How to travel like a millennial

Overcome your FOMO

By Wendy O'Dea,

Apparently, everyone else is having more fun – and traveling more frequently – than you (cue the sad face), unless you’re a millennial.

Granted, "fun" is subjective. But according to a study by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) called "How America Travels," millennials, who are considered to be those born between 1980 and 2000, are indeed on the road more than the generations that came before them.

These findings were reinforced by MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers which also found that travel spending is generally decreasing among all but the millennial traveler.

So how do millennials decide where to go and what to do? Here’s a peek at how they travel and what they ponder when making their travel decisions.

They’re adventurous and want you to know it

FOMO (fear of missing out) is the mindset and YOLO (you only live once) the rally cry for the traveling millennial. So it’s not surprising that millennials are generally seeking out experiences, rather than destinations where they plan to relax and do nothing. Think music festivals, concerts, cultural events and daring activities that tap into their sense of adventure.

In 2017, Los Angeles-based millennial couple Sherry Taylor and boyfriend Kraig Amador spent three weeks in South Africa where they not only went on safari but spent time exploring Cape Town and Johannesburg. According to Amador they start planning their next trip before even returning home. "This allows us to not get too lost in our work," Amador says. 

Millennial travelers Sherry Taylor and Kraig Amador — Photo courtesy of Sherry Taylor

Taylor and Amador, who both work in the tech industry, also traveled to Vancouver for a weekend concert and spent the holidays in Hawaii.

"We like to travel to attend live events," says 30-year-old Taylor. She and Amador are currently considering a trip to Milan to attend a fashion show, and a trip to Santa Fe to view an exhibit by an artist they discovered on Instagram.

Technology matters

Speaking of Instagram, the popular social media platform is often cited as the inspiration for many of the adventures millennials seek. Destination and activity decisions are based on posts from travel bloggers and social media influencers – most on Instagram or Facebook.

In fact, in just over seven years, Instagram has registered more than 800 million accounts, and there’s a good chance a high percentage of them feature travel photos.

Social media's user-generated content appears to hold a lot of weight with millennials, who are rarely without their smartphones. Even if they commit to not scrolling during vacation, most will continue to use their phones to take and share their own photos.

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They travel with hip accessories

From camera bags to luggage to water, traveling in style is important to most millennials. It’s not enough to be cool, they also want to look cool. How else is one going to build up that Instagram envy?

Millennial accessory obsessions range from ionized alkaline water, such as Essentia, which is known to rehydrate the body before or after a flight, to pure silk sleep masks and other must-have in-flight gear.

Perhaps most important (to millennials and everyone else) are noise-cancelling headphones. The most popular brand among the millennials is likely the new Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones that not only block engine noise but connect to Apple devices to access music or movies. A quick 10-minute charge will allow for up to three hours of battery life. Impressive. 

The Tile Slim bluetooth tracker — Photo courtesy of Jade

Phones and headphones are not the only technology millennials are packing. Other travel tech includes the Tile, a Bluetooth-activated tracker that can be put inside luggage (or with your wallet or passport to ensure it doesn’t get lost), and smart luggage that allows you to charge your devices straight out of your suitcase.

Wellness matters

Regardless of where they are or the duration of their trip, millennials are also looking for opportunities to stay healthy, whether that means finding organic, responsibly-sourced food options or booking accommodations that offer gyms or activities immersing them in the local culture.

Rather than chill out at a destination spa, millennials are more likely to book a yoga retreat with a well-known yogi (whom they most likely follow on Instagram) or a cycling tour through the wine regions of southern France. The idea being that they are not just keeping fit and focusing on their well-being, but soaking up the culture in the process.

EVEN Hotel Times Square — Photo courtesy of IHG

Hotel groups have also noticed the focus on fitness. The Intercontinental Hotel Group recently launched EVEN Hotels that are specifically focused on the millennial market. Rooms include an abundance of USB charging ports, the hotel marketplace stocks healthy grab-and-go snacks, and rooms include a personal training area complete with cork floor, workout equipment and streaming exercise videos. 

They want you to be a responsible corporate citizen and eco-friendly

Millennials care deeply about the planet and many intentionally seek out businesses that support their philosophy toward a more sustainable environment and socially-responsible business practices.

Hotels, from luxury properties to B&B's, are going green and making a concerted effort to keep environmental damage to a minimum while reinforcing sustainability. The Soneva Jani, a luxury resort in the Maldives, not only uses solar technology to generate power, but ensured that there was no damage to the natural reef while building their stunning over-water villas.

The Butterfly Pea, Siem Reap — Photo courtesy of The Butterfly Pea

Likewise, smaller properties, such as The Butterfly Pea in Siem Reap, Cambodia, has sought out ways to cut waste and give back to the local community. "We donate rice to local villages and are putting programs in place to reduce the use of plastic," says John Ganshaw, owner and operator of the 14-room property.

"We’re also working with a nurse who travels to surrounding villages to administer basic healthcare," Ganshaw added. "Once our guests are aware of these programs, it definitely resonates with them."