A Survey of American Generations
2,000 Americans – an equal number of Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z – share their top travel concerns, how much COVID-19 fears are affecting their appetite to travel, their biggest concern when planning a trip, how often they hope to get away this year, and more.
At Avail, we surveyed a total of 2,000 would-be travelers, an equal number from each generation, to better understand how COVID-19 and two years of travel restrictions have affected their desire to travel now and in the near future. The survey uncovered many similarities (and fewer differences) between the four generations, as well as a handful of fascinating trends.
Our study revealed how many Americans are going to travel for leisure, if COVID-19 fears still exist, what their travel plans are for 2022, and how many trips they plan on taking. We uncovered insights about spontaneous travel and looked at leisure travel budget parameters for 2022.
We investigated rental car issues and found that all four cohorts have the same complaints about the rental car market. We also discovered that our travelers are receptive to newer travel-related services in the sharing economy, such as car sharing, that offer an innovative alternative to traditional options.
Finally, we sought to understand how the Russian invasion of Ukraine might affect people’s appetite for international travel in 2022.
Now, let’s take a look at the results.
Summary of Key Findings
- Gen-Zers anticipate spending big on travel this year- more than any other generation-with 72% saying they plan to spend more, or the same, in 2022 than pre-COVID-19 times.
- Gen-Zers (71%) and Millennials (71%) lead the way when it comes to making plans to travel more, or the same amount, in 2022 than pre-pandemic.
- 69% of all Americans plan to travel more, or the same amount, in 2022 than prior to the pandemic.
- 60% of all Americans traveled less during COVID-19 than they did before the pandemic began.
- 82% of Baby Boomers, 75% of Gen-Xers, and 73% of both Gen-Zers and Millennials plan to take between 1 to 5 trips for fun in the coming year.
- Baby Boomers were revealed to be the most spontaneous travelers, with 64% saying they anticipate booking trips 1 month or less in advance.
- Gen-Zers, Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers all agree that staying within budget is the most challenging part of travel planning.
- As far as car rental costs are concerned, Gen-Zers, Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers all say, “It’s just too expensive.”
- 72% of Gen-Zers plan to or will consider splurging on a huge trip in 2022, followed by Millennials (68%), Gen-Xers (60%), and Baby Boomers (51%).
- Seeing family and friends beat out cheaper travel options as the number-one motivating factor for Gen-Zers, Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers to take a trip.
- All Americans agree that money is the biggest limiting factor with regard to traveling for leisure in 2022 – more than two times more limiting than safety and health concerns.
- 76% of all Americans either feel neutral or agree that the availability of vaccinations has increased their level of comfort with travel – Millennials (77%) and Baby Boomers (77%) are most comfortable because of vaccines.
- Just 31% of all Americans say that COVID-19 fears would scare them away from traveling for leisure in 2022 – Baby Boomers (27%) and Gen-Xers (28%) are the least deterred by COVID-19 issues.
- 69% of all Americans say that the current state of war between Russia and Ukraine will be a major reason they avoid international travel in 2022.
Read on for the full analysis of our survey and the insights we uncovered.
COVID-19’s Travel Impact & Planning for 2022
COVID-19 has clearly disrupted global travel. During peak COVID-19, airport security line wait times increased dramatically, as even a 5:30 a.m. flight required travelers to arrive at the airport two hours before departure time. The cruise ship industry completely suspended operations for the better part of a year, and even land travel on trains and buses was affected by reduced capacity and cancellations.
Throughout the pandemic, though, all surveyed groups still wanted to travel.
And for many, the days of endless work and no play are gone – pandemic or not.
Catching COVID-19 on a plane seems to be a debatable issue, but COVID-19 fears still concern many would-be travelers. Since we first wanted to ascertain 2022 travel-plan scenarios, we asked Gen-Z, Millennials, Gen-X, and Baby Boomers “Which of the following best describes how much you plan to travel for leisure in 2022 if there are fewer COVID-19 restrictions in place?”
We found all four generational groups strongly ready to pack and play in 2022. 71% of both Millennials and Gen-Zers, 69% of Baby Boomers, and 65% of Gen-Xers say they plan to travel more or at least the same amount than they did pre-pandemic. Averaging the four groups together, more than two-thirds of all Americans are ready to travel now – a significant number.
