you're not located in CA.

California seller of travel + Travel Agency LICENSE: exemptions

I know, increased regulations make your eyes glaze over. BUT, these regulations come with good tidings if you're a (relatively) small businesses.

If you meet all of the exemptions below, you do not need your own California travel agency license / seller of travel number!

1. Your business model is: Sole Proprietor, single-member LLC, or single-shareholder S Corp.

2. You are selling through your host, with your host's accreditation number.

3. You use your host's accreditation for all bookings (no booking direct, booking under your own accreditation or bypassing the host).

4. All fees (consultation/service fees) must be processed through the host agency. (more on service fees and seller of travel laws)

5. Clients must pay host or supplier directly. (No taking cash. Checks would need to be made out to the host agency.)

6. You must disclose to every sale that you belong to a host, including the host's name, address, phone number and CA SOT registration number.

7. You have a written contract with a host agency that has a CA SOT. 

To find out if a host agency has a California travel agency license, visit our host agency list and check the company details section:

travel agency license host agency seller of travel registrations

California Seller of travel + Travel Agency LICENSE: How to APPLY

Here's the steps to apply for California's seller of travel and travel agency license:

1. Register your business with California's Secretary of State

Register for a CA state business ID.

If you don't live in CA, you'll fill out the 'foreign entity' (out-of-state or out-of-country) form for your respective business structure.

2. Register with the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation

If you need to apply for your own California Seller of Travel number, register your agency with the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation. They are in charge of administration of the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund. Cost is $100 for each location.

Who needs to participate in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund? According to the CA dept. of justice (DOJ), "A registered seller of travel whose principal place of business is in California and who does business with persons in California must participate in the TCRC."

Of course, to keep it interesting, the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund has some exemptions:

  1. Applicant does not do business or advertise to persons located in California, including by internet advertisement; but has a location in California.
  2. Applicant's principal place of business is outside California.
  3. Applicant has no location or agent in California.
  4. Applicant is neither an issuer nor a subsidiary of an issuer of securities that are listed on a national securities exchange or designated as a national market system security.

Questions? California's Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation's office number is (530) 809-4220.

3. Establish a Trust Account

If you apply for a California Seller of Travel number and travel agency license, you will need to establish a trust account for any direct payments from clients.

There are a few alternatives to a trust account for any rebels about there:

  1. Credit Card Transactions: If you only accept credit card payments and you don't have access to clients funds, this is a great alternative to a trust. Do you qualify? Check out this California Seller of Travel affidavit form.
  2. Acquire a Surety Bond
  3. Include a Consumer Protection Escrow Plan (§17550.16 - Exemption from trust account. Letter (c), 1-7)

4. Apply for your California seller of travel + travel agency license

Once you're registered through the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation, apply for your California seller of travel number (which is California's travel agency license).

5. Renew annually

You'll need to renew your California seller of travel registration and travel agency license every year. Renewal is a choose your own adventure situation. Here's your two paths:

  1. There have been no changes in your agency: Congrats! This is the easy route. If all your agency info is the same when you previously applied, all you need to do is fill out this attestation form.
  2. There have been changes: This is the thornier path, but all you have to do is read these instructions then fill out this renewal form.

6. Uh.... can you go over that again, please?

It's confusing. Don't be afraid to contact their office for clarification.

  1. Email:
  2. Phone:  (213) 269-6564
State of California Seller of Travel Certificate of Registration

Florida Seller of Travel + Florida Travel Agency License

Since Florida is a member of our Big Four SOT States®, we know that Florida's Seller of Travel law applies to any travel agency who books clients residing in Florida, regardless of the agency's location, right?

[In unison: "Yes, Steph."]

You're doing so great!

Florida's travel agency license isn't nearly as complex as California's (thank goodness), but it's important to know that Florida may require you to have a surety bond.

Florida Seller of Travel + Travel AGENCY LICENSE: Exemptions

The big question: If an independent contractor belongs to a host agency, can that independent contractor use the host's Florida seller of travel number and travel agency license?

If you meet ALL of the exemptions below, you can use your host agency's Florida Seller of Travel number, but you must fill out the Independent Agent Statement of Exemption Form ($50/yr):

  1. You must be with a host agency that has a Florida Seller of Travel number; AND
  2. Have a writtencontract with the seller(s) of travel listed above (you'll provide them a copy of the contract); AND
  3. You do not accept fees (service/consultation/etc), commission, or other valuable consideration directly from your clients (they must go through your host agency); AND
  4. You do not have unused ticket stock in your possession; AND
  5. You do not have the ability to issue tickets, lodging or vacation certificates, or any other travel documents.

