First of all, my answer to the first part of the question is an enthusiastic “YES”!  However, I do realize that many travel professionals, especially NEW ones, often feel like they don’t have enough experience to justify charging a fee.  It’s that “imposter syndrome” that you have to get over very quickly.  So why should you be charging this fee?

~ You are the expert and people should pay you for your expertise and time.  Both are extremely valuable!  Most other professionals charge for their expertise and no one thinks twice about it…think about doctors, lawyers, financial planners, interior designers and accountants.

~It’s a great way to screen out the shoppers.  If prospects are not willing to pay for your services, they obviously do not value your expertise and are probably price-shoppers who are just focused on getting the cheapest “deal”

~It will make a big difference in your income – and give you some cash flow “up front” since you must wait until after travel to receive your commissions. The planning fee is collected BEFORE you start your research on the trip and collected directly through your own merchant account like Travel Joy, Square or PayPal.

I have found the best time to introduce the service fee into the client conversation is at the end of a 20-30-minute complimentary planning session.  This introductory session is basically so that you can determine if you are going to be a good fit for each other.  If so, I usually say “Now, let me tell you how I work…” and explain the non-refundable fee.   If the prospect balks at the fee, you may need to explain your value a little better and we can help you get comfortable with that language.  I always had a fee agreement that the client and I would both sign, detailing what each party agrees to provide.

The types and amounts of service/planning fees are totally up to you and dependent on your business model, but the following are examples and typical ranges:

  1. Basic travel planning fees – $150 – $500 per trip, depending on length, # of people and level of detail
  2. Air-only ticketing fees – $ 20-$35 per ticket domestic $35-$50 per ticket international
  3. Change and Cancellation Fees – $100-$250 on top of any fees charged by the supplier
  4. Annual travel planning fee (similar to an annual retainer) – varies with business model

So, remember, this is YOUR business and you can run it as you see fit, but a carefully thought-out schedule of professional fees can be a huge part of your profitability.  Don’t let this become an expensive hobby!

**Some US states have Seller of Travel laws that limit or forbid the charging of planning/service fees, so be sure to clarify with your own state before creating a fee structure.