As summer vacation season approaches, a new survey from Discover found that for the 58 percent of those who intend to take a summer trip, where they go, how they pay and what they do while on vacation may be dependent on their age.
The national survey of 1,100 American adults ages 18 and over found that summer vacation travel preferences vary from generation to generation. Members of generation Z, ages 18-21, are looking for an adrenaline rush on their next vacation, with 30 percent saying adventure is their top travel priority, compared to 8 percent of millennials, ages 22-37; 10 percent of generation X, ages 38-53; 7 percent of baby boomers, ages 54-72; and 9 percent of the silent generation, ages 73 and up.
For millennials who are planning a summer vacation, spending time with friends and family is their highest priority at 28 percent, while relaxation is the main driver for generation X at 34 percent. Baby boomers and the silent generation say spending time with friends and family — 36 percent and 46 percent, respectively — matters most. Exploring a new city or destination tops the list for 24 percent of all respondents.
Other key findings include:
• Adventure is a top travel priority for 30% of Gen Z (ages 18-21), compared to 8% of millennials (ages 22-37), 10% of Gen X (ages 38-53), 7% of boomers (ages 54-72) and 9% of the silent generation (ages 73+).
• Millennials, 28%, rate spending time with family and friends as the highest priority on vacation, whereas 34% of Gen X chose relaxation.
• While the beach is the preferred destination for Gen Z (22%), millennials (30%) and Gen X (31%), boomers prefer road trips (27%) and the silent generation prefers a cruise (29%).
• When it comes to the most popular means of payment while on vacation, Gen Z prefers paying with cash (35%), whereas, 60% of boomers and 68% of the silent generation favor paying with credit cards.
Q: Of the following, what do you want MOST when it comes to your next trip or vacation?
• Relaxation: 27% — Gen X 34%, Boomers 30%, Millennials 24%
• Adventure: 10% — Gen Z 30%, Gen X 10%, Silent Gen 9%
• To explore a new city/destination: 24% — Silent Gen 27%, Millennials 26%, Gen X 23%
• An exciting nightlife: 2% — Gen X 3%, Millennials and Gen Z 2%
• Practice my passion (e.g., photography, yoga): 2% — Millennials 4%, Boomers 3%, Silent Gen 2%
• A volunteer/social purpose: 1% — Millennials 4%, Everyone else 0%
• Spend time with friends and family: 30% — Silent Gen 46%, Boomers 36%, Gen X 24%
• Other: 3% — Gen Z 9%, Silent Gen 5%, Millennials 4%
Most of those planning a summer vacation want to feel the sand between their toes, as 26 percent of all respondents said the beach is their preferred destination. However, many older respondents would trade their beach chairs for the open road or sea, as a higher percentage of baby boomers, 27 percent, picked a road trip as their preferred vacation, and a cruise was the most popular choice among the silent generation at 29 percent.
Q: If you had to choose from the following, what would your MOST preferred type of trip or vacation be?
• A road trip: 16% — Boomers 27%, Silent Gen 19%, Millennials and Gen X 8%
• A cruise: 11% — Silent Gen 29%, Gen Z 13%, Boomers 11%
• An outdoor adventure (e.g., camping, national park visit): 13% — Millennials and Boomers 14%, Gen Z and Gen X 13%
• A beach vacation: 26% — Gen X 31%, Millennials 30%, Gen Z and Silent Gen 22%
• An urban/big city vacation: 11% — Millennials 17%, Gen X 15%, Gen Z 11%
• A lake house vacation: 10% — Millennials and Boomers 11%, Silent Gen 10%
• A “staycation”: 6% — Gen Z and Gen X 8%, Millennials 7%
• Other: 7% — Gen Z 16%, Boomers 8%, Gen X and Silent Gen 5%
Those planning a summer trip say credit cards are the preferred way to pay while on vacation at 46 percent, according to the survey, followed by 25 percent who favor paying with debit cards, 24 percent with cash and 3 percent with checks or traveler’s checks. However, payment preferences vary by generation. Cash is the preferred payment method while on vacation for generation Z at 35 percent. On the other end of the age spectrum, 60 percent of baby boomers and 68 percent of the silent generation favor paying with credit cards.
Q: What is your MOST preferred method of payment while on a trip or vacation?
• Cash: 24% — Gen Z 35%, Millennials and Gen X 27%
• Credit card: 46% — Silent Gen 68%, Boomers 60%, Millennials 41%
• Debit card: 25% — Gen Z 33%, Gen X 29%, Millennials 25%
• Checks/traveler’s checks: 3% — Gen Z 8%, Millennials 5%, Silent Gen 4%
• Other: 2% — Gen Z 8%, Gen X 4%, Millennials 2%
Despite the preference for paying with credit cards while on vacation, 30 percent of those planning a summer trip say they do not have a credit card that earns rewards. More than a quarter, 26 percent, say they don’t redeem their credit card rewards for vacation-related expenses, including 32 percent of baby boomers and 51 percent of the silent generation—the generations that said they use credit cards the most while on vacation.
Q: How often, if ever, do you redeem credit card points/rewards for trip or vacation-related expenses?
• Never, I use my points/rewards for other purposes: 26% — Silent Gen 51%, Boomers 32%, Gen Z 23%
• Less than once a year: 20% — Gen Z 26%, Millennials 21%, Boomers 19%
• Once a year: 15% — Gen X 17%, Millennials 16%, Boomers 14%
• 2 to 3 times per year: 7% — Boomers 9%, Millennials and Gen X 8%
• 4 or more times per year: 3% — Millennials 4%, Gen X 3%
• Not applicable – I do not have a points/rewards credit card: 30% — Gen Z 40%, Gen X 37%, Millennials 29%
“This survey shows that there is no one-size-fits-all summer vacation regardless of your age or preference for travel,” said Emina Dautovic, senior marketing manager at Discover. “Wherever your summer travel takes you, there’s an opportunity to earn rewards on travel-related and everyday purchases by using a travel credit card. From airfare and hotels to gas and groceries, the rewards you earn can be put toward the cost of your next vacation.”
About The Survey
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,110 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken from April 26-27, 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18+). The maximum margin of sampling error was ±3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.