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How to Travel Like a Millennial and Not Get Burned

By Jamie Lowe on 04/12/17, updated 04/19/17
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The generation that grew up with computers is traveling like nothing before it.

Riding the smartphone wave from brick phones to flip phones to the latest iPhone, millennials have redefined some the statistics and for-granted ideas about how to travel and where to go.

From using their phones for destination selection, planning, dreaming and in-destination, the generation born between 1983 and 2000 have changed the travel game: more parts of travel planning are done on mobile than ever before.

“[Millennials] show a higher propensity for adventure travel,” said Brandie Wright, PhocusWright research analyst. “The desire to see new attractions or to visit something new is a reason for millennials, one of the top reasons, to select a specific destination.”

Here are some key attributes of the millennial travel style that any generation can embody to find a unique and novel travel experience.

Man on a train station looking at his phone

Embrace Mobile Before, During and After Travel

With millions of apps available that solve almost every kind of conundrum, many millennials first turn to their smartphones for travel help.

“Forty-three percent of millennials shopped for travel on their smartphones, which is almost three times as much as older travelers,” said Wright. “In destination, younger travelers are the driving force behind car-hailing apps.”

While apps like Lyft, Uber and other ride-sharing apps are popular, there are thousands of apps that millennials use during their travels.

“[I use] Google Maps if I’m in the U.S.,” said Devin Graham, vlogger behind the YouTube series Devin Super Tramp. “I love the app ‘Sun Scout.’ It shows you where the sun will rise and set, and helps with being in the best places for the light.”

Woman strokes an elephant's head

Travel to New Destinations

New experiences drive much of the millennial decision making when it comes to travel. Finding new cities and experiencing new cultures are all part of the travel agenda for young people.

“For older travelers, they have a likelihood of choosing a destination based on previous travel experiences,” Wright said. “Millennials want to see the world in their lifetime, and more of it. That cultural experience drives their decision-making. They have a greater desire to see the world and place a higher importance on traveling than their older peers.”

Guidebooks and personal research still drive a lot of destination selection, but millennials are also making decisions based on social media posts by family and friends, uploaded in glitzy destinations all around the world.

“I’m that guy who is sifting through quirky blogs that don’t make it to page five of Google search results,” said Damon Dominique, co-host Shut Up and Go blog and YouTube vlog. “You’ll most likely find less touristy recommendations that aren’t listed in the top search results.”

Dominique and Jo Franco, Shut Up and Go co-hosts, call some of the most rewarding parts of traveling for them the opportunity to create stories to be proud of  in addition to continuing Spanish language mastery as a way to connect with locals and peek into a culture that might otherwise be closed off.

“I love meeting new people, I love pushing myself in ways I've never experienced,” said Graham. “Those are the most rewarding, knowing I gave it the best I could, and even though I may be totally burned out and exhausted, it's the best feeling in the world.”

Become Social (Media) Savvy

Millennials lean on the Internet and social media as a popular pastime, so it makes sense that online platforms help steer their travels in addition to serving as a display area for their travel experiences.

“We’re starting to see younger users using visual-based social media more than Facebook or Twitter,” Wright said. “You have Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest. They can upload their photos, live stream and show their audience what they’re doing in the moment. They want to post pictures of their travels and get that instant gratification in the moment.”

Stories, live streaming and any platform that allows nearly instant sharing is the stock and trade of social media for millennials and the people that want to follow their travel experiences.

Man relaxes in a hammock on the beach

Find Value But Don’t Write Off All-Inclusives

What all millennials—and travelers of any age–can agree on is that value is a high priority on travel agendas.

“We definitely see a greater amount of millennials using all sorts of low-cost accommodations,” Wright said. “Airbnb but also budget hotels, bed and breakfasts and cottages.”

One surprising industry trend suggests that millennials are taking advantage of all-inclusive offers by just a few percentage points than older generations, according to Wright.

Part of value, for millennials, is the ability to splurge on a five-star, all-inclusive resort snapped up during a deal or pinching pennies elsewhere to afford choice luxuries.

“We’ve become suckers for a good living space,” said Dominique. “While we’ll gladly still rough it out in hostels—and cramped homestays—we appreciate the luxury of a remote tree house or an infinity pool on a skyscraper any day.”

Pivot and Embrace the Unexpected

There is no wrong way to travel and sometimes, as a young—typically budget—traveler, things go wrong.

“There are plenty of negative aspects to being away and a thousand reasons why you shouldn't go, but that's the same with any decision you make in life,” Dominique said. “The positives outweigh the negatives and we remind ourselves of that.”

Millennials, as Wright reminded, span a large age gap: In the mid-2010s, millennials are 18 to 34 years old. Some at the infancy of their generation are just starting their life of travels, a large percentage of that travel being solo adventures.

The older portion of millennials have typically been working several years and have started their career. They might have young families and own a home. There are disparities in how the range of millennials travel, but one thing is agreed on: millennials have a hunger to see the world.