I am a proud Baby Boomer. We Boomers – the generation born between 1946 and 1964 – have always been trendsetters and a tad rebellious! We were the first generation to backpack around Europe in large numbers, beginning in the late 1960s – guided by books such as Europe on $5 a Day and Lonely Planet (which began in 1973).
Now in our 50s and 60s, we Boomers are traveling again in a big way. Many Boomers are nearing (or in) retirement and the demands of raising children have also lessened. For many, it’s now all about the grandkids!
There are nearly 80 million Baby Boomers, a quarter of the U.S. population. That means traveling Boomers are – once again – transforming the travel industry worldwide with our sheer numbers and strong preferences on how we like to travel.
Boomers & Aging: “60 is the New 40”
We Boomers are approaching aging with a whole new “let’s reinvent this next phase of our life” attitude. We still feel “young” and certainly do not see ourselves as “old!” In fact, even though some of us may qualify for senior discounts (like at the movies), do NOT call us “seniors.” That’s a term for “old people” and that’s not us!
Yes, “60 really is the new 40!” As the first group of Boomers begins turning 70 in 2016, we’ll no doubt be hearing “70 is the new 50.” I really like the clever term ZOOMER – a Baby Boomer with Zip! The term was coined by Moses Znaimer, founder of ZoomerMedia Limited.
Boomer Travel Preferences & Styles
Boomers, in large part, are dedicated travelers. In fact, a study by Clark Norton, an expert in baby boomer travel, showed that nearly three-fourths of Boomers he surveyed felt that travel is “a necessity as part of a well-rounded life.” I wholeheartedly agree! In fact, today’s Boomers have strong preferences on how they like to travel.
The Boomer Travel Trends listed below are the ones I particularly resonate with. When I first read the list last year, I actually got goosebumps. I realized that these trends described me to a tee and are how I’ve always liked to travel. What about you? As you read the list, see how many resonate with you too. (Please share what you found in the comments section at the bottom. I’d love to hear!)
- Experiential Travel
Boomers have a strong desire for experiential travel. We don’t want to do quick “drive by” travel just to check off another country or city on the list to impress our Facebook friends. Instead, we really want to immerse ourselves in a destination and experience all that it has to offer.
- Unique Experiences
As we Boomers travel, we’re looking for exotic and unique experiences that are different from those in our daily lives. We love to explore new cultures, try new foods, meet the local people, and do things we’ve never done before. Travel is a chance to stretch and get a little bit out of our comfort zone (with the right support, of course!)
- Bucket List Travel
Not surprisingly, in 2015, AARP reported that among travelers aged 50+ traveling internationally, one of the most popular travel categories is what’s commonly become known as the Bucket List. Personally, I like to call this my Travel Wish List or Travel Dream List – sounds much nicer than a rusty ol’ bucket!
- Learning & Feeding Our Passions
Boomers are also life-long learners. We have a constant desire for self-improvement, learning new skills and expanding our knowledge. As a result, educational and culturally-focused tours have become very popular with Boomers. We enjoy combining our passions with wish-list destinations, such taking a cooking class in Italy, attending Spanish language school in Guatemala, or bird watching in the Peruvian Amazon.
- Adventure Travel
Adventure travel certainly has many meanings. Many of us “young in spirit” Boomers exercise and remain in good shape. So, we are able to enjoy physically active outdoor adventures – such as hiking, cycling, kayaking, skiing, and scuba diving. However, we (certainly me!) usually leave the more daring and extreme sports – like bungee jumping – to the younger set.
- Adventure travel doesn’t just mean physically active trips. It is also traveling with a “spirit of adventure” – such as to the more exotic locales around the world, getting off the beaten path and exploring new cultures.
- Spiritual Travel
Christian travelers visiting holy sites around the world comprise a large majority of this travel category. However, a newer type of nondenominational spiritual travel is rapidly growing in popularity. Boomers are touring sacred sites like Machu Picchu (Peru), Uluru/Ayers Rock (Australian Outback), and temples high in the Himalayas. They’re walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago, visiting Indian ashrams, exploring power vorteces in Sedona, and renewing mind, body and spirit at yoga retreats in Bali.
Ecotourism – as defined by TIES – is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” True ecotourism (sometimes called “green” travel) isn’t just zip-lining through the jungle. It is sustainable tourism, which helps the local economy and provides travelers with a greater understanding and appreciation for nature, the local people and their culture.
Time To Get Traveling – The Clock is Ticking
In closing: We Boomers may still be young (at least in our hearts and minds), but we (me very much included here!) are acutely aware that our body’s biological clock is ticking. We may – or may not – have a few more decades of healthy international travel ahead of us. And, heaven knows, there are still so many destinations on my/our “Travel Dream List” not yet visited.
I am one of the many fortunate Boomers who have been traveling for years while others are only now getting the right combination of time, money and freedom to get out and see this amazing world. Regardless, there is no time like the present to pack your bags and start traveling!
To My Fellow Boomers: Here’s to collecting many more stamps in your passport & experiencing grand adventures on your own “dream list” of travels around the world! …. Let’s do this!
Thanks to the following Baby Boomer travel resources used for this blog post:
- Clark Norton – Expert in Baby Boomer Travel / for his various blog posts and excellent “How To Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers” report (geared for the travel industry), which is downloadable from his website.
- Hot New Baby Boomer Travel Trends and Tours (March 2016) – article by Clark Norton & Samantha Scott
- The Hottest Trends in Boomer Travel (Forbes, August 2013) – article by Suzanne Gerber for Next Avenue
COMMENTS: I’d love to hear how this list of Baby Boomer Travel Trends resonated with you. Which ones are your top travel preferences? What destinations are at the top of your current “dream travel list”?