The way and reason we travel — specifically on road trips — has changed with each new generation

By Grace Gavilanes
August 11, 2017 11:25 AM
Courtesy Ford

There’s a good chance that reminiscing about family vacations growing up brings back memories of hours-long drives, highway rest stop snacks and, of course, the omnipresent question: “Are we there yet?”

But while the nostalgic details are pretty universal, the way and reason we travel has changed dramatically among Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millenials.

Road trips remain popular in the United States — 79 percent of Americans plan to hit the road for their next vacation, according to data from a recent travel report put together by Ford— but travel in general is higher up on the bucket lists of younger generations than those of their parents.

Millenials (current 22 to 37 year olds) value the ability to take impromptu trips over collecting material possessions, and are 230 percent more motivated by “going on an adventure” compared to older generations, according to the report.

“Their measure of success is experiences and being in the know and being in the right place at the right time, or curating experiences that are uniquely their own. Travel hits all of those buttons,” says Sheryl Connelly, a Corporate Futurist who tracks global consumer trends at Ford. Citing the 2008 financial crisis, which she says, served as a wakeup call to younger generations, Connelly notes, “If you’re a Millennial and you’ve been exposed to the finer things, your sense of ownership changes. You don’t feel like you have to own something to enjoy it.”

It’s no coincident #roadtrip is the tenth most used hashtag on social media.

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This is entirely different from their parents, Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers.

Baby Boomers (current 53 to 71 year olds) came of age during a time when “there was an opportunity for upward social mobility,” says Connelly. As a result, “they spent a lot of time away from their family and so the way they compensated was to buy them a big house, a luxury car, material possessions.”

The generation following, Gen X-ers (38 to 52 year olds), pushed the other way, focusing on family time rather than working overtime. This attitude sparked a spike in family vacations.

“One of the hallmarks of Gen X-ers’ childhoods was having both mom and dad working,” Connelly told PEOPLE. As a result, when “they became their own bosses, they said ‘I am not going to make that sort of blood, sweat, and tears sacrifice that [our parents] did’ and ‘I need more flexibility and I want more family time.'”

While these findings aren’t exactly surprising, one thing’s for sure: It might just be time to book that next trip, no matter which generation you’re part of.