And here's another scenario where your travel agency can be exempt from Florida's Seller of Travel registration.

  1. If you're an ARC accredited agency for 3+ years under the same ownership, then you can file for an exemption.

Florida Seller of Travel + Travel AGENCY LICENSE: How to Apply

The Florida Seller of Travel number costs $300/yr and requires annual renewal. (If you're selling vacation certificates, add on another $100/yr.)

For all you active duty military, honorably discharged veterans, military spouses or surviving spouses out there—thank you for your service and sacrifices!—you may be eligible for a waiver of the registration/renewal fees (see section 2(c) for requirements). Here's the military fee waiver request form.

Something Florida requires for their seller of travel registration and travel agency license that California does not, is travel agencies need to provide a $25,000 Surety Bond with their application. (It jumps to a $50,000 bond if you're selling vacation certificates.)

But good news!

  1. If you've got a clean record and 5 or more years of operating in the state of Florida, you can file for a complete waiver of the bond requirement (waiver form is in the registration/renewal application).
  2. For those of you with a clean track record, you can also request a request a security reduction on your application or fill out a separate security exemption form, which would bring the bond amount down to $10k-20k, depending on your sales.

Here's the steps to get your Florida Seller of Travel number and travel agency license:

1. Get a surety bond (if applicable)

Don't forget to make sure the seals or signatures by principal and witnesses are on the bond. Also make sure the power of attorney is included with surety bond.

2. Apply for your Florida seller of travel registration and travel agency license

Fill out this application if you need your own seller of travel number. Or apply here if you can use your host agency's SOT number.

3. Renew annually

All registrations are valid for one year, beginning the day the certificate is issued, unless suspended or revoked for cause. Don't forget to renew because Florida may issue civil or administrative fines of up to $5,000 per violation. (Each sale or attempted sale may be considered a separate violation. )

If you operate in or sell to Florida residents AND if you charge a fee, you'll want to read "How Seller of Travel Laws Impact Service Fees."

Hawaii Seller of Travel + Travel Agency License

Again, Hawaii is one of our Big Four SOT States® so if you're working with clients who live in Hawaii—even if your agency isn't in Hawaii—you'll need a Hawaii travel agency license/ seller of travel number.

There's a few key points to know about Hawaii's travel agency licensing:

  1. Similar to the CA SOT laws, regardless of where you live, you'll need to register your business in Hawaii if you are an LLC, LLP, Corporation, or Partnership. (Out of state agencies will register as a foreign entity.)
  2. If you're selling stand-alone activities to your clients, you technically also need an Activity Desk license.
  3. And this last one is the most challenging. Travel agencies need to have a business bank account with a bank located in Hawaii.

Hawaii Seller of Travel + Travel Agency License: Exemptions

One of our awesome Hawaii-based readers gave us the scoop on Hawaii's travel agency licensing/ seller of travel laws—thanks for your sleuthing, Mara Kunkel!

In addition to registering for a seller of travel license, Hawaii has regulations about opening a client trust account (see #3 above). But thanks to Mara's sleuthing, we've learned that Hawaii-based agents who want to go with a mainland host can apply for a waiver for the host, assuming the agent is not handling any of the clients' money—no cash, no checks—directly.

Hawaii agents with mainland hosts can qualify for a trust account waiver only if they do not handle client monies. Similar to CA, all client money needs to go through the supplier or the host agency. If this is up your alley, you can include that information in a letter asking for a trust account waiver along with your application for a Hawaii seller of travel license.

The Hawaii seller of travel and travel agency license costs $215/yr on the even-numbered years and $146/yr on the odd-numbered years. (Hawaii likes to keep you on your toes!)

Hawaii Seller of Travel + Travel Agency License: How to Apply

Here's what you need to do to get your Hawaii seller of travel and travel agency license:

1. Register your business with Hawaii's Dept of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Register your business with the Business Registration Division (BREG) if you are an LLC, LLP, Corporation, or Partnership. (Out of state agencies will register as a foreign entity and sole proprietors need not register.) Here's the current fee schedule to register your business in Hawaii. If you have questions, you can email or call (808) 586-2727.

2. Open a trust account with a bank in Hawaii

We know they give exceptions for Hawaii-based agencies that have a mainland host as long as the agency isn't accepting any money and that may transfer to non-Hawaii-based agencies. You can try calling them at (808) 586-3000 to see if your agency would qualify for an exemption on this.

