Why Millennials Have Become the Wanderlust Generation

A primer on how the forward-looking generation will shape the travel industry in 2017 and beyond.

By Kacey Mya, ContributorFeb. 3, 2017
By Kacey Mya, ContributorFeb. 3, 2017, at 11:38 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Why Millennials Have Become the Wanderlust Generation

Young woman with backpack sitting on an edge of cliff and looking to the sky.

A desire to create customized itineraries and seek recommendations from peers and social media platforms are just a couple of traits among millennial travelers.(Getty Images)

Millennials have long garnered a reputation as the tech-savvy and sharing economy driven generation. Above all, millennials want to connect to others and the world in an authentic way. They push boundaries, they map out their own itineraries and they prioritize staying in local neighborhoods rather than cookie-cutter hotels. In fact, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 83 million millennials in the country. Aside from representing one of the most lucrative segments of the travel market, millennials also happen to have a strong desire to plan trips. Here's a look at millennial travel trends and how the wanderlust generation is redefining the travel landscape as we know it.

Survey Says: Millennials Travel the Most

Why are millennials so keen on exploring? Inspiration, adventure and the fact that they can do it. Recent studies show that millennials travel more than any other generation. The United Nations estimates that 20 percent of all international travelers are millennials, comprising approximately 200 million people. And according to MMGY's Global Portrait of Business Travelers, millennials took 7.4 business trips in the previous year, while Gen Xers took only 6.4 trips. And interestingly, millennials are more likely to look to their peers for inspiration, who are off seeing the world. In fact, the marketing ads that have successfully influenced the generation's travel decisions focus on authenticity and rely on inspirational social media influencers.

"Bleisure" Trips Offer the Best of Both Worlds

Work and play now go hand-in-hand, with an increasing number of millennial travelers tacking on leisure vacation time onto business trips. Let's face it: Traveling for work wears on the soul quickly and wears down one's work ethic. If traveling the world only for business, how do you soak up that international experience for resume-building and sightseeing? With an increasing desire to spend extra days networking and exploring new destinations with loved ones, work travel is transitioning into a lifestyle trend rather than an obligation, according to a trend report from Skift. The report also found that six out of 10 professionals taking business trips reported that they were more likely to take bleisure trips today than in the previous five years. In short: Millennials are increasingly viewing work trips as opportunities to block off time for leisure and experiencing a new city with enriching cultural experiences.

Traveling Affords a Home-Away-From-Home

As the world has become more industrialized, people have moved farther away; humanity has a need to travel and explore, especially millennials, who have the technological tools and skills to make travel the most accessible and comfortable than ever before. As a result, travel companies have reinvented their brand image, experiences and perks to cater to millennials craving authentic local experiences. Sites such as Airbnb, Hostels.com and Couchsurfing.com make it easier to find a little nook in a sprawling urban city in a new country you've never visited. Today, millennials can use a variety of peer-to-peer booking sites and room-sharing services to enjoy locally driven experiences and connect with their local environment in an interconnected and more meaningful way.

Experience Trumps Expense

A recent study from Airbnb reveals that millennials are more interested in spending their money on experiences rather than big purchases (think: buying a home), and a higher number of millennials are spending money on travel, taking approximately three or four trips annually. The study also found that millennials crave authentic experiences, with eight of 10 respondents reporting that the best way to get acquainted with a country is to live like a local and base yourself in local neighborhoods, regardless of whether they are in close proximity of top tourist destinations.

The Bottom Line

This generation gets stereotyped with positive and negative traits, but the most valuable of all characteristics stands out – authenticity. Millennials may have a huge case of wanderlust, but it's for a good reason: They're keeping it real.

Kacey Mya, Contributor

Kacey Mya is a travel and lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle ...  Read more

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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