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Boomers and Millennials Traveling More and Traveling Differently

Travel trends survey finds Millennials, more than Boomers, eager to head out, explore and spend on comforts

Baby Boomers are traveling more than ever and certainly remain the global travel industry’s cash cow. But they’re slowly being replaced by Millennials. The two groups’ travel habits and style are distinct. Especially going forward, each group is showing certain differences and similarities in tastes, preferences and booking behavior.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) studies travel trends yearly and the most recent shows that Americans are traveling as much as ever.

Baby Boomers indicated they would take 4-5 leisure trips this year — about half will only travel in the U.S. and about half will travel both domestically and abroad.  They plan on spending over $6,600 on their 2019 travel.


Meanwhile, according to a SnapShot survey by GlobalData, Millennials, being tech-savvy and innovative thinkers, if not influential buyers, are the most lucrative segment for businesses in the travel and tourism market. People born in this era will reach their peak earning and spending power in the next decade and their earning potential is likely to be a strong driver for the tourism sector.

According to the survey, 86 percent of millennial travelers preferred to pay more for the expediency of flight schedule, irrespective of flight cost. They also preferred to explore international locations over domestic destinations and demonstrated keen interest in extending their business trips and creating bleisure experiences.

Certainly, similar motivations cause both Boomers and Millennials to travel, according to AARP. About 57 percent will travel to spend time with family and friends, whereas, 47 percent are looking for a getaway from everyday life. Boomers no less than Millennials want their trips to be exotic escapes that leave them feeling recharged. Top international destinations include Europe (41%), the Caribbean (20%), and Asia and the Middle East (11%).

For 2019, the average millennial (ages 21 to 37) noted a plan to take roughly five trips throughout the year, three of which are expected to be international, according to the AARP trends report.

Their budgets are a bit lower than Boomers’ with a general estimated spend of  $4,400 on travel for the year, but higher compared to Gen-Xers’ $5,400 budget, according to AARP.

Taking Paid Vacation

While many reports note the U.S. trend of workers not taking their owed paid vacation time, this survey finds more Millennials than Boomers will use all or most of their vacation time (77% versus 62%). Although the younger generation is more likely to bring work with them on vacation (78% versus 59%).

Clearly, technology keeps many vacationers tethered to their jobs. Boomers are more likely to unplug, with 57 percent saying they do not think it is important to stay connected to work while away, according to AARP.  If they do bring work on vacation with them, the majority will not let it consume more than 10 percent of their time off, however.

Technology also plays a role in vacation activity unrelated to work. About 54 percent of Boomers tend to bring a smartphone on international trips and 92 percent bring it on domestic vacations, although they’re more likely to use them to take photos than to check email. As for the itch to stay electronically connected when traveling in the U.S., Millennial travelers are more likely than Boomers to say they can’t travel without their phone (71% versus 64%).

Bucket Lists Mode

Boomers tend to travel to get away from the day-to-day routine and spend quality time relaxing with friends and family. Millennials and GenXers cite similar motivators, but Millennials are more likely to indicate the desire to go on an adventure or try something new.

The big motivation for international travel?  Boomers are more likely to say they are checking things off a Bucket List, while GenXers and Millennials are taking summer vacations or multi-generational trips, the survey shows.

While traveling internationally, about half of all Boomers report interest in authentic/local experiences, specifically eating or touring with locals. Local experiences are less of a focus for domestic travel. AARP finds Millennials are the most adventurous, with 75 percent indicating a desire to “live like a local.”

Business or Pleasure

Older Americans aren’t as apt to mix business with pleasure as younger generations. Just 26 percent of working Boomers have extended a business trip to add vacation time in the same location in the past two years and just 17 percent have plans for doing so in 2019, while 53 percent of Millennials have done so in the past and 46 percent plan to in the future.

Barriers to Travel

What keeps people from traveling? In short, work, health and money. Cost is the biggest barrier for all ages (about 40%). For Boomers, 32 percent say health issues and concerns limit them, while 28 percent of Millennials and 26 percent of GenXers cite work responsibilities as factors getting in the way of their travels.