Americans are eager to travel, booking trips for 2019 earlier than in years past, according to a new national survey from AARP Travel.
Baby Boomers expect to take 4-5 leisure trips next 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.
Of those in the planning phase of their domestic travel, 88% have already selected a destination, an increase from 72% in 2018. For those going abroad, 31% have booked their 2019 trips by September 2018, up from 23% by September of the previous year in 2018 and 17% in 2017, according to the online survey.
Top international destinations include Europe (41%), the Caribbean (20%), and Asia and the Middle East (11%).
The most common kinds of domestic trips expected are summer vacations, weekend getaways, and multi-generational trips. The most population destinations for Americans are unchanged from last year, with the top-mentioned locations once again being Florida (17%), California (11%), New York (5%), Texas (5%), and Las Vegas (5%).
Keeping plugged in
The survey finds more Millennials than Boomers will use all or most of their vacation time (77% versus 62%). But once out of town, the younger generation is more likely to bring work with them (78% versus 59%).
On a related topic, technology keeps many vacationers tethered to their jobs. Boomers are more likely to unplug, with 57% 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% of their time off, the survey finds.
Technology also plays a role in vacation activity unrelated to work. About 54% of Boomers tend to bring a smartphone on international trips and 92% 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 and adventures
Boomers tend to travel to get away from the day-to-day routine and spend quality time relaxing with friends and family. While Millennials and GenXers cite the same top motivators, Millennials are more likely to indicate the motivation comes from a 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% indicating a desire to “live like a local,” (e.g., eating and staying with locals) while traveling.
Other travel trends—and some barriers
Older Americans aren’t as apt to mix business with pleasure as younger generations. Just 26% of working Boomers have extended a business trip to add vacation time in the same location in the past two years and just 17% have plans for doing so in 2019, while 53% of Millennials have done so in the past and 46% plan to in the future.
While Millennials don’t expect to travel as much next year—4.9 trips compared to 2018’s 5.8, with most of the decline coming in domestic travel—Boomers and GenXers appear ready to hit the road. They indicate no such change in travel frequency.
“Skip generation” trips, in which grandparents travel with grandkids and leave the middle generation at home, are already being planned by about 15% of Boomers in 2019.
What keeps people from traveling? In short, work, health and money. Cost is the biggest barrier for all ages (about 40%). For Boomers, 32% say health issues and concerns limit them, while 28% of Millennials and 26% of GenXers cite work responsibilities as factors getting in the way of their travels.
The AARP 15-minute online survey was conducted among 1,724 males and females age 21+ in September 2018. Respondents had taken at least one trip 50 miles or more away from home with a two-night stay in the past two years. They also were users of online travel sites within the past two years and intended to take a personal trip in 2018. Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis, by generation.
AARP Travel Research: 2019 Boomer Travel Trends (PDF)
Annotated Questionnaire (PDF)
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.