Grace Lower | Jul 22, 2020
As a group, baby boomers are continually proving that age is a state of mind. Born between 1946 and 1964, the generation that defined itself by breaking convention is now redefining the art of travel. Rather than slowing down, boomers are hitting the road in search of opportunities for discovery and growth.
According to Expedia’s 2018 “Generations on the Move” report, most boomer travelers simply aren’t content with low-key vacations. While millennial and Gen X travelers prioritize relaxation, baby boomers rank experiences like sightseeing and touring as the most important parts of travel. This generation’s unwavering sense of adventure has challenged travel companies to rethink their approach with older and retired clientele. As a result, “experiential travel” has become a major industry trend.
Experiential travel (also called “immersion travel”) is a type of tourism where visitors prioritize “experiencing” a destination by engaging with local customs, culture, and cuisine. While it’s been argued all travel is experiential, what many boomers seek is authenticity, novelty, and human connection. Of course, self-contained experiences — like resorts and cruises — remain popular, but boomers are increasingly shaking up their travel plans with hands-on learning experiences.
Because of boomers’ burgeoning interest in experiential travel, expert-led tours have become an especially attractive option. Gone are the days of shuffling behind an umbrella-wielding tour guide: many boomers have been booking smaller, niche tours led by local experts. And the options to meet this demand are endless: from an author- and historian-hosted tour of Quebec, to a culinary tour of Morocco, to a guided bicycle trip through Vienna and Prague. Boomers are increasingly seeking educational and immersive travel experiences, and experiential travel offers the “behind the scenes” glimpse traveling boomers crave.
Similarly, instead of sticking solely with a pre-determined travel group, boomers have become increasingly interested in expanding their social circles while abroad. In AARP’s 2018 Travel Trends report, 53 percent of boomers indicated their interest in dining with locals while abroad, while 49 percent expressed interest in participating in tours with locals (up from 40 percent in 2017.)
There are plenty of theories why boomers are seeking more adventurous travel options than their predecessors; but ultimately, unprecedented access to technology makes all the difference. As a whole, boomers have been quick to adopt and embrace technology as an essential part of travel, with as many as 84 percent of boomers book some of their travel accommodations online. What’s more, online reviews provide additional insight and advice, making it all the easier for boomers to find the right travel experiences for them.
In addition to navigating online tools, baby boomers have joined the ranks of content creators, and they are developing resources of their own. While much of the buzz about bloggers centers on millennial and Gen Z creators, there is a wealth of resources created by and for boomer-aged travelers. TripAdvisor has a fantastic list of the top baby boomer travel blogs; My Itchy Travel Feet and Travel Past 50 are two standouts. Equipped with a wealth of digital tools and resources, boomers have everything they need to research, plan, and book adventures of their own.
And, of course, there’s the matter of time. As more boomers enter retirement, they are granted a greater degree of flexibility while planning their travels. When compared to younger cohorts, boomers are more likely to travel for a week or longer, and they tend to book their trips well in advance. This additional travel time means retired boomers can enjoy a more in-depth experience of their destination, rather than simply breezing through the highlights. What’s more, boomers tend to “unplug” more easily while on vacation — especially when compared to younger generations. According to research from AARP, working boomers spend less than 10 percent of their vacation time answering emails or completing other work-related tasks. Extra vacation time and a more clearly defined work-life balance make it easier for boomers to engage in immersive travel experiences.
Although experiential travel is rewarding, it’s essential that boomers curate a trip that’s well-aligned with their physical activity levels and personal preferences. While boomers tend to plan their travels well in advance, even the best-planned trip can take an unexpected turn. The right travel insurance plan can help ensure any unexpected obstacles don’t put a damper on an entire trip.Experiential travel provides visitors the chance to learn a new skill, meet someone new, or challenge a preconceived notion. It’s only fitting, then, that the generation that brought so much social and cultural change is readily embracing such a dynamic form of travel. Whether traveling near or far, boomers are all in: crossing off their bucket lists one experience at a time.
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.