How Generation Z is redefining travel

By | February 26, 2024

Seven years ago, Eli Snyder’s job didn’t exist, and the 25-year-old didn’t feel confident choosing a travel destination.

A full-time TikTok travel influencer, Snyder is currently in Laos before exploring Vietnam and the Philippines in the coming months. The Kansas City resident next plans to leave Asia and venture into six South American countries, including Argentina and Chile.

For Snyder, traveling is about being “surprised” and having “preconceptions about a place that needs to be turned upside down.” Of course, contact with the local culture and eating good food is also a big part of it.

“When you go to Mexico before, you do an all-inclusive, but now you leave the coast and go inland to see the rural towns,” he said.

Snyder is inspired by fellow young content creators who travel to less touristy destinations – places his parents would never dream of going. “There is an emphasis on finding your own destination and places rather than tourist hotspots,” Snyder said.

Younger people have always been sloppy in their attempts to travel the world and discover themselves. After all, youth hostels have been around for more than a century. “I think some things don’t change across generations: the fundamental appeal of travel is timeless, offers interesting perspectives on the world and pushes the recharge button,” says Will Jones, brand manager at StudentUniverse, a travel platform exclusively for students and young people . .

Because most Gen Z members are just starting their careers, they have less disposable income to spend on travel and are usually looking for the best deals.

“Many people in their mid-20s are interested in saving money when they travel so that they get the most bang for their buck,” Naomi Schiller, 25, an administrative assistant in the Metropolitan Opera’s props department, told USA TODAY. I don’t have the money to buy great accommodations.”

However, Generation Z is finding new ways to travel. Gone are the days of partying until dawn. “They lean much more toward the cultural side of things and away from the party type,” Jones said. The young generation has an increasing desire to get off the beaten path and immerse themselves in the culture they visit – and they can do that with the ubiquity of technology and social media.

Here are four Gen Z travel trends.

1. #TravelTikTok

Move over travel guides and TripAdvisor, TikTok is the new place for young people looking for travel inspiration.

“A lot of inspiration comes from social media, like TikTok or Instagram reels,” Greta Redleaf, 20, a student at American University, told USA TODAY. Redleaf is currently in a study abroad program and said social media has been especially helpful in exploring new destinations on the weekends.

“I’m in Scotland now, so I follow a lot of European travel reports, and sometimes they post deals,” she said.

In StudentUniverse’s 2024 State of Student & Youth Travel Report, 89% of 4,000 18-25 year olds surveyed – who are in full-time education and live in the US, Canada, UK and Australia – said they have found new destinations through TikTok, and 70% use TikTok as a travel planning tool. Since January 2024, the largest group of TikTok users has been between the ages of 18 and 24.

Issy McDermott, 23, originally from Sydney, also gets her travel ideas mainly from social media. “When I was younger, I used to watch travel videos on YouTube,” she says. Now she uses TikTok and Instagram.

The vast majority of these Gen Z travelers are trying to discover destinations that are untouched by mass tourism or that are not easy to find. “Right now I’m really keen to visit Sri Lanka for a mix of the beaches and the more adventurous side,” McDermott said. “It’s building some hype on social media, so I want to get there before it gets too touristy.”

Snyder said the access and connectivity that social media provides means that “people are willing to go to places that older generations would have considered too dangerous.”

2. Sober up

“Unlike younger generations in the past, Generation Z is moving away from the typical young journeys of partying,” Jones said. “They would rather experience a new culture and visit sights.” The most popular destinations among Gen Zers appeared to be Italy and Japan, which are “more cultural places than more traditional party locations.”

According to the report, 83% of young travelers would consider going on holiday without alcohol to avoid unsafe situations. They also ‘prefer to spend money on other things’.

“I have described myself in the past as a terrible tourist. I don’t normally travel with a strict, ‘I want to see this, this and this,'” Arthur Tisseront, 26, a video game dialogue writer currently living in Finland, told USA TODAY. “I usually try to find a place to stay that is reasonably priced, but in one part of the city or area I am in, I can experience the older culture that exists there.”

As more research reveals the harmful effects of alcohol, Snyder believes more young people will travel sober “big time.”

For Snyder, alcohol is near the bottom of his priorities when it comes to traveling. He recently spent a month in the Middle East with a friend and neither drank nor missed a sip of alcohol. “That never once occurred to us,” he said. Alcohol is legal in some Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, but is not widely accepted. In other countries, such as Yemen, alcohol is banned. “Although alcohol was not available, it was not a deterrent.”

3. Get started on your own

More and more younger women also want to go out on their own. More than half of women surveyed said they were interested in solo travel, with 83% of them inspired by female content creators who travel alone. Those who want to jet set alone say it is to get out of their comfort, for self-discovery and to enjoy a sense of freedom.

McDermott, an international business student at Syndey, has been traveling alone for her summer holidays for the past two months. She has spent the last three weeks in India, but is currently enjoying the nice vibes in Goa.

McDermott loves to travel alone, although her parents never did.

McDermott loves to travel alone, although her parents never did.

“I’ve noticed a lot more people traveling alone, and my mom and dad have never done anything like this,” she said. “I’m a bit more adventurous when I travel. I love seeing the culture and having unique experiences, rather than seeing tourist attractions and prioritizing comfort.”

She often interacts with young fellow travelers at the hostel and goes on excursions with them or goes out alone at night, so she rarely feels unsafe, she said.

However, not all Gen Zers agree on this. Some told USA TODAY they prefer to use travel as a way to visit friends and family who live far away.

“(At the beginning of the COVID pandemic) I wanted to be traveling for work and pleasure, and I ended up stuck at home. I had a roommate who moved out, so I was alone, and I want to get out of there,” Brendan McPhillips, 24, a building materials salesman from Denver, told USA TODAY. “(Solo travel) can be fun, but I found it quite isolating, so I kind of looked at where I have friends and said, ‘Hey, I want to come visit.’ ”

4. Train takeover

Gen Z travelers are also more interested in alternative modes of transportation, especially trains, when they are available.

“If there’s a train, I’ll take a train, it doesn’t matter if the train takes 30 hours,” Snyder said. Although the sustainability aspect appeals to him, the main reason is the “intimate connection with the countryside that you miss on the plane and bus because it is so chaotic.”

“Ideally, for environmental reasons, I would prefer to take the train if I can, but unfortunately the train can often be twice as expensive and twice as long as flying,” Emma Quinn, 26, a librarian in New York told US TODAY. “My roommate and I are going from Chicago to California by train. That’s two days in a sleeping car, and I pay a premium for that, because the experience is really good.”

Still, the appeal of the deal may outweigh other concerns.

“I would love to travel more places locally on Amtrak or similar rail systems, but because of the price and because of the schedules or when they come and go, it usually comes down to a car,” said Schiller, a Metropolitan Opera employee. .

McPhillips said he relies on Frontier Airlines’ all-you-can-fly GoWild pass for much of his personal travel, which allows him to get very cheap last-minute flights.

“People complain about Frontier and Spirit, but all I really expect is to get from point A to point B. That’s all I really want,” he said. “I want the cheapest ticket. I see people complaining about everything, and I think, “Yeah, but you get the lowest price.”

Gen Z travelers also often want to find convenient ways to get around once they reach their destination.

“Renting a car sucks,” says Tisseront, the video game dialogue writer. “If I can go to a place where I can travel by bus, tram, metro, train or walking, in a way that is not a car, then trips are more justified for me.”

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com. Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at zwicher@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: TikTok and sober travel: 4 ways Gen Z is redefining travel

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