Having understood what our survey respondents are planning for 2022, we asked about their travel habits during the height of COVID-19, from 2020-2021.
Those who reported no change in their past leisure traveling lifestyle stacked up like this:
- 23% of Gen-Z responders
- 20% of both Millennials and Baby Boomers
- 16% of Gen-Xers
Then who traveled more? Gen-Z did, with 26% packing their bags more often during the pandemic than prior to it. Millennials weren’t far behind, with 25% saying that they had increased leisure travel. 20% of Gen-Xers increased their travel during the pandemic, while Baby Boomers were the most conservative, as only 11% traveled more.
Finally, even though a number of participants traveled less for leisure in 2020-2021 (70% of Baby Boomers, 65% of Gen-Xers, 56% of Millennials, and just over half – 51% – of Gen-Zers), our survey reveals that a good number of respondents across generational lines continued traveling and/or increased their leisure trip activities during that time period.
Top Travel Concerns for 2022 & Beyond
Vaccines were a COVID-19 breakthrough, and we wanted to know whether the availability of vaccines made people feel more comfortable with the idea of travel.
Again, we found agreement among all of our groups, as 77% of both Millennials and Baby Boomers agree or are neutral about increased travel comfort due to vaccines. 75% of Gen-Z respondents feel the same, and almost three-quarters – 73% – of Gen-Xers lean toward increased travel comfort due to vaccine availability.
Since vaccines are helpful in subduing COVID-19 fears, we couldn’t help but ask the question: “Does COVID-19 still scare you, and will that fear keep you from traveling for leisure again in 2022?”
It certainly seems as though COVID-19 fears are dwindling among the American population. Just 27% of Baby Boomers report that COVID-19 may keep them from traveling in 2022, followed by 28% of Gen-Xers, 32% of Gen-Zers, and 35% of Millennials. Overall, travel seems to be back, with just an average of 31% of all Americans citing COVID-19 fears as possible reasons for not traveling in 2022.
We then drilled down further to pinpoint exactly what the most prevalent travel concerns are for each generational group.
Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers are most worried about being in large crowds. Gen-Z and Millennials answered more specifically, as their main concern is COVID-19 infection. Baby Boomers may be less worried about directly contracting COVID-19 because the idea of traveling “before it’s too late” is top-of-mind, and although Gen-Xers are not as old as Baby Boomers, they might feel the same way.
Travel is an important part of many people’s lives, but plans can be derailed by world events that are beyond our control – war, for example. And as mentioned, we queried our generational groups about the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and asked respondents to comment on the following statement:
“The current state of war between Russia and Ukraine will be a major reason that I do NOT travel internationally in 2022.”
Here, we did not see too much generational fluctuation, as 63% of Gen-Xers, 70% of Gen-Z members, 71% of Baby Boomers, and 73% of Millennials all agree that the Russia/Ukraine war could impact their international travel plans.
A Return to Normalcy in the Travel-Planning World
There are multiple aspects of travel planning, from researching transportation and lodging, to finding unique experiences and booking tours. We wondered how enthusiastic people are about these various activities, so we asked survey-takers to rate the most annoying part of the travel-planning process on a scale from 1 to 6 – with 1 being the most annoying and 6 being the least. All generations feel that their overriding concern is staying within their calculated travel budget.
We were also quite curious about the number of leisure trips our groups plan to take this year. The majority of all four generational groups anticipate going on vacation 1-5 times: 73% of both Millennials and Gen-Z; 75% of Gen-Xers; and 82% of Baby Boomers.
Despite the pandemic still being top of mind in 2022 – due to it being regularly reported on in the news and ongoing restrictions/requirements reminding us that we have not overcome COVID-19 – people are still eager to travel and again willing to plan spontaneous trips.
At the top, 64% of Baby Boomers say that they would book trips just 1 month (or less) in advance, followed by 61% of Gen-Xers, and 58% of both Gen-Z and Millennial respondents. That said, it is possible that Baby Boomers are more able to book spontaneous travel due to being retired or having a more flexible work situation.
