By now, it's a well-known fact that millennials see the value that travel and vacation time add to their lives. This significant segment of the population—born between 1981 and 1996—places a high priority on a healthy work-life balance. There are many reasons why making time for travel and new experiences away from the daily grind and familiar haunts is an intrinsic part of the millennial lifestyle.
Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers—two generations that span more than three decades after 1946. Annual family vacations were a mainstay for many of them. Even if it was only a yearly pilgrimage to visit their grandparents, many millennials grew up experiencing this vacation ritual. Whether the trip was by car, bus, RV, plane, or train, travel was a part of their upbringing. As children, they loved, hated or tolerated these annual treks. As adults, these millennials have sought to replicate those family getaways with more desirable trips they dreamt of while they were sandwiched in with the luggage in the back of the family SUV.
"Scrimp and save now, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor during retirement." That was the mantra that millennials grew up hearing. Yet, this was also the generation that was coming of age during the 2008 Recession. They watched the devastation of their parents' retirement accounts and the loss of thousands of homes. Millennials learned to appreciate what is available today. To them, it makes more sense to jump into adventure now, while they are able to because tomorrow is never certain.
Millennials are happily unmaterialistic. They don't see the purpose of accumulating "stuff," and keeping up appearances isn't important to this generation. They don't disdain money, but they choose to spend it differently than the generations before them. Millennials tend to place value on mental, physical and spiritual well-being. For them, that involves being active and experiencing life. Travel is a vital part of that mindset.
This is an active generation. They're on the go, trying new things and seeking adventure. These activities don't all have to be dangerous or thrilling, but novelty, engagement, and participation are key. Traveling to far off destinations fits the bill for most millennials. They get to explore unfamiliar lands, meet new people, experience different cultures and enjoy immersive learning. This approach ties in with their affinity for experiencing life over acquiring material possessions.
The employment landscape has changed drastically over the past two decades. Telecommuting is now a common work arrangement. Virtual offices and work-live spaces are becoming the norm for millennials. Entrepreneurship is a growing trend, allowing an increasing number of people to become their own bosses. These changes support the ability to work practically anywhere. That means traveling isn't limited to vacation time. Many millennials engage in leisure trips that mix business and pleasure. They travel for work, and they work from remote locations. These options give them the freedom to travel more frequently. And since they value experiences, they take advantage of that freedom as often as possible.
Today's travel costs range from a shoestring budget to upscale extravagance. For millennials, that scale opens up many vacation possibilities. Accommodations like Airbnb's, hostels, house swaps, and even couch surfing can help make travel affordable. Cheap flights are available for off-season travel or to undertouristed destinations. Their adventurous mindset makes millennials open to these non-traditional travel options. Camping is also enjoying a resurgence in popularity, giving these travelers another inexpensive vacation experience.
For millennials, travel is about much more than sightseeing and taking a break from work. It's about meeting people from other countries and learning about their cultures firsthand. They seek immersive experiences—trying local foods, visiting their places of worship, understanding cultural lifestyles, even working there temporarily. When they visit a place like Costa Rica, they want to actually experience "Pura Vida" with the locals. This is one of the driving factors in their addiction to travel.
Millennials grew up in the age of global communities. The internet lets them reach out to people around the world. It also gave them access to more sources of information than their parents had. The digital revolution put them in touch with everyone and gave them virtually unlimited options. The internet also gives this generation easy access to travel arrangements. This connectivity lets them find affordable lodging, flights, rentals, and other vital trip information. With the explosion of mobile devices, it's never been easier to book a trip and hit the road. Savvy millennials use these tools and easy data access to their best advantage.
Growing up in the worldwide digital age makes sharing experiences a priority for millennials. Past generations showed off vacation snapshots or slideshows to friends and family long after the trip was over. But today's travelers have no need to wait. They post photos, selfies, videos and effusive descriptions on social media during their travels. Far off places, beautiful scenery, exotic locales, unique destination spots, and vacation fun are highly Instagrammable. In turn, these visual enticements inspire others to hit the road and create their own unique memories. Sharing on social media is an integral part of the millennial travel experience.
Ultimately, like every generation before them, millennials are searching for meaning. They seek purposeful lives. Making a difference in the world is important. Their wanderlust is aspirational. Some go on deeply personal trips that explore their heritage. Others embark on spiritual journeys that open their eyes to the beauty of nature. Whatever the destination or underlying motivation, traveling to new lands can be a transformative experience. That's something most millennials can eagerly get behind.