The surprising demographic spending more and taking longer vacations this summer

Jun 28, 2021

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There’s no question that travel is roaring back — but you might be surprised to learn who is leading the charge.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 and families with children under 18 are the travelers who anticipate spending more (and in some cases, much more) on travel this summer than they did the summer before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Youth must be served

Younger travelers have been quick to hit the road and venture farther afield. (Photo by vgajic/Getty Images)

Millennials (adults between the ages of 25 and 40), in particular, are the demographic most likely to take longer vacations, fly in first class, pay more to stay at a nicer hotel or resort, and pay for their trip with points and miles this summer, according to TPG’s latest survey of 2,743 adults in the U.S. conducted by YouGov.

So, it’s really no surprise that these travelers are also the ones who anticipate vacationing for longer and spending more than they did prior to the onset of the pandemic.

In general, 33% of adults say they’re more likely to take longer vacations now, but that percentage increases to 45% among millennials and 46% for parents with kids under 18.

It’s a trend we’ve been watching for nearly a year.

Last summer, industry experts observed a rise in vacation spending with clients booking longer, more luxurious trips. This may be in part because so many travelers are sitting on untouched vacation budgets, a stash of points and miles, credits from canceled plans in 2020 and unused PTO days.

Remote work also enabled people to take their office on the road and, in some cases, even relocate for weeks or months at a time.

Related: Making up for lost time: 2021 is gearing up to be an epic year for travel

Though older travelers often have more disposable income and time to travel than other demographics, the survey indicates that older travelers may still be trepidatious about travel, particularly when compared with their younger counterparts.

For example, members of Generation Z (between the ages of 18 and 24) are the demographic most likely to travel overseas this summer, even though international travel remains more complicated than ever.

Younger travelers, simply put, may have fewer concerns about the ongoing pandemic, and for adults who have been cooped up with their kids at home for more than a year, spending more on a longer, more luxurious getaway may seem like the only way logical way to spend summer vacation — with or without the kids in tow.

Rob Karp, founder and CEO of luxury hospitality company MilesAhead, for example, said that though millennials aren’t driving the majority of his business, he is seeing growth with older millennials (roughly 32- to 40-year-old travelers) who are experiencing a shift in mindset.

Younger travelers in general, he said, really value experiences, and are spending a lot more money on food and beverages and entertainment when they hit the road.

He also said parents with kids under 18 (particularly teenagers) are eager to show them the world and may be hitting their highest earning potential just as their kids become part of the trip-planning process and have an influence on the travel plans.

But he also said the trends we’re observing now are only the beginning.

“I think we have only seen a small fraction of the travelers come back into the world,” Karp told TPG. “We’ve only seen the beginning of the demand … there’s so much more to come.”

Champagne taste on a budget

Remote work has allowed more people to work from places they might not have been able to previously. (Photo by Gary Yeowell/Getty Images)

Of course, this doesn’t mean deals and discounts aren’t still important to travelers regardless of age. The majority of people with summer travel plans (77%) said deals and incentives are important when making arrangements.

After all, being willing to pay more for a more elevated or comfortable experience doesn’t discount the thrill of finding a great bargain.

And though the rapid surge in demand for travel this summer coupled with ongoing staffing shortages, reduced capacity and limited availability has led to soaring prices, it’s not impossible to find a good deal.

In fact, there are many incentives designed specifically for travelers who are booking longer stays, have more flexibility and may be seeking a premium travel experience.

Airbnb, for example, is now helping travelers find monthly rentals with more straightforward and often discounted rates. And vacation rentals can be a smart, money-saving solution for families or groups of friends staying away for longer, thanks to on-site amenities such as full kitchens, laundry and workspaces with high-speed Wi-Fi.

It may also be easier to negotiate your bottom line with an Airbnb host, when compared to a hotel or resort. A host might be willing to reduce or even waive cleaning and extra-guest fees, for example.

A rise in travel subscriptions and all-you-can-travel business models can also translate to serious savings for people who can travel frequently or are looking for exclusive perks and discounts.

The promotional $500 Hall Pass from Graduate Hotels, as an example, will give pass holders nearly unlimited hotel stays with the brand for the entire month of July. Travelers with the flexibility to do so could easily come out ahead with that kind of offer.

Flexibility, of course, continues to be the single most important factor when it comes to finding a deal on your summer vacation. Travelers who can adjust their departure dates, length of stay and destination will inevitably be better positioned to save money during the summer travel surge.

Instead of a beach vacation or national park getaway, for example, travelers might want to be open to a city vacation. In addition to reduced hotel room rates, travelers won’t need to rely on a rental car, which could be more than 300% more expensive now than it was the same time last year.

Even travelers ready to book cruises can find ways to offset the cost of a sailing which, contrary to what many might expect, could be even more expensive than 2019.

If your heart is set on a cruise this summer, look for value-added incentives (shipboard credit, complimentary beverage packages) that might not reduce your daily rate but can still help you save money during your vacation — and, in many ways, could translate to a more high-end experience.

Featured photo by Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/Getty Images.

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