Millennial Think Tank: Vacations, Budgets and Preferences

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Last Thursday we asked our Millennial Think Tank panel about vacations – specifically about budgets and what they really wanted out of a vacation. Some of their answers may surprise you.

On our panel we had:

  • Samantha Estoesta, a young Millennial working in Public Interest Research and published poet
  • Jeremy Vargas, a young Millennial working in Communications
  • Joe Cardillo, an older Millennial, working in content, analytics, and growth for startups (also the author of this post)
  • Kelly Mosgofian, a young Millennial working in Sports
  • Tiffany Daniels, an older Millennial working in Government & Community Relations
  • Judy McCloskey, an older Millennial working in Theater.

You can watch the entire hangout below, or read on for a recap and key insights:

We framed the discussion with a couple key facts:

  1. The United Nations estimates that nearly 200 million tourists are Millennials, representing more than $180 billion in tourism spending annually – an increase of 30% since 2007. (from The Atlantic)
  2. The American Hotel & Lodging Associates states that the industry generated $41 billion last year, an increase of 10% over 2012; the budget lodging industry is booming.

With that in mind, we started our episode.

What is your next planned vacation?

Judy is taking her first actual vacation outside of the US because she has been “broke for 20 years.” She is going to Rome and Venice, doesn’t speak a word of Italian, and she hadn’t been saving for it, and instead is using her tax refund to take this trip. After high school and college, Judy put all of her extra cash toward paying down debt, and this year finally decided that debt will always be there, she needs to go and do something fun.

Kelly is planning a road trip vacation, using crowd sourcing to fund something entertaining to pay for the trip and Jeremy is planning on going to Thailand.

Have you traveled internationally?

Jeremy, who grew up partially in Europe, has traveled extensively outside of the US. While in college he and his friends went to South Africa to do HIV awareness volunteer work, and raised a lot of money for their month long trip via sponsors and crowd-funding. Alternative Spring Break, an organization on his campus, connected them with the cause. They made a difference and lived inexpensively, staying in a hostel, and they got to travel and see the country.

Joe has only been out of the US once because he hasn’t been able to afford it; recently he went to Mexico and stayed with a friend. Like Judy, he wants to travel internationally more often, but his debt holds him back.

Tiffany has been to Grand Cayman, and Mexico, and studied abroad for a semester in college, living in Florence and traveling widely in Europe.

Samantha, a Canadian, has traveled to the US often, but has also visited Asia, Central America, South America, and Europe. One reason for her extensive travels is that she’s a first generation Canadian – her family is from the Philippines – so many of their vacations were to visit families.

Kelly has been to Japan, England and France – all with family. He travels very inexpensively, eating from street vendors and staying in moderately priced hotels or with friends. He is using the same strategy for his upcoming road trip, planning to stay with people he knows in real life, as well as with Facebook friends.

What are your concerns with air travel?

Judy needs to work her air travel around her schedule, so cost and schedule are the two key factors in her decision making; she wants to travel when her work is slower and it isn’t snowing in Europe. She doesn’t care at all about what airline she’s flying, barely remembering that her upcoming trip is on FinnAir.

Samantha pointed out that when you are going to be on a plane for 18 hours you care, and spend more, to have the best possible flight. If her flight is less than 10 hours she doesn’t care at all.  Jeremy agreed, saying that his naivety on the first 21 hour flight to South Africa gave him a rude awakening as to how important small things are on a long flight. Seat choice, food, carry on space for baggage, and early booking are all extremely important to him when taking a long flight. When he travels, his plane flight is the single most important purchase.

When I asked if any of them would fly first class if they had the budget, Jeremy answered that he wanted to just to tell people that he did. Kelly regaled the panel with his tale of traveling first class on standby, describing the food and the size of the seat. As thrilled as they all were, none of the panel would make it a priority.

I pressed on and asked about ultra low cost airlines and having to pay for every item as you go; ALL of our panel appreciated not having to pay for things they don’t want. None of them felt ‘jipped’ or ‘nickel and dimed’ by having to pay for each service individually.

Have you ever taken a guided tour?

Samantha’s parents were strict about ensuring that there was an educational aspect to every trip they took; she and her brother would get to choose one fun thing, and the rest of the trip would be guided tours of museums, gardens, bird sanctuaries etc. As much as she didn’t enjoy it as a child, Samantha now chooses to take guided tours on holiday.

Kelly took a walking tour of the town of Bath and thought it was an amazing value because he learned so much about the town for a very low price. He also took a bus tour of the English countryside, allowing him to see small towns and villages that were off the standard tourist track.

Learning and staying connected while on vacation

Believe it or not, our well traveled Millennial, Jeremy, said that he makes sure he has Lonely Planet – a BOOK – on his trips, because connectivity is spotty in foreign countries, or data is insanely expensive.

Judy has been planning for the loss of data and cell phone usage while she’s in Europe. She also bought a book about her destination.

Joe uses T-Mobile, which makes traveling abroad easy – as soon as you land in another country it informs you of the rate changes and what plans you can opt into.

Do your vacations model your childhood vacations?

Judy’s family vacations usually involved going to visit family, and she still does that.

Tiffany’s family had a timeshare that they used every November, and they went to Disney, a vacation she wants to take as an adult. Surprisingly, every single one of our panel wants to go to Disney, badly. (Kelly went recently as an adult, and really enjoyed it.)  The motivation for all of them is either nostalgic, or because they never got to go as a child, and most of them want to go as an adult without children so they can enjoy it for themselves. Samantha passionately pointed out that Disney has 3 Michelin star restaurants.

Airbnb and Private Home Stays

Joe enjoys private homes because he feels more embedded in wherever he’s traveling to, and also values the price. Jeremy likes to travel to smaller areas, not necessarily visiting the large metropolitan areas; he ends up in private accommodations and hostels often because there are no other options. He really only cares about a bed and wifi; experiencing the local vibe and being immersed in the culture is his main goal – he thinks hotels can take that away from you.

Tiffany prefers hotels for security; she would enjoy a B & B as long as she has her privacy. Judy also is concerned about safety when traveling internationally – she’d camp before she stayed in a hostel; I’m certain that gender impacts this – women have greater security concerns.

Bus Travel

Most of our Millennials have taken bus trips, and always for budget reasons. They all acknowledged that traveling via bus is an experience onto its own. Uncomfortable and confined, they talked of the drawbacks, but also about interesting people they’d met on a bus.


  • Disney is doing something right; all of the older leisure industries that are not attracting Millennials should look to Disney for pointers, because our panel loves this destination and all of them intend on going before and after they have children.
  • Budget matters; Kelly, a self described ‘minimum wage slave,’ is greatly concerned about finances during travel. Our Millennials don’t think you need a large budget to take a trip, but they also need to watch their pennies while traveling. Any company appealing to budget travel should feel optimistic, and they should make sure they are reaching Millennials with their message.
  • Paid vacation impacts how Millennials travel; people in stable jobs with paid vacation are far more likely to spend more on their vacation, period.
  • Debt exhaustion is a very real thing; many of our Millennials spent years putting off travel and got tired of waiting to live. Jeremy twice stated that ‘the future is no longer guaranteed.’ Even Tiffany, who has a stable job and is very responsible, has tired of putting off travel in order to pay her debt.
  • Millennials still read travel books; this connected generation knows that once outside the US they may be un-connected, and they plan for that.

Join us next week as we tackle the often controversial subject of Gaming.

If you’re interested in more information on utilizing or participating in our Think Tanks, please contact us.

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc.

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