Not so magical vacation planning

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This article is from an ex-Magical Vacation Planner independent contractor, Violet. We thank her for sharing her experience with us all. Travel MLMs are often poorly understood — we hope Violet’s story helps to explain how these particular companies operate.


Nowadays there are plenty of blatantly obvious travel MLMs out there,  some are even proud of it! But did you know there are also some staying hidden in the shadows, masquerading as squeaky clean,  legitimate travel agencies when the reality isn’t nearly as innocent?

These agency owners want you to work hard to make them the best and earn lots of money … buuut you have to give most of it to them. They want to be the ones recognized at the industry awards, reaping the benefits and enjoying the perks bestowed upon them — thanks to the stellar work done for them by their independent contractors.  They try really hard to keep most of those details a secret, but eventually someone was going to find out.  Enter our subject, Magical Vacation Planner from the little town of Mitchell, Indiana.  Heard of them?  Surprised? You just wait.

How can they be an MLM?  Is there even a fee to get started?  You bet!  They charge $299 right off the bat as well as monthly fees that range from $0 (for the inner circle crew) to $100 a month for the newer, less trustworthy peasants who need to prove their loyalty.

Okay, but do they operate using a pyramid structure? Ding ding ding, right again!  As what may actually be the lowest paying travel agency currently on record, they start you at a whopping 40% commission. Not 40% of your sales; 40% of the 10% (as an example) the vendors pay them!

And once you’ve shown your worth and made them a significant amount of money, paid for extra training, helped line their pockets and proven to be a valuable earner, you get to become a Team Leader!  This is when you get to hire your own team and get a kickback from every new contact signed and start up fee paid.

Then you get to train all your new hires!  Oh, but just so you know, the interviewing and training and the support you now have to provide for all your new hires — you don’t get anything for that. Not one penny.  There’s no guarantee any of the time you invest in these people will help you at all, actually.  If your new team does sell some vacations, though, you’ll get some of their commission.

However, if one of your team becomes even more successful (hitting a certain amount of commissions paid) — get this — the company lowers the amount of commissions you as Team Leader get from that successful agent … but the company still keeps the majority of what you ought to be getting, for themselves, so don’t worry about that. They’re fine. So you need to keep hiring more and more recruits to your team, so maybe you have a chance of earning something. If your team doesn’t become successful, it doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve put into these people or how many long nights you spent developing them, you get nothing. Aaaannd you’re still paying the agency owners every single month just to waste your time and energy.

Why would anyone agree to this, you ask? Well, they sell it. They obviously don’t frame it with the truth.  They market themselves in a way that makes me wish I had heard that saying, “A lion will never have to tell you it’s a lion” because they had/have a good pitch. Maybe back when they first started these shenanigans they were the best agency with the best training and support systems, etc …. or at least that’s what they get all their contractors to believe. Hook, line and sinker and I was in — as were thousands of others. Many are still stuck.

Why don’t they just leave, you ask?  Well, the company doesn’t pay you until after the travel you booked is complete, which could be over a year away. Last year an agent could have sold vacations that would have brought them $40K this year, but if they leave … you guessed it, the agency owners keep all your money!  That’s right, you’re responsible for marketing yourself, going out and getting all your own leads, clients, bookings, etc but you can’t leave or you’ve wasted all that time and energy and resources.

You would think that as independent contractors, their agents would actually have some, well, independence, right? Me, too.  Apparently I was wrong about that.  The required training and guidelines that are put in place must be followed so you can keep paying them to do things their way and make them richer. It works out pretty well for them, since they get to keep 100% of all your commissions if you get wise to their game.

In all honesty, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  My main objective here is to help you not turn a blind eye — don’t just sign a contract because the job sounds fun and you get to make your own schedule. Most importantly, if you have been a victim of this agency or any like this one, please do your research about what your rights are. Check with your state and local government agencies, ask questions, and don’t give up.


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13 comments

  1. This is a fantastic article about this company! So true… wish I knew more before I left and gave these people more than they deserved of my hard earned money and time.

