Baby Boomer Travel Trends

Last year, AARP reported in their annual travel research survey that “practically all Baby Boomers (99%) anticipate traveling for leisure in 2016, with approximately 4 or 5 trips in the works.” 45% reported that they would take a combination of domestic and international trips, while 5% planned to focus on international only.

In a 2013 article by Stephanie Rosenbloom, the New York Times reported that the travel industry is now focusing on attracting that demographic which is between the ages of 49 and 67.

Baby boomers are the generation born between 1945 and 1964, and they account for approximately 26% of the total population. They were raised by a post-war, 1950s mentality, which they rebelled against with a vengeance in the 1960s and 70s. This period saw disillusionment with the previous generation’s desire for picket fence stability.

Baby boomers sought out and embraced a more complicated world, delving into the nuances of other cultures and inspiring a voracious interest in world travel. Some even took it a step further. Multiple “go off the beaten track” tour companies were founded in the 1970s and 1980s, fueled by this spirit of exploration and curiosity about other cultures.

Now that many baby boomers are reaching, or enjoying, retirement, they’re heading out to travel again – and they have the time and money to do it their way.

So what kind of trips do baby boomers take? Why do they travel and what are the trends? Here are our findings on the most popular senior travel trends:

Life Long Learners

If the 1950s ushered in the emergence of the “American teenager,” the mid to late 1960s was the introduction of the “college aged” adult. Counter culture, civil rights, and feminist movements all contributed to a more educated populace who, today, continue to broaden their horizons.

Educational tours are on the rise and remain one of the most popular tour types among fifty-plus aged travelers.  

Road Scholar (previously Elderhostel) is an excellent example. Founded in 1975, and designed specifically for older travelers, Road Scholar provides learning tours all over the world. One of their main draws is the emphasis on tours led by experts in their field. You might be learning about Egypt from an archaeologist or visiting Shakespeare’s house with an Oxford professor. Booking a tour is akin to booking a class for the semester, only without the burden of homework!

Stephen Ambrose Tours is another popular learning tour option, especially for veterans. Tours are led by military historians, and often veterans are there to provide their unique perspective. The focus is on WWII, though Civil War themed tours and Lewis and Clark expeditions are also offered.

Learning tours aren’t always about book learning. Cultural tours are a great way to combine a love of travel with a love of learning. You might learn a new craft or skill, participate in a local cooking class, watch a traditional dance, or get to try on traditional dress. These tours are often accompanied by local guides who provide their own unique perspective on their home and culture.
Multi Generational Travel

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One of the most popular trips for boomers today is the rather broad-termed “multi-generational travel.” This style of travel has grown in popularity over the years, and tour companies have answered, offering trips that grandparents, parents, and kids can enjoy together.

In fact, often times, it’s the baby boomers (grandparents) who originally come up with the idea of a multi-generational trip – and foot the bill! These tours are very special experiences and a great way for grandparents to connect with their younger family members.

More and more tour companies are offering kid and adult friendly tours, catering to the needs of each. Younger travelers have activities to keep them entertained, and elderly travelers are taken care of as well. Some fantastic tour companies to look into are Thomson Family Adventures, Travelove, and Intrepid.

The “Bucket List”

While the “Bucket List” idea isn’t exactly new, its popularity is growing.

The best thing about a bucket list is that it is personalized and all about meeting a goal; making a dream happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s finally hiking to Machu Picchu or finally booking a luxury wine tasting tour in France. Maybe it’s finally finding the species that has eluded you for years on a birding tour.

As we’ve seen, boomers show no signs of slowing down when it comes to ticking their dreams off the list.

A longer version of this article was originally posted on Stride Travel