It's arguably easier to travel by yourself, and plan that travel, than in the past and that goes for U.S. travelers of all ages.
Going it alone is one of the oldest forms of global exploration, so it’s no shock that it’s still a popular way to travel.
But when millennials, America’s largest generation, show significantly more interest in solo travel than in previous years–more than all older generations–that’s something worth unpacking.
In an MMGY Global survey of 2,300 U.S. adults in July, 37% of millennial respondents indicated they intend to take at least one overnight leisure trip alone during the next six months. That’s up 5% from a year ago and 8% from two years ago, a much sharper rise than older generations.
Some 25% of all respondents said they’ll take at least one trip by themselves before the end of this year, up only slightly from last year and their willingness to travel unconventionally marries this uptick.
“For millennials this is among the least expensive travel has been in their lifetime,” said Steve Cohen, a spokesperson for MMGY. “They have so much more access to travel planning resources than older generations did when they were in their twenties and thirties. Because of that millennials are finding places that they want to go that maybe their friends don’t want to go, and they’re not waiting around for their friends to say yes. They’re thinking, ‘this is the time of my life when I can travel like this.'”
“Millennials are also likely to take staycations, meaning vacations within 75 miles of home because they’re probably thinking, ‘I’m taking lots of short weekend trips to save up for that longer trip.’ They’re also the most likely to take last-minute trips too and this group gets an average of 14 to 15 days per year, that’s 40% more than young professionals got in the past.”
Cohen said solo travel presents both liberties and challenges, particularly for women, and that the rising popularity with this kind of travel warrants more attention from brands.
“Hotels need to do a better job for the solo female traveler both in terms of business and leisure,” said Cohen.
“Female solo business travelers, for example, are most concerned with security and for that reason they’ll do things like order room service as opposed to eating out while traveling if they’re on business. But that means hotels need to have more female staff members for these solo female travelers to feel comfortable with letting strangers into their rooms and with the research we’ve done with this group, this is something that comes up all the time.”
Solo Travel With Older Generations
Traveling alone isn’t exclusively millennial, as we reported last year, and while travelers in older generations aren’t taking these trips in droves those who do certainly aren’t insignificant.
Nearly one-fifth of baby boomers said they’ll take a solo trip before 2016 and 17% of Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 18% of Matures (born before 1945) said they’ll travel this way as well.
Two U.S.-based tour operators that cater mainly to travelers aged 55 and older, Country Walkers and VBT Bicycling, accommodate many solo travelers. About 26% and 35% of VBT and Country Walkers’ businesses, respectively, come on tours by themselves and their most popular tours for solos are international with itineraries including Italy and Spain, for example.
More than half of all respondents who indicated having plans to travel alone will do so in the U.S. and 18% intend to do so internationally, with the international solo intentions much higher than last year, Cohen said.
Reasons U.S. Travelers Say They Want to Travel Alone
Photo credit: A traveler taking in the sites by himself at the new 1 World Trade Center Observatory in New York City. Dan Peltier / Skift