  2. This maybe true but does not make them an MLM. Most of what is outlined here is pretty standard for commission based companies. It’s a sales job. There is nothing in here on recruitment as part of how you move up. Sales Reps are not required to purchase inventory. I work in sales and this is all standard. Any sales job you leave you forfeit your commission from after you leave. You even have to sign non-competes. This maybe a scammy company however NOTHING in this articles makes it an MLM. Maybe the author has never worked in sales. Let’s not muddy the issue of how problematic MLM’s are by accusing companies of being one when they aren’t.

  3. Stumbled across this researching for an article. You are correct and this is appalling. I have been a travel agent for a decade. Yes, Independent means just that. There are agencies out there that have no (or optional fees), do not charge to sign up or charge you to be an agent, do not make you recruit, AND pay up to 90% commission to their agents, and do not require you to pay to work for them!

    I will not solicit who I worked for, however you can simply google or check out Academy Travel, Small World, Dreams Unlimited, TPI etc etc All legit and have been around for decades.

  4. They also provide very little actual support, won’t hire anyone with prior industry experience, tell their independent contractors not to go to any non-MVP training to make sure that you pay them for vendor training, charge Disney-level prices to stay in their second million dollar house (2 to a room on twin beds) to get vendor training, do not allow you to call the office (you should do your own research, then is the Facebook group, and only then can you ask a team leader for help.). The entire model is setup to keep you unaware of how things actually work while they bleed money from the independent contractors. They sell positive vibes to get people onboard and then milk them of most of their money. Industry rates are 80% and up, they are giving people 40%. Someone could leave MVP and immediately make DOUBLE.

      1. Hi! I signed up with them semi-recently and I’m not sure what to think. My team leader is really encouraging but the monthly fees really are getting me, especially now that I realize there are companies who don’t charge… do you have any more information on how to switch companies? I’m just all kinds of nervous now and feel kind of duped by the monthly fees if that’s not necessary!

        1. I’m so sorry you are in this situation. Just know, not all agency owners are the same. I am an agency owner, and I am so thankful that when I was trying to become an agent, SEVERAL years back, the agency owner never got back with me. I pay my agents 75% if new agents, and 80% if they have been an agent, there are no start up fees, agents do have to get the FL seller of travel, but that is it. Also I do bonus commissions and I provide leads via my agency webpage. I have no desire to get as big as this agency. I like knowing my agents, and actually caring about them and their families. I guess money is the root of all evil eh? 🙁

  5. Plus if you aren’t making them enough money, they will drop you for under performing during a global pandemic with all travel currently suspended. If you try to get answers (after having spent thousands to go to all of their BS trainings), you get told that you were just not working hard enough. Add in the constant reminders of always needing to be positive about everything, the amount of commission that you should be making, and the realization that they don’t want you to succeed because you might leave them and eventually you know you need to get out. You will need a day job to work for these people. You will not be able to survive on the tiny commission you get paid unless you are in that inner circle.

    1. Why can’t you just quit, and be done with it? When you say “tell me how to quit now” do you mean, give me an idea where to look elsewhere for an agency? If you would like to work for an Earmarked agency, or an agency that specializes in Disney, then you will be stuck with one similar to what is described here. Don’t get me wrong…many are legit; however, they are small and therefore tend to have their favorites among agents. If I were you, I would look for a more broad host agency (you can do this by doing a Google search on travel agent host agency). Take OutsideAgents for example – they are HUGE…but! they know their agents because they are readily available to anyone in need. They started out (and still have) a brick and mortar agency as well (Cruises & Tours Unlimited). Yes, they charge a monthly fee (there are three levels, I believe), but this fee covers your E&O Insurance (every travel agent should carry this!), a website, on demand training, a CRM, and access to vendor booking sites. The fees are not outrageous either. They offer onsite in-person training several times a year for those who wish to travel to their home office at a reasonable cost. Seasoned agents are very willing to pay the $99 (or whatever it is for the particular one they attend) because that’s a drop in the bucket for them. Their commission split starts at 80% and goes all the way up to 95%. I can’t imagine they are the only host agency with such a fair package/deal…like I said, you should be able to find these host agencies by doing a simple Google search. Good luck and I hope you are able to find the right fit for your career!

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