When asked about their motivation to travel, all generations rank seeing family and friends as their number one reason. Gen-Z, Millennials, and Baby Boomers rank cheaper travel as a result of COVID-19 as 6th, while Gen-Xers reveal a desire to travel abroad.
Budgeting for Travel – Still a Top Priority for Americans
Many factors influence travel plans (safety, time of year, health issues, etc.), but the most traditional barrier – lack of sufficient travel funds – ran across all four generational groups.
Gen-Z, Millennials, Gen-X, and Baby Boomers all emphatically agree that money is the biggest issue affecting their travel plans. In fact, the cost of travel is viewed as twice as important as any other factor by all four groups.
Next, we wanted to find out which generation is the biggest spender. The data revealed that a greater number of younger respondents would spend more, or would consider spending more than they did before the pandemic.
The data shows a spending decline across all generations, even though one might surmise that Baby Boomers would spend more on travel because they have additional resources, such as retirement funds or separate travel savings accounts.
Our findings show, however, that Baby Boomers are the most unlikely to spend, possibly because they are reluctant to use hard-earned retirement funds for travel. Also, uncertain times can encourage conservative spending habits.
We tallied the percentage of each generation that claimed they will spend more, or consider spending more, on travel as pandemic restrictions ease. This is how it broke down:
We then took our queries a step further and asked all groups if they plan to splurge and go big on a huge leisure excursion in 2022. The generations lined up almost exactly as above, with 72% of Gen-Z, 68% of Millennials, 60% of Gen-X, and 51% of Baby Boomers saying they anticipate spending big in 2022.
Again, Baby Boomers are the least likely to spend, and Gen-Z vows to spend most freely.
Americans Share Their Preferred Travel Methods in 2022
The research has revealed positive signs for the travel industry – people are clearly eager to travel again in 2022, but how do they plan to get to their final destination?
We asked our groups to rank their comfort level with various transportation options (1 being most comfortable and 5 being least comfortable). What stood out is that all generations prefer car travel over all other modes of transportation.
Here are the rankings in order of preference:
Car travel gives individuals more control over who they share their space with, making it the transportation option that provides the most peace of mind. Could there be any downsides? We wondered if there was an overriding concern with car rental companies. There certainly was: All groups emphatically say that traditional car rentals are too expensive.
Coincidentally, car rental inflation has opened the door to the concept of car sharing.
Car-sharing companies like Avail act as an intermediary between car owners and car renters. For example, instead of going through the usual hassle and headache of renting, travelers can use a car-sharing company to borrow a vehicle from a local. Travelers get to select the exact car they want to borrow, without hidden fees or unwelcome surprises, and insurance coverage is included.
This is a win-win, as car borrowers get more control and peace of mind, while car owners are able to earn passive income. Many people across generations are taking advantage of this new and easy-to-use service.
Wrapping It Up
The COVID-19 pandemic may not be having as drastic an impact on our daily lives, but the war in Ukraine has quickly added a new layer of concern for travelers across generational groups.
Some groups, such as Baby Boomers, are more concerned about budget issues when planning travel, but less worried about catching COVID-19 on a plane, train, or bus.
All groups are excited about traveling with fewer COVID-19 restrictions and most interested in seeing friends and family as opposed to jetting off to a faraway vacation paradise.
Our top takeaways?
Staying within budget is challenging, large crowds still bother segments of the population, and many have adopted car travel as their number one travel method. Gen-Z plans to spend more as the pandemic winds down, while Baby Boomers are not so quick to commit additional funds to travel.
Rental cars are a thorn in the side of many travelers and, therefore, vacationers are open to trying innovative platforms, like car-sharing, this year.
Finally, the war in Ukraine is concerning to all generational groups and may deter people from traveling internationally.
There is pent-up demand to travel, and as pandemic fears lessen, we feel that there will be a significant upsurge in leisure travel across America.
For more information on Avail’s research or to request graphics or an interview about this study, please contact [email protected].
All data found within this report is derived from a survey by Avail conducted online via survey platform Pollfish from March 1-2, 2022. In total, 2,000 adult Americans were surveyed, including an equal number (500) from each generation – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. The respondents were found via Pollfish’s age filtering feature. This survey was conducted over a two-day span, and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities.