Travel Trends to Consider in 2024

This blog is the first in a series for travelers 50 and over. Many of us have deferred travel dreams due to career demands, raising a family or, more recently, due to Covid restrictions. However, now we’re ready to hit the road. According to the most recent AARP travel trends survey, 65% of Americans age 50 and older plan on traveling in 2024 with 37% planning a trip outside the U.S.

Yet, how have the pandemic and other factors changed the travel landscape for older adults? Here are some notable trends to keep in mind as you ponder travel plans in 2024 and beyond.

Travel Cost Concerns

Travel costs have jumped significantly from their pre-pandemic levels, except for air travel, which has returned to its 2019 pricing.

Cost Changes 2019-2024

Airfare– 0.8%Hotel+13.3%Car Rental+34.8%Restaurant                                                                                          +29.5%Entertainment (movies, theaters and concerts) +20.5%

              

Older travelers can save money in a variety of ways:

Flexible travel dates – If you have some flexibility in your schedule, investigate off-peak deals.

Airfare, hotel, and auto rental aggregators—Websites like Expedia, Skiplagged, or Momondo can provide flight, hotel, and auto deals. Costco members can find affordable rental cars, travel packages, cruises, and hotels through Costco Travel.

Use credit card points – Depending on the credit card, points can be used toward airfares or baggage fees.

International Travel Is Booming

After a drastic fall during the pandemic, U.S. travelers are flocking overseas despite cost increases.

For example, over 6.5 million U.S. passengers flew to international destinations in March 2024, the highest March total since 2019.

Some see this as the continuation of so-called “revenge travel” when booking exploded as consumers scrambled to treat themselves after enduring COVID-19 lockdowns. Experts are uncertain if this trend will continue to fuel travel demand, although some suggest that it may have kindled an enhanced appreciation for travel that may endure.

The Hotels Versus Short Stay Rentals Tug of War

Short-term rental companies like Airbnb and VRBO have revolutionized the hospitality and tourism industry for over two decades. While losing bookings to these upstarts, hotels still dominate the lodging industry, accounting for 85% of bookings.

Yet, hotels are feeling the heat and have adapted in many ways, according to the website AllTheRooms. Adaptations include:

Going Contactless

Some hotels allow guests to check in and access their rooms and other amenities via smartphone apps.

Keeping an Eye on Pricing

Hotels benchmark their rates more against short-term rentals to keep their pricing competitive.

Competing on Ambiance and Amenities

Short-term rentals have a reputation for providing an “authentic” atmosphere. In some cases, hotel design has evolved to mimic these attributes. At the same time, hotels have been doubling down on their traditional strengths in amenities such as swimming pools, room service and dining options.

“Set-Jetting”

Travel professionals report excursions to the locations of popular TV shows or movies continue to be popular. The Expedia Unpack ‘24 Report noted that over 50% of the survey respondents said they “researched or booked a trip to a destination after seeing it on a TV show or movie.” Shows like “White Lotus” and “Emily in Paris” are set in exotic destinations that might inspire travel plans for a bucket-list trip.

Nevertheless, travel pros advise doing some research before journeying to filming locations of popular shows. While some exterior shots were done in real locations, it is not uncommon for interior scenes to have been filmed on sound stages.

Getting Off the Beaten Track

More travelers are journeying to lesser-known destinations to beat the crowds, save money, and experience an unspoiled location. A 2023 American Express survey found that 89% wanted to “travel to destinations they’ve never visited before.” Travel pros compare them to well-known vacation spots to help cautious travelers get a feel for new locations. For example, American Express followed up their survey with such a comparison list. Examples were:

If you liked…You’ll like…Sapporo, JapanNiseko, JapanDolomites, ItalyZermatt, SwitzerlandBlue Mountains, AustraliaAdelaide Hills, Australia

Travel with a Purpose

Many older travelers seek more than just a relaxing vacation and look for deeper meaning in their excursions, whether for stimulating personal experiences or providing service to causes they care about. Here are a few examples.

Foodie-Focus

Culinary tours explore a destination’s food culture. Learning about local cuisine and how to prepare that food can be an intimate way to experience another culture and meet local inhabitants.

Wellness

Forming positive new health and wellness habits can be energized by visiting a different environment. A spa or a yoga retreat can provide both the facilities and expertise to bring about positive life changes.

Education

Age is no barrier to increasing knowledge, and trips for older adults that incorporate learning continue to grow in popularity. Travelers become more than passive tourists as they actively engage in scholarly pursuits from lectures to on-site tours to hands-on participative learning. Many non-profits and universities offer these kinds of trips.

Volunteer

Helping communities and causes is the goal for many who want their travel experience to be more than just a self-focused leisure trip. Many non-profit organizations offer short-term volunteer opportunities to financially support their missions and raise awareness. Travelers not only experience local culture but also help the communities they visit.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you going on a vacation this year? Is it to a foreign or domestic destination? Why did you pick that particular destination?

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