The Choice Of A New Generation

Young, wild, and traveling free: How Gen Zers are redefining solo travel. From busting myths to planning practicalities, here's your guide to the rise of solo travel among the young generation.

The Choice Of A New Generation
Photo by Mesut Kaya / Unsplash

I'm fascinated by the study of generations. We had the Greatest Generation who lived through WWII, the Baby Boomers who came of age during the Vietnam War, Generation X who grew up in the 1980s, Millennials who grew up at the turn of the century, and the list goes on. I recently celebrated my 43rd birthday, and I've been told I belong to Generation X as well as being labeled a Millennial. One of my close friends, who is slightly younger than me, is adamant that we are Generation X. He even did some research to back up his claim! I've also heard the term "Xennial" being used. Regardless of which generation you belong to, everyone has their own reasons for traveling. Whether it's to visit family or friends, for work, or simply to experience a change of scenery. However, the current "coming of age" group, known as Generation Z or "Gen-Z," is traveling more than any other generation did at their age. According to Morning Consult, 52% of Gen Z adults are considered "frequent" travelers. Despite facing similar challenges as previous generations, they are still eager to explore the world. What's their secret?


Bills, Bills, Bills

Young adults from different eras often face similar common themes and challenges. Whether you're just starting out after high school, heading to college, taking a gap year, joining the workforce, or enlisting in the military, this phase usually means starting from the ground up. Traveling may not be feasible due to financial constraints, but money might not be as big of a barrier as we assume. While Gen Z may start with an average salary of $50k per year, their internet-savvy upbringing allows them to research and understand the values of the companies they engage with. Generation Z exhibits a strong sense of independence and entrepreneurship that sets them apart from previous generations. In terms of travel preferences, Europe and Southeast Asia are top choices for Generation Z, with Italy ranking as the most popular destination according to Kiwi.com:

Gen Z also seem to be less interested in visiting places they’ve already been to, and are always on the lookout for flexible deals. Partying and nightlife has dropped in importance as a reason to travel as well, with almost 70% of respondents stating that learning about another culture was their main motivation, as was trying new food and drink.

There’s also a dirty little secret to this, aspects of Generation Z come from privilege. There’s no shame in it. We can’t change where we came from. This privilege manifests itself in the form of their parents being able to lend a helping hand when it comes to travel expenses, as highlighted by CNBC:

In a survey of 4,000 full-time students aged 18 to 25, some 76% named financial costs as their greatest travel concern. The survey, published in March by the travel tech company StudentUniverse, showed nearly two in three Gen Zs look for the cheapest options when traveling, and nearly half (46%) said they expect to get financial help from their parents.

However, Generation Z are not always willing to ask for help from Mom and Dad. The same article points out that Generation Z is willing to cut costs down as much as possible to make the trip work. That comes down to budgeting and resourcefulness:

They are also willing to cut other spending to pay for travel, according to a survey published in March by the Gen Z media company Student Beans. In the survey, 83% of young adults said they plan to cut back on non-essential spending.

Experiences are essential to Generation Z travelers, and with sober traveling on the rise, it makes sense.

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Who Are You

Generation Z approaches work, business relationships, and travel in a distinct way. They tend to travel with a purpose, and they enjoy exploring new destinations for the first time and immersing themselves in the local culture during longer stays, even if they may not revisit the place in the future. These extended trips can lead to exciting adventures and opportunities to connect with different cultures. In addition to that, solo travel is essential as it allows Generation Z to opportunity to refocus on mental health and self-care. According to Travel + Leisure, Generation Z considers these experiences valuable and meaningful when it comes to their travels:

Beyond this, this generation is more likely to prioritize adventure, mental health benefits, and cultural experiences. This attitude makes them more likely to visit places they have never been before and travel for longer periods of time. Part of this is age-specific rather than generation-specific, but it solidifies travel as an outlet for these young adults to connect with nature, different cultures, and themselves.

I've also made the case that solo travelers have different motivations for traveling and come from diverse backgrounds, leading to a significant increase. Generation Z travelers are contributing to this trend, with reports showing they travel to make a positive impact and prioritize environmental awareness, as highlighted by Lonely Planet:

Beyond this, this generation is more likely to prioritize adventure, mental health benefits, and cultural experiences. This attitude makes them more likely to visit places they have never been before and travel for longer periods of time. Part of this is age-specific rather than generation-specific, but it solidifies travel as an outlet for these young adults to connect with nature, different cultures, and themselves.

Naturally, one’s level of "environmental consciousness" becomes questionable when you choose to travel extensively by airplanes instead of opting for a road trip or flying within the United States, Europe, or other countries, but I digress! That being said, volunteering is an exceptional means to contribute and also an excellent way to explore new places.

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What Happens Now

With the rise of Generation Z travelers, the travel industry is adapting and evolving. This shift has been influenced by the generation's familiarity and comfort with technology, from computers to tablets and phones. The ability to personalize and plan trips according to individual preferences is now made possible through technology. Hotels and other accommodations have also adjusted their services to cater to the needs and expectations of Generation Z, which translates to better experiences for all of us. User experience, closely tied to technology, plays a crucial role in shaping travel experiences. Forbes highlighted in a recent article that user experience is a top priority for Generation Z:

This behavior hints at what Gen Z finds most important — experience. If businesses want to gain Gen Z’s attention, they need to work on improving their user experience and making it special. To gain these individuals as customers, offer simplified processes. Remember them across devices and platforms, and prioritize treating them as individuals.

User experience goes beyond simply choosing your seat on flights or picking the hotel room you want. While some of us are still trying to navigate our phones, Generation Z has already made their mark and shaped the travel industry as we know it today. For better or worse, the increasingly customized world we live in now, comes from Generation Z’s impact on travel.

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Key Takeaways

As of this writing, Generation Z is going through the ring of fire that is young adulthood, and that rite of passage means they are likely making very little money, and yet that isn’t stopping them. In fact, Generation Z is saying “hold my beer”. Rather than hindering their desire to travel, their limited financial resources are fueling their determination to explore the world more than previous generations. With their knack for working around constraints, their ambition to make a difference, and their strong reliance on technology, Generation Z has inadvertently revolutionized the user experience in the travel industry. Consequently, travel companies have adapted to cater to these modern travelers, while also extending personalized services to all. Thanks to the plethora of airline, hotel, and experience apps available on our smartphones, we now have the ability to tailor our travel experiences, all thanks to Generation Z. Yes, this Generation X’er or Millennial - whichever day it is - has to tip his cap to Generation Z on that.

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