Travel Agent FAM Trips: What They Are + How to Find Them

June 14, 2024

Ahhhh.... the travel industry. It's a beautiful industry and one we here at HAR are lucky enough to work/play in! One of the greatest perks in travel are travel agent familiarization trips, or FAM trips for short. They're also sometimes called FAM tours.

Here's the thing, people outside the industry usually have two conflicting thoughts about travel agents:

1) When they find out I work with travel advisors they ask if travel agents still exist.

2) Then they immediately think I'm a travel advisor and ask, "Do you get to travel a lot? For free?!?"

Here's the answers to those questions:

1) Ooooooh, my friend, travel agents sure do exist! In 2022, traditional travel agencies market share was 21% and online travel agencies was 22%? True story. Here's more on a travel agent career outlook.

2) And 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. 🤔 Wouldn't the market be flooded with people wanting to become a travel agent if that was the case?!

Jumping off waterfall on mexico familiarization trip
Mexico travel agent FAM trip

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 FAM tours, where you can find FAM trips, and the question I know you all are asking, how you can get invited on a familiarization trip!

Ya ready?


What is a FAM trip for travel agents?

A travel agent FAM trip is a trip offered by a vendor, destination or another entity in the travel industry
Jamaica travel agent FAM tour
Jamaica 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 tours are a cost-effective way to increase sales. All the pics the travel agents post while on FAM trips 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 different types of familiarization (FAM) trips?

Those social feeds crammed with enviable travel photos I just mentioned? Well, they are meant to be marketing the destination/property/etc. So you should definitely be feeling FOMO and jealousy.

BUT! That could literally be the only hour the advisor was able to enjoy the pool or beach during their 3-day familiarization trip. Like most things on social, the reality of a FAM trip is often much different than what the photos painted.

Let's break down FAM tours 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! 😂

Vatnajokull Glacier, Lagoon, ATV Excursion travel agent familiarization trip
ATV excursion during an Iceland travel agent FAM trip

Working FAM trips

These FAM trips are exactly what they sound like. Working FAMs are the majority of familiarization 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 (called site inspections) or having in-destination experiences like a pasta-making class or white water rafting.

After a full day of action, you sit down for your dinner and do some serious networking. You don't hit the bed until 10 or 11 pm. FAM trips 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 often have a jam-packed schedule from sun up to past sundown.

EXPERIENTIAL FAM trips

Experiential FAM trips are still working familiarization trips 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 travel 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. (Here's a guide to maximize your travel conference learning and networking.)

Experiential FAM tours are my favorite FAMs because they're easier to remember more vividly. Plus, I don't come away completely overstimulated and sleep deprived!

Iceland lagoon travel agent FAM tour
Iceland travel agent FAM trip

AWARD FAM TRIPS

When your agency starts really producing, award FAM trips will open up for you.

Simply put, they're awards trips for top producing travel agencies but they also function as a FAM because they may include visiting a few properties. Plus, when most people think of FAM trips, they're wondering about free or discounted tours and award FAM trips fall into that category.

On award FAM trips, the host really pulls out the stops so you can experience all the host and the destination have to offer

On award FAM trips, the host really pulls out the stops so you can experience all the host and the destination have to offer! After all, these are the agencies that bring in a lot of sales.

Award FAM trips are typically fully comped and the familiarization trip host will have all sorts of great things planned for you! It's a lot of networking and fun, and less work. :)


What happens on a travel agent FAM trip?

Your itinerary will vary based on the type of travel agent 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 tour 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, cruise 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.

Travel Agent Fam trip Ship inspection
Ship Inspection travel agent FAM trip

And equally as important on FAM tours 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!

Cruise 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.


Travel agent FAM trip technology + FAM trip marketing

You'll take tons of pictures and videos to share with clients and use for marketing. You'll also take a lot of notes. How do you keep all that FAM trip info straight? Here's a few resources for you.

Fam with Intention has a paid course on what to do before, during and after your travel agent FAM tour to make sure you maximize the experience.

Keeping track of everything you see and do, as well as the people you meet on travel agent FAM trips is challenging. HAR has free ship inspection forms as well as free site inspection forms that can help you out. They're old school PDF but can't beat free!

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?


travel agent fam trip white water rafting
Whitewater rafting on travel agent FAM trip

I wish I had a specific answer for you but travel agent FAM prices will vary from completely free (sometimes referred to as hosted, as in they're 100% hosting you) to a decent discount.

Here's what you can generally expect included on a travel agent FAM trip:

  1. Lodging
  2. Meals
  3. Excursions/Activities
  4. Transfers

What's usually not included on travel agent FAM tours:

  1. Airfare
  2. Tips for your drivers, bellhops, guides, housekeeping, etc. (These people work incredibly hard and depend on tips so make sure to bring cash.)
  3. 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 conferences in popular tourist destinations will offer pre/post-add-ons that allow you to experience the destination at a discounted rates.


FAM-SPEcific websites

Other online places to find travel agent FAMs are destination-specific websites like:

  1. MexicoFamTrips.com
  2. CaribbeanFamTrips.com
  3. JamaicaFamTrips.com

There are also a few websites that list travel agent FAM trips like:

  1. Famtrips.travel
  2. FAMrates.com (paid subscription)
  3. WanderfullyFammed, which are led by an advisor/photographer and part of the trip is that she provides all the marketing content for advisors to promote it during and after.

But here's another secret, the real travel agent FAM deals that are generously subsidized are not publicized. They are invite-only FAM trips or require you to apply, where the competition is stiff.

Ireland Castle on travel agent familiarization tour
Ireland travel agent familiariziation tour

Travel Consortium + Host AgencY FAM TRIPS

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 FAM TourS FOR TRAVEL AGENTS

Another place where you can find severely discounted travel agent 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 travel agent 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 at travel industry events so you're top of mind. :)

travel agent ship inspection FAM trip lunch
Meal with travel agent ship inspection FAM trip group

How the heck can I get invited on a travel agent 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 article with more info on how to start your travel 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 travel agent 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. Do this by reaching out to your BDM (business development manager) and writing up an in-depth sales plan on what you'll do to bring them sales.

Other than that, each FAM will have its own requirements which they'll communicate to you.

travel agent familiarization (fam) trip scuba diving
Steph was here! Travel advisor familiarization (FAM) trip scuba excursion

FAM Trip Etiquette

Believe it or not, not everyone behaves well on FAM trips. Whether this is your first FAM trip or your 30th, it's important to know FAM trip etiquette.

We put together a one sheet for you to help promote proper FAM etiquette. Share with colleagues or print some out for your upcoming FAM and offer them to any new advisors who may need some guidance on etiquette!

If you're someone that hosts FAM trips, feel free to use the image and send out with your FAM materials.

FAM Trip etiquette


Closing

You now are fully educated on one of the best travel industry secrets... travel agent 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!

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.