By Sarah Waffle Gavin, on January 3, 2018

How the next generation will travel

But in our family, stuff comes secondary to seeing. And doing. And experiencing. My husband and I want our kids to get out there and see the world. We want them to laugh and  have fun, but also learn about a new culture, and to meet new people. It’s these experiences that will help them grow into citizens of the world – to have minds that are open to cultural differences, that have empathy for others and an understanding of their place in the world.

This is our approach to every experience with our kids, whether it’s in our home town, the other side of the country or the other side of the world.

Next year we’re taking the kids on their first trip to Europe, and we want them to soak it all up – the history, the food, that crazy beautiful light Italy seems to have all to itself. But we also want them to see beyond the tourist sights. To experience difference and embrace it, not turn away from it. And it turns out we’re not alone.

Expedia’s latest study,  Generations on the Move, is a multi-generational look at the way consumer behavior and travel preferences of Americans 18-65 are changing. With the assistance of The Center for Generational Kinetics, we’ve been able to dig deep into the way in which people of all ages are shifting from a society of stuff, to a society of experiences – and in particular, travel experiences. It turns out 74% of Americans say they typically prefer to spend extra money on experiences over products.

My kids are at the younger end of Generation Z (1996 and younger) – pre-tweens, tweens and teenagers – and already I see in them so much of what the new generation of independent travelers are becoming. On a recent trip to New York, I took my eldest two kids along for the ride. Their eyes were wide open the entire time – from the Top of the Rock and a Broadway Show to their first pedicab ride through Times Square – they soaked up every minute, the sounds, the smells, the people.

Of course they wanted to post everything on social media, so their friends and siblings back home could share in the magic too! And that’s one of the biggest shifts we’re seeing these days. The new generations are digital natives, they live and breathe social media. The survey revealed 36% of Gen Z say they’ve chosen a travel destination because they saw it on social media, and 27% of Millennials use social media to run potential tips past their network before booking.

My kids are comfortable hopping online to read a review, or using the Expedia app to find a hotel close to the sites they want to visit. They know they can plan their trip from a to b, down to the location of the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM they want to visit, all in the palm of their hand, from their phone or laptop. So the convenience factor is high. A whopping 80% of Americans say it’s helpful to be able to book all travel and accommodation (such as flights, rental cars, vacation rentals, or hotels) on one website. Even more staggering is that 87% of Gen Z say booking in one place is helpful.

The report also revealed kids are clever – they’re sticking around for family holidays because the folks are footing the bill. The study found that 58% of Gen Z respondents’ parents paid for trip expenses when they traveled together over the past year. The phenomenon of parental sponsorship isn’t applicable only to Gen Z, with 24% of Millennials also stating parents pay for their travel costs when they go away together. To be honest, I don’t mind, because every minute with them is priceless.

And then there’s the experiences money can’t buy. Every trip we take we try to do some voluntourism, to give back to the community that has welcomed us. The kids have loved these experiences as much as the sightseeing and that makes me proud, because I want the next generation to see travel as the chance to not only see the world, but to understand its people, and the cultures that make it so diverse. In a time where technology is changing the way generations travel so dramatically, it’s never been more important that we encourage travel that brings us all closer together.

How do you want your kids to see the world?

Check out the full study, “Generations on the Move” HERE and an infographic on the youngest generations HERE.