3. Apply for your Hawaii Seller of Travel registration

Fill out the Hawaii travel agent license application, making sure to have your trust account information and if you're a LLC, LLP, partnership or corporation, have proof your business is registered with BREG (step 1).

3. Renew on odd-numbered years

All Hawaii travel agency licenses, regardless of issuance date, expire on December 31 of each ODD-NUMBERED year and are subject to renewal on or before the expiration date. Renewal applications and the notarized statement form are mailed to current registrations about 6 weeks prior to the expiration date.

Washington Seller of Travel + Travel Agency License

When it comes to Washington's travel agency license/ seller of travel laws, it's going to sound awfully familiar. Of course, we have the start with the same base as the other Big Four SOT States®—you'll need the license not only if your agency is in Washington state, but also if you serve clients who live there.

Since (most) ICs sell travel under their own brand, they will have to get their own Washington travel agency license.

And like Hawaii and California, Washington wants to know who owns your agency so they require proof of business registration. But unlike Hawaii and California, if your agency is located outside Washington state, you can send proof of business registration in your home state. Hurray for small victories!

And here's a new twist: If you hold payments for travel for more than 5 days, you'll need to do 1 of 3 things:

  1. Open up a Seller of Travel trust account (business account) at a bank in Washington state.
  2. Purchase a Surety Bond (the size of the bond is based on the previous year's sales).
  3. Be a member of good standing in a professional association approved by the Department of Licensing, through which you get both a $1,000,000 errors and omissions policy and a surety bond of at least $250,000. What associations offer that, I honestly have no idea...

Washington Seller of Travel + tRAVEL aGENCY lICENSE: Exemptions

If the IC meets the following criteria, they can use the host's Washington travel agency license number2:

  1. The host agency has a Washington Seller of Travel number and has the IC is registered under their number.; and
  2. The IC is conducting business using the name of the host agency; and
  3. No money goes through the independent contractor. All money is collected in the name of the host agency and is processed by the host agency. No collecting cash, no checks made out to your agency, service/consultation fees would need to be charged under the host agency's name. (more on service fees and seller of travel laws)

I'm going to be frank and say that it's unlikely an IC can use their host's Washington seller of travel number.


Because in order to use a host's Washington seller of travel number / travel agency license, the advisor needs to be selling under the name of the host agency. Since (most) hosted advisors sell travel under their own brand, not their host's brand, they will have to get their own Washington travel agency license.

Washington Seller of Travel + Travel agency License: How to Apply

We'll walk you through apply to get a Washington travel agency license online below:

1. Apply for a Washington state business license

Out of state businesses can attach proof of business registration in their state, and Washington based businesses can apply for a business license here. It's through the Department of Revenue so you may feel like you're in the wrong place, but you're not!

Set up an account and under 'Business Licensing' heading, select 'Apply for a New Business License'. This will walk you through the steps to get registered in Washington.

When you get to the 'Activity Search' section (below), select 'Travel Agent, Agency'. This will trigger the adding of the Seller of Travel endorsement (form) to your application.

washington state travel agency license seller of travel registrations

For foreign entities (travel agencies not located in Washington), you'll have a chance to upload proof of business registration with your state at the end of the application.

There is a $50 processing fee for the business license and the Washington seller of travel license will set you back $222/yr. (Washington SOT fee schedule). You can pay online.

2. Renew annually

Washington seller of travel and travel agency licenses expire one year after issue so make sure to renew it in the same place you applied for your business license in step 1.

Other States with Travel Agency Regulations

The Big Four SOT States® are the ones everyone will always say have Seller of Travel (SOT) laws/travel agency licensing but there's a few I found I think should also be mentioned:

  1. Delaware: If you're a travel agency in Delaware (scroll to No. 24), you are required to register for an occupational license. The cost is currently $225 USD. It's a bit different than the state travel agency licensing laws above because you only need it if you open a travel agency in Delaware (vs. needing it if you plan to sell to any Delaware residents).
  2. Illinois: Surprise! If your agency is based in Illinois, you may need to establish a trust account in order to adhere to the Illinois Travel Promotion Consumer Protection. Our insider source (Ann Thomson Nelson in the comments) mentioned this requirement only pertains to agents taking payments from clients, rather than paying the supplier directly. Even then, there are exemptions if you a.) have the equivalent of $1M liability coverage through Errors and Omissions Insurance, and b.) have a surety bond of $100,000 or more.
  3. Louisiana: Louisiana requires an annual travel agency licensing fee for retail travel agencies (storefronts). Are you a home-based agency in Louisiana? You're in the clear! What's the cost? It depends on your gross sales. So check out this resource on Louisiana travel agency licensing fees to see where you fall. (Shout to Alec Mena for sharing this resource!)
  4. Massachusetts: They have a 4-page document of random rules for travel agencies that make a wonderful read before bedtime. Sweet dreams, Massachusetts agency owners: MA's 940 CMR.
  5. New York: NY also has hard and fast laws for sellers of travel. I'd like to say they're common sense, and that so long as you're not a jerk, you're okay, but you know what, I'm going to go ahead and resist that temptation. Instead, if you're an NY-based agent, go read NY's Article 10-A Truth in Travel Act. Particularly, look at this chapter, Section 157-A for a very specific outline of disclosures you must provide for your travel clients.

Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments! We should say that this is not an exhaustive list. Rather, it's a crash course in states that have regulations that may directly impact travel advisors.

If you're a tour operator, or participate in travel club sales, chances are that since you're selling travel, you'll need a seller of travel license and the requirements and application process may be a little different.

Local/City Travel Agent Licensing

In the beginning, we said there is no travel agency licensing laws on the national level. Then we zoomed in on the state level, where we had The Big Four SOT States® (Florida, California, Washington, Hawaii) with the seller of travel/ travel agency licensing laws.

Now let's talk about things on the city level.

Breaking down regulations to the city level is complex. The local level is going to involve some research on your end. What you'll want to do is familiarize yourself with local laws that affect travel agencies.

A good start is to ask your local Chamber of Commerce if there are any general business regulations in your city that you should be aware of.

If you don't know where to start to find out more about local laws, contact your Chamber of Commerce or visit our resources page to find your local SBA or SCORE office.

Did We Mention Travel Insurance Licensing... and Waivers?

Yeah. We have more info on regulations for you. Boring, confusing, and frustrating... but very important. Find out more on travel insurance licensing for agencies.

Most travel agencies have a travel waiver for their clients. See what other agencies are including in their travel waivers and download a free travel waiver sample and an Oversea Travel Tips & Checklist.

Save Money With a Travel Agent License with a Host Agency

Since the site focuses on host agencies, it's important to mention another host agency benefit—saving the expense of a travel agency license. In some states, you can use your host's Seller of Travel number instead of purchasing your own!

For instance, in Florida, independent contractors that are exempt don't have to pay the full $300 annual registration fee. Agents with a host can go under their host's Florida Seller of Travel number and pay only $50/yr - a savings of $250. 😊 And now hosted agents that meet CA's criteria for exemption can sell under their host agency's California Seller of Travel number — a savings of $100/year.

Check with your host agency or the state's seller of travel office for details. On our main page, you can filter hosts according to which seller of travel they provide.

If you're interested in finding a host agency, visit our host agency list and reviews.

Still Confused? We can help.

Applying for your seller of travel registration is just one small part of starting a travel agency. If you're finding you have analysis paralysis and feel completely overwhelmed and alone on the journey, we've got just the thing for you!

HAR's 7 Day Setup Accelerator course gives you information in digestible pieces, allowing you to get started faster and with the support you need to make it happen. You'll have the HAR team and a community of your peers to help answer your questions, cheer you on, and hold you accountable. :)

7 Day Setup Accelerator

In Closing

It's hard to find info on a travel agent license. Take this from a lady who spent hours on Washington's overly confusing Seller of Travel registration path!

We wrote this article to save agents time and money. If it helped you out, please drop us a line in the comments or share the article—doing so makes it easier for others to find this page.

Editor's note 9/10/2015: Nevada did have a seller of travel law... then they kept suspending it for what felt like forever (ahem, 6 years). And in July 2015, Nevada's Seller of Travel Law is officially repealed and Nevada travel agents do not need a license to sell travel.

Editor's note 01/28/2021: Iowa repealed their Seller of Travel requirements as of 06/2020 so is no longer included in this article.

Editor's note 04/18/24: This article was originally published in Dec. 2012 and was updated and republished with the most current information at the post date listed above.


  1. Sorry, we need an obligatory disclaimer. I am not an attorney (but here are some travel industry attorneys!). I aggregated this info from first-hand experience and other industry sources to create a resource for those looking into a travel agent license. All info is accurate to my knowledge but information given should be fact-checked and never be considered legal advice.
  2. 5(a-b)
About the Author
Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph Lee

Steph grew up in the travel industry, helping on and off with her mom's homebased travel agency. She has 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 Fennec and Orion, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is pretty quirky and free-spirited.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (her fav) and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂 You can also catch her on her Substack, Bumblin' Around, where she writes on things outside the world of HAR.