Whether it’s a weekend getaway or an international adventure, Baby Boomers are embracing the chance to travel—especially now that many are retired, and budgets aren’t as tight.
A new AARP survey finds most Boomers expect to take three to four domestic trips in 2020 and one or two abroad. Paris, Aruba, London, and Barcelona top the list of international destinations. For those who want to stay in the U.S., Florida came in as the most popular state for vacationing, while the most frequently mentioned cities were Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
What’s Fueling the Wanderlust?
About 59 percent of Boomers want to spend time with family and friends, 51 percent are hoping to escape normal everyday life, and 45 percent are looking to relax and rejuvenate. About one in four Boomers who are planning international travel say they are doing a “bucket list” trip, while a small but substantial number (12%) are taking multigenerational trips, and another 12 percent are embarking on solo travel. For those planning domestic trips in 2020, they tend to be multigenerational trips (15%).
Adults in this age group—of which 53 percent are retired—are splurging on travel. The average Boomer plans to spend $7,800 on 2020 travel, significantly up from $6,600 in 2019. They are willing to shell out more money to go to expensive destinations and stay longer in higher quality accommodations, AARP discovered.
Different Strokes: Generational Differences in Travel
When it comes to travel expectations, planning, and activities, the AARP survey reveals generational differences. Boomers say they are more apt to take a trip to visit somewhere they’ve always wanted to go (36%) compared to Millennials (26%) who say the same. That younger age group is more likely to want to try something new on a vacation (26%) than Boomers (15%).
More often on the agenda of older travelers: dining out, tours and personal sightseeing, visiting museums, and finding quiet time. Millennials are more likely to seek out food and beverage tours, adventure, theatre, high adrenaline activities, and theme parks.
Interestingly, improvisation might be more for older age groups. Younger adults book many of their activities ahead of time, while Boomers tend to wait until they arrive at their destination to lock down plans. Boomers also say they are more casual and open to meeting new people on vacation (66%) compared to Gen Xers (54%) and Millennials (51%). Sharing what’s happening on vacation digitally is common among all age groups; younger travelers are more likely to post on Instagram and older generations prefer Facebook.
Still, not everyone shares on social media or preserves their activities digitally while traveling. More Boomers (20%) refrain than Gen Xers (13%) or Millennials (7%). And older travelers are more inclined to unplug from work when they are away.
Planes, Ships, and Automobiles
The AARP survey found that the majority of leisure travel initiates with a flight. On domestic trips, personal vehicles are the second most common mode of transportation and cruises are second internationally.
Cruises are a big hit among older Americans, especially, with one in four international trips on the water. Those planning to cruise in 2020 have already taken an average of 11 cruises so far, the survey found. For these Boomer cruisers, about half (47%) of their trips planned for 2020 will be on the water. Nine in 10 of them are cruising on the ocean, while 5 percent plan to enjoy river cruises and 4 percent anticipate doing both.
Boomers plan ahead for domestic trips, but leave room for spontaneity. Of the older Americans anticipating domestic travel next year, 89 percent have already selected their destination, up from 72 percent two years ago. Still, just 27 percent of Boomers’ activities on domestic trips are typically planned in advance.
The AARP online survey, conducted in September 2019, included 1,704 American adults ages 22 and older. Respondents must have taken at least one trip 50 miles or more away from home, with a two-night stay, in the past two years and have plans for 2020 travel. The data were weighted by generation.
Levy, Vicki. 2020 Travel Trends. Washington, DC: AARP Research, January 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00359.001
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