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Generational Travel Differences: 4 Insights And 4 Surprises

Posted February 12, 2018


We’ve all read about the generational cohorts and the characteristics of each – from the tech-challenged baby boomers, to the self-reliant Gen Xers, to the social media savvy millennials. But are these generalizations actually true? And how can travel companies use this knowledge to their advantage? A number of recent studies have delved into the travel habits of each generation, providing useful insights and a few surprises as well.

Boomers Know Where They’re Going

recent study by Expedia Media Solutions of American travelers provides a number of insights into Boomers habits. Boomers, now mostly retired, have time to travel; they take the longest trips than any other generation, though they take less trips in general. A whopping 67% plan their vacations around visiting family, which may be scattered across the country and beyond. 18% stay with family or friends during their vacation, though the rest are willing to splurge on hotels. Since they know their destination well ahead of time, they’re not likely to be influenced by destination-based advertising, and not surprisingly, they’re influenced very little by social media.

Surprise! Though Boomers steadfastly use their desktop and laptop computers for planning and booking their trips, 70% said they use their smartphones during their trip, as much as any other generation except Gen Z.

Generation X Is Focused on Value, but Is Willing to Splurge

The now middle-aged Gen Xers are busy balancing families and established careers. They also may be taking care of aging parents and juggling other prime-of-life responsibilities. Because of this, they have little spare time and take the fewest vacation days of any other generation, according to the Expedia survey. They’re also the least likely to take international trips, with 88% saying their last trip was within the US. In terms of technology and social media, they bridge the gap between the Boomers and the Millennials, using social media a fair amount, but not venturing into newer platforms like Snapchat. Before traveling, they do their research – relying heavily on reviews from other travelers as well as informative content from travel brands. They favor hotels and resorts and are willing to spend a third of their budget on such.

Surprise! Though Gen Xers are much less budget focused than Millennials or Gen Z, they are the most likely generation to look for deals, perhaps because they’re booking for the whole family.

Millennials Are Full of Surprises

At some point, Millennials, once known for being “the entitled generation,” grew up. Now they’re more likely to be work martyrs than free spirits. The Expedia survey shows that they do value travel, and take the most trips of any generation, but their trips are shorter in duration, because they need to get back to work! When they vacation, they want serious R&R, favoring beach locations and all-inclusive resorts.

Surprise! Counter to all stereotypes about cruising, Millennials take more cruises than any other generation. A full third of them took a cruise last year, and 61% said they “strongly like cruising” compared to 56% of boomers.

Gen Z Loves to Travel

Like young people throughout history, Generation Z is looking for adventure on a budget. This cohort, born between 1995 and 2012, is coming of age, and they travel nearly as much as Millennials. They prioritize travel and budget for it. Like Boomers, 18% stay with friends or family when traveling, which helps them stretch their dollar. They’re active on all social media channels, including Snapchat (27%) and 64% said Facebook has influenced or inspired their travel choices. Food and cultural experiences are at the top of their traveling priorities and they’re twice as likely as other generations to stay in alternative accommodations rather than a traditional hotel or resort.

Surprise! Despite their lack of money, Gen Z travels the farthest – they take the most international trips of any generation.

A few areas transcend generational travel differences. The Expedia survey shows that all generations use OTAs more than other booking options, and they use laptops or desktop computers at some point in the planning or booking process. Transportation modes are similar for all generations as well, with plane travel the top choice, followed by road trips. The research bears out, though, that each generation has very distinct characteristics that affect where, how, and why they travel. Tuning in to these generational differences can help travel companies offer the most relevant services and provide the most value to each generation of their customers.


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