Millennials And Travel: Youth Are Gaining New Experiences & Independence
- July 31st, 2012
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Millennials are curious. They're eager to see and experience the world, and even explore their own state. They seek to gain independence, which they don't always feel they have, as well as learn more about themselves and people of all backgrounds. For these reasons, they're itching to travel and prove that they have the ability to make it on their own while going to unfamiliar places.
Many Millennials view traveling as a growing experience to get outside of their comfort zone, and they're excited by the opportunity to be adventurous and cross off items on their bucket list. For many, summer is the time to take trips, as is the case for our YAB member Laura, who explains how traveling made her a more independent and responsible person with broader experiences. Some people argue that Millennials are stuck in an "emerging adulthood" stage, but for Laura, and many Gen Yers, traveling is adult-affirming. She explains what her generation values when traveling and offers advice for her peers about how to tackle the daunting task of planning trips.
Remember, to contact members of the Ypulse Youth Advisory Board, you can email them at youthadvisoryboard @ ypulse.com, or simply leave a note in the comments.
Millennials And Travel: Youth Are Gaining New Experiences & Independence
Summer is my favorite season for many reasons, especially because of all the travel opportunities I have with my extra free time. In high school I was lucky enough to go on my fair share of trips, but this summer (my first as a college student), I kicked it up a notch. I had a little list of all the places I wanted to find myself between early May and late August, ranging from the beach in the neighboring state to Poland and London thousands of miles away. I had six trips, five of which were without my parents, and three of which were financed only by me. This meant I was responsible for making all of my plans; a responsibility I never had previously. In my opinion though, having the will to travel and the audacity and patience to plan and go through with it are part of becoming an adult and a world citizen. So though it was tough and I had some lessons to learn, the experiences I had made me a more independent, confident, and fun-loving person.
Arranging my transportation was the one planning factor I couldn’t escape for all five trips. The two most valuable lessons I learned in doing this were: book as early as possible and don’t be averse to spending a little extra for convenience and to save time. Planes, trains, buses, and cars were all on my list of options, and each required a different planning tactic.
Car trips are the easiest, as the only planning necessary is to get gas beforehand and to make sure everything is in working order. Bus trips aren’t too taxing either, but the first rule stated above — of early booking, should not be forgotten. In terms of choosing a bus company, it’s purely a personal preference. I would recommend choosing the one that has the closest or safest location to you. Features like outlets and WiFi, as well as comfort and convenience, are important to my generation, and that's what I look for when traveling. With that said, the train is my favorite mode of transportation, but if you’re not in a rush or don’t want to spend a lot of money, stick with the bus. If you have an AAA card, book your ticket over the phone and give them your AAA number to get a small discount. It makes up for the lack of student rates.
Then there's planes, the most challenging to coordinate. No matter where you travel to, plan way in advance. If you’re traveling domestically, book at least a month to two months in advance. If you’re traveling abroad, book as much as six months in advance. It is astounding how much prices go up each day, and as you get closer to the date the prices can go up as much as $20 in two hours. If you need to fly to another state, I would always recommend Southwest. They offer flights to many cities, allow you to check a bag for free, sit anywhere on the plane, and have an easy to use website. For someone who doesn’t like to fly, I love that I can sit close to the front of the plane without a lot of hassle or stress. My favorite thing about Southwest, though, is the online-only “Gotta Get Away” offers that, if you don’t wait to the last minute, are significantly cheaper than the standard offered flight. If you have travel points saved up, you can use those to book a flight for free! Or if you have a family member who is extrememly generous they may even allow you to use their travel points to help you save money.
