Ahhh… the getaway: that life-changing experience that has eluded younger generations in the past two years, as study abroad trips were unceremoniously cut short by Covid-19 and byzantine travel restrictions left many jetsetters stuck at home, doomed to cycle through pangs of wanderlust after canceled, rerouted or domestic-only trips. But with relaxing restrictions across the globe, the travel industry is poised for significant financial recovery and a majority of Gen Zers have packed suitcases at the ready. The World Travel & Tourism Council projected that this year alone, travel’s contribution