By year’s end, all of the United States’ Baby Boomers (that’s roughly 78 million Americans, or 26 percent of the U.S. population) will be age 50 or older. It’s a significant milestone for Boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 — so noteworthy, in fact, that AARP dubbed 2014, “The Year of the Boomer.”
2015? It just might be the year those Boomers hit the road in earnest. The group considers travel their No. 1 leisure activity and, according to a recent survey by AARP, they plan to take an average of four to five trips in 2015 alone.
“Most of us have worked really hard all our lives, and, if we’re lucky, have a little bit of a nest egg that we’re able to spend on these experiences,” says Veronica James. When she and her husband, David, became empty nesters, they sold their home, retired and embarked on a life of travel, chronicling their journeys on gypsynester.com. “We’ve taken care of our obligations, gotten our kids into school, and it seems like that’s a good time to get out and actually enjoy the fruits of our labor!” David adds.
The James’ get-out-and-see-the-world attitude is shared by a number of their peers: Boomers, by and large, would rather spend their hard-earned cash on experiences, instead of accumulating more things. And they’re also the first generation to view travel as a necessity, not a luxury.
“We have been exposed to more of the world than our parents,” says Donna Hull, who blogs about Boomer travel at myitchytravelfeet.com. “Many of us traveled over the course of adulthood, and we’re more inclined to continue experiencing destinations and cultures firsthand.”
According to the same AARP survey, the majority of Boomers are looking for relaxing, laidback trips. But it’s hard to characterize simply what this diverse bunch is after. “Name a travel interest, and you’ll find a Boomer pursuing it,” jokes Hull.
Here is a quick run-down of their top priorities:
Adventure and activity win out…
“Boomers don’t like being called seniors,” Veronica says. And while she can’t imagine her own mother tackling a zip-line at her age, Veronica wouldn’t miss a chance. “Our generation wants to try new things.” Parasailing, cycling, expedition cruises, you name it.
…But so does comfort.
“We’re pretty adventurous — we jumped out of an airplane in Australia,” Veronica says. “But we also really like a comfy bed at the end of the day.” When the pair traveled to Machu Picchu, they opted for the train and a stay at an eco-hotel rather than climbing to the site.
Staying connected is non-negotiable.
There are certainly times when you want to unplug. But by and large, busy Boomers want to be in touch with their kids, their aging parents, and other family and friends while they’re away. “We were on a cruise a month ago, and everybody was posting pictures, or chatting on Skype on their laptops,” David says. “Everybody had their devices!”
Now’s not the time to rush.
“We slow down how we visit places now,” says Veronica. “We used to pack it all into a four-day vacation. Now we can take a few weeks and really absorb a place.”