Becoming a travel agent?

This may be more suited to IMHO, but I am hoping to get some facts as well.

I’m a 35 year old guy who has been working in IT for the past decade. I enjoy what I do well enough, but I’ve noticed more and more over the past few years that I REALLY enjoy planning our vacations, from reading reviews to searching for new locales to keeping things fresh (even our Disney trip this year is hoping to be new and exciting with our new son in tow).

That said, I’ve given some passing thought to becoming a travel agent. I see a few sites online that offer ‘training at home’, but I am sure there is a lot to be wary about. In addition, I have a friend who was an agent long ago, but gave it up since he wasn’t making money at it. It would seem to be the best way to go would be to get a job with an established company, rather than working independently, but I might be wrong.

Can anyone tell me what is required to become a travel agent, the benefits and pitfalls of doing so, and what I should do if I want to follow this dream?

I worked in the travel industry for five years (primarilly internet travel) until I quit to go back to school nearly a year ago. I can’t recommend any training program, you don’t really need any certification to become a travel agent, I wouldn’t waste money going to any kind of “travel school”. We used to hire people who had gone to these places and while you may learn something about the various GDS systems, (Worldspan, SABRE, SHARES, PARS, Amadeus, etc.) you don’t know what system the agency that you go to work for will be using, most travel agents that I know have received training from their agency after being hired.

I would definitely recommend going with a larger agency that has a training program (I know in Minneapolis Carlson, part of Carlson companies offers these to new hires), at least to start. Or, just to get some on the job training, you could try a smaller agency but make sure they will train you sufficiently, considering your IT background, you’d probably do well with all the DOS based systems agents use. Also, corporate travel is quite a bit more lucrative than leisure, agents don’t make nearly as much money as they used to now that airlines have gotten REALLY stingy with commissions (if you get anything at all anymore, it’s not much). It is an interesting industry but I know alot of people who have become burnt out by it…there are travel benefits too but but not as many as one would expect, after 6 (or it could be three…my memory’s going) months working full time at an agency, you’re eligible for an IATA card which they say can be used for travel deals at hotels and on airfare…I mainly used my card at the MSP park & fly, the majority of the airline deals are AD/75 confirmed space, meaning that you pay 25% of a full Y fare ticket, not such a good deal considering most people are buying a fare that is already in a lower fare bracket, already less than the 25% of a full fare. There are some deals to be had though, some hotels offer IATA discounts when available…that said, you can probably get a better hotel rate at Priceline. One REALLY excellent deal though is the Icelandair offer, they used to have $50 each way tix to Europe for agents (can be confirmed only a couple weeks or days out) making the total including tax around $235, that’s one of the better deals I took advantage of. It is an interesting industry, it’s hard to work in anything else once you’ve worked in travel, I miss it but there are alot of headaches involved.