If given an extra $100 to spend on vacation, Generation Z travelers say they would spend that money on an experience, versus a nicer hotel or more leg room on a flight. They believe WiFi should be free, “sustainability” is critical, and the “perfect photo” is a vacation priority. These were among the findings, summarized below, of the Priceline Generation Travel Index, an independent study of American travelers spanning four generations: Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers*.
The Priceline Generation Travel Index reveals that the cost of travel is the most important consideration for Americans of any age. That priority also grows over time. Three quarters (75 percent) of Millennials said cost is their top priority when planning a vacation, a figure that rises to 80 percent among Generation X, and up to 86 percent of Baby Boomers. More than two thirds (67 percent) of Gen Z travelers do believe that price is paramount, but in fact they are the least cost-sensitive generation on the whole, and also the likeliest to characterize themselves as “big spenders” on vacation.
If given an extra $100 to spend on a trip, one in four respondents said they would spend it on “unique experiences,” the most cited option, rather than airfare or lodging. Only seven percent of Americans would spend that $100 upgrading their hotel, and only five percent would spend it on airfare. Nearly one in five (18 percent) of all respondents indicated they would spend it on food.
Sustainability is Critical, Brand Loyalty is Not
For all Americans, “sustainability” was cited as the most important factor when choosing an airline or hotel. It was chosen first by 52 percent of respondents in the study. The middle generations – Millennials (57 percent) and Generation X (55 percent) were the two likeliest to consider sustainability the top consideration, though that opinion was shared by nearly half of Gen Z (48 percent) and Baby Boomers (46 percent).
More than half (51 percent) of all respondents also reported no loyalty to any one airline or hotel brand, while 22 percent said they were loyal to a “small number” of brands. Baby Boomers, in fact, were the least brand-loyal across all generations, with 59 percent of Boomers reporting no allegiance whatsoever.
Wi-Fi and Eggs Should Be Free
More than eight in ten Americans (82 percent) expect Wi-Fi to be free when they travel, within a hotel in particular. Wi-Fi tops the list of hotel amenities that American travelers would be least willing to pay for. The younger the respondent, the less willing they are to pay. Four in ten Gen Z and Millennial respondents cite Wi-Fi as their least-preferred travel fee, versus 30 percent of Baby Boomers.
Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of Americans also expect their hotel to give them a free breakfast. Seven in ten Baby Boomers (70 percent) and nearly as many Gen X travelers (69 percent) expect a complimentary breakfast, as do more than six in ten Gen Z and Millennial travelers (61 percent for both).
Ready access to Wi-Fi is particularly important because a sizable number of American travelers need to feed their social channels while vacationing. One in three Americans report posting “a few times” to social channels while on vacation. Gen Z respondents were the most likely age group to make that claim. More than one in five Americans (21 percent) claim to post “several times a day, with Gen X (27 percent) and Millennials (26 percent) the likeliest. Despite their affinity for social media, only 17 percent of Gen Z respondents and 7 percent of Baby Boomer respondents claim to post several times daily while vacationing.
On a flight, Americans cited “extra leg room” and “higher class” seating (both 35 percent) as the fee they would be least willing to pay for. Early check-in and the ability to select their seat were the most popular options, cited by 29 percent.
Pressure for the Perfect Pic
Gen Z Americans were the first age group to be raised entirely online, a fact that is reflected in their relationship to social media. Nearly one in two (48 percent) Gen Z respondents report that photos posted to social media inspire them to travel, the most among all age groups. They are also the age group generation most likely to report feeling “pressure” to “post the perfect photo” while on vacation – a burden cited by nearly one in three (29 percent).
Gen Z Travelers Crave Adrenaline, Older Travelers Crave a Hammock
Gen Z travelers are the most likely age group to describe themselves as “thrill seekers” when they travel. Nearly one in five (19 percent) say they travel to experience “new, extreme” thrill. More than one in three (36 percent) Gen Z Americans describe themselves as “relaxers.” As travelers age, the desire for relaxation grows in turn. Four in ten Millennials (41 percent) seek relaxation on vacation, alongside five in ten Generation X travelers and nearly seven in ten Baby Boomers (68 percent).
Gen Z the Most Spontaneous Travelers
Nearly half (48 percent) of Gen Z respondents plan their travel within one month of departure. Nearly one in five (19 percent) actually plan and book travel one to three weeks prior. The study showed that among all respondents, 27 percent – the largest percentage – begin planning travel about 2-3 months prior to departure. About one in ten respondents (12 percent) plan vacations a full 6-12 months out.
American Pride Varies by Generation
Overall, 57 percent of Americans say they are “proud to identify as a US citizen” when traveling abroad. More than two thirds (67 percent) of Generation X respondents and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Baby Boomers report feeling pride in their nationality. Less than half (49 percent) of Generation X respondents feel the same, and nearly four in ten (39 percent) of Millennials report feeling “self-conscious about identifying as an American” on an international trip.
The Priceline Generation Travel Index was commissioned by Priceline and executed by Savanta, an international research firm. Savanta surveyed 1,503 Americans between the ages of 17 and 65 years old who reported traveling for vacation at least once in the last year. The survey pool was demographically representative of the United States.