The woman who I traveled to Poland with this summer recommended Expedia, and I will do the same here. Expedia was simple to navigate, and gave me lots of options and doable prices. Although I was not able to be on the same flight as my host (long story), I was able to book a flight that left from the same airport and was only an hour earlier than hers. We flew through different cities, but all went as planned and she arrived in Poland one hour later than me as scheduled. Now, as I was booking, it was tempting to choose the flight that was $100 cheaper but included an extra layover, because it was a “better deal.” Don’t be fooled saving $100 may not be worth it if it means saving some time and stress about going through customs and running to your gate a second time. You don’t want to be a complete wreck when you finally get to where you’re going. And that goes for all forms of transportation!
Unless you are staying with someone, housing is often part of the travel-planning process. Luckily, my host took care of the hotel situation in Poland, but I was responsible for finding hotels for some of my domestic locations. My advice for planning housing are: clean trumps all and read reviews. Bed bugs are a big issue, and often times you have to stay somewhere that someone you know hasn’t necessarily been to. When I had to book, I liked using Kayak because it led me to four or five different sites that gave me options. However, this could be overwhelming for some people. Once again, booking early is important for getting good rates and availability. If in your searches you come across an unbelievable deal, be stealthy in your research before booking it. This is where reviews come in handy. When reading, look for the date of the post and the type of person who is writing the review. Ideally at this age, we want to stay at a place that is in a safe, convenient location, is air-conditioned, hopefully renovated, and caters to individuals as well as families. Chain hotels like the Holiday Inn are usually safe bets, but if you can find a cool boutique hotel, I would recommend that. Also, if you need to get to the airport, make sure the hotel offers a shuttle or some sort of service to get there if you don’t have a car.
Then there’s always the question of what to do when you get there. In my experience, the best method is to combine touristy and off the beaten path activities; ones your friends/family recommend and new adventures. This way, the trip feels fulfilling and you won’t have to worry if one activity fails. It’s good to do a little research beforehand, whether that’s online, with a travel book, or having a conversation with someone who has gone on the trip before you. I never think it’s good to know too much, all you need is to have a sense of the highlights or must-see places, so that you can plan your trip with a theme or structure. I always think it’s nice to have some surprises, because even if the highlights turn out to be duds, your expectations won’t affect the places you don’t know.
Where ever you a traveling, good food is a must. Ask your concierge or host what he/she recommends, or look up menus before going out. It’s hard for a night to go badly if the dinner was great, and conversely, it’s easy for a night to go downhill after a bad meal. Sometimes it’s hard to plan trips when you’re under 21, but keep a positive attitude and never forget about museums, markets, cultural landmarks, parks, pretty places to walk, and good dessert. Even if you’re too young for some places, there will always be great options that don’t involve drinking or having a rental car.
Being able to travel independently turned out to be the most adult-affirming part of my summer. Although it’s wonderful to be back home with my family, I don’t like feeling stuck in one place for too long. It’s liberating to have the ability to get out of town, even if it’s only for a few days on a $15 bus. It’s these trips outside of going away to college that make the transition into adulthood more tangible, because often times the reasons for going are proof of maturity. My trip abroad to Poland was an intense exploration of my heritage, and my trip to the beach with my boyfriend represented a grown up milestone in our relationship. Whatever the destination or people involved, the trip will teach you something new about yourself and how you can fare in an environment outside of your comfort zone. I would encourage anyone to plan their own trip, big or small, during time off from school. I suggest you keep these tips in mind, but that you go a step further than I did and blog about your travels or make a scrapbook. Just posting your pictures to Facebook is tired and borderline braggy, but turning your trip into a story that anyone could appreciate makes it enjoyable for everyone now and in years to come.
Laura is a rising sophomore at NYU planning on studying Art History. Originally from Baltimore, MD, Laura is loving the city and is constantly pursuing her ideal “Sex and the City” lifestyle of shoes, girls nights with her sorority, visits to museums, attending Broadway shows (she recently met Miranda), eating exotic meals…and shoes. Though she’s partial to topics on fashion and art, Laura always has an opinion and wants it to be heard. She wants to make a difference in the world through her writing, volunteering, and hopefully curatorial work, so she hopes her readers come away with a little something!