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Disclaimer: The below article was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 9, 2016 by Hipmunk Staff

3rd Annual Millennial Travel Habits Survey

For the third year in a row, we polled US travelers of all ages to find out more about the travel habits and trends of the coveted millennials as well as gen Xers and boomers. Last year, we reported that millennial travelers were “cheap, plugged in and always looking for pleasure“. Guess what, not much has changed.

Always-connected, highly-mobile millennials are forging new norms for leisure and business travel, making technology, in-the-know experiences, and adrenaline-rush adventures—not cookie-cutter vacation packages—some of the most striking hallmarks of the way they explore and enjoy their world.

When they do hit the road, millennials see themselves as explorers, not tourists. They disproportionately favor vacation rentals over hotels, cities over beaches, and grab travel opportunities whenever they can, such as topping off business trips with leisure travel.

Hipmunk is built by and for younger travelers, and we understand their travel patterns better than anyone else.  Our site and app attract people who are younger, on average, than other big online travel brands. Here are five key takeaways from this year’s study.

What Your Age Says About How You Travel

1) Mix Business With Pleasure, Please!

Millennials do more business travel than any other age group, and they take advantage while they can:

  • They work on the road. 38% of millennials travel for business, while just 23% of Gen Xers and 8% of boomers say they do.
  • And will do so even more. 80% are going to travel more for work in 2016 than 2015 (compared to 60% and 45% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively)
  • They stay in vacation rentals. Seventy-four percent of millennials have stayed at a vacation rental (such as those available through Airbnb) on a business trip, an experience shared by just 38% of Gen Xers and 20% of boomers.
  • They perfected bleisure. 81% will probably add extra time to a business trip (compared to 56% and 46% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively).

Millennials already dominate business travel, and they’re doing it in a different way than the previous generation. ‘Bleisure’ may sound like a contagious disease, but it’s a real phenomenon, and millennials are making vacation rentals a viable option for their business trips.

2) Cut the Cord, But Not the Tube

Millennials’ astute use of the Internet and social connectivity informs their travel preparation, and how they live when they’re on the road. They edge out other generations in their desire to be connected. This generation is connected 24-7, and that’s clear in the way they treat every stage of their travel.

  • They’re savvy with travel tricks and tools. One-half of millennials say they’re “travel hackers”, meaning they know all of the best sites and methods to get the best travel deals, while just 26% of Gen Xers and 12% of boomers share that sentiment.
  • They stay connected always, in all ways: Whether flying for business or pleasure, Wi-Fi is the coveted in-flight amenity (41% and 46% of millennials says it’s the most important amenity for leisure and business travel respectively, topping entertainment systems or premium economy). Fast, free Wi-Fi is the favorite hotel perk for leisure travel (cited by 28% of millennial respondents). And fully one in ten say Wi-Fi trouble is their worst travel nightmare, topping extreme turbulence, lost luggage or an emergency landing.
  • They get travel ideas from social media. Forty-four percent of millennials get travel inspiration from YouTube videos and 28% from Instagram.  While just 18% of Gen Xers and 6% of boomers turn to YouTube, and 7% and 1% of Gen Xers and boomers to Instagram respectively.

3) Skip the Agony (and the security line)

Millennials will go the extra mile – or pay a little more – to remove friction points that make travel frustrating.

  • They’re more likely to use pre-check services like TSA/Clear: 31% of millennials say they’ll do so this year, vs. 24% of Gen Xers and 23% of boomers.
  • They’d like to avoid the agony of a crying baby in flight. Half say they’d be willing to pay more for a child-free flight.

4) Bye-Bye Beach, Hello Bucket List!

The younger the traveler, the more likely he or she eschews the label of “tourist” when on the road, suggesting younger generations want to experience different cultures authentically, not just to observe them.  The study found that 38% of millennials surveyed consider themselves to be explorers rather than tourists, compared to 30% of Gen Xers and 24% of boomers.

And this year, millennials say they are planning monumental, remember-it-forever travel.

  • They’re ready for a big adventure. 65% of millennials claim they are checking something off their bucket list this year, compared to just 35% and 21% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively.
  • They crave nature. While beach vacations and theme parks remain popular destinations across generations (37% of all respondents say they’ll head to the shore this year and 23% to Disneyland and its ilk), millennials seek out outdoor and activity-based trips more frequently.
    • Thirty-four percent of millennials will enjoy Mother Nature’s company (e.g. camping or hiking), while only 27% and 16% of Gen Xers and boomers respectively will join them. And nearly one-in-five millennials (18%) will indulge in adventure sports like skydiving or snowboarding, a risk just 6% of Gen Xers and 1% of boomers plan to take.
  • They’re ready to go anywhere, anytime. 75% have a valid passport from the United States and/or another country vs. 49% of Gen Xers and 40% of boomers.
  • They cross the border. Sixty percent of millennials will take a vacation outside the United States this year, while just 33% of Gen Xers and 17% of boomers will go to another country.

5) 2016 Year of the Travel Optimist (and Airbnb)

This may well be the year of the travel optimist as more people report they plan to take their vacation days. Fifty-four percent of all generations say they are planning on traveling more this year than in 2015.  That percent hits a whopping 72 percent among just the millennial respondents, compared to 59% of Gen Xers and 40% of boomers.

It’s been widely reported that Americans don’t take enough vacation, and the Hipmunk survey confirmed that 30% of all people say they took no leisure trips last year. Nevertheless, 82% of millennials took time off for fun. Some seemed to have nothing but fun: 7% of millennials took 10+ leisure trips last year, compared to just 3% of the general population.

Millennials also lead the way in preferring vacation rentals over hotels. Forty-four percent of that generation would rather bunk down Airbnb-style on their leisure trips than drop anchor at a hotel; only 23% of Gen Xers and 11% of boomers agree. This preference extends to business travel.

These trends suggest that vacation rentals could eventually surpass hotel bookings amongst this age group, for both business and pleasure.

Survey Methodology: The survey was conducted on Hipmunk’s behalf by Market Cube between February 5 and 9, among 1650 adults (22% of respondents were aged 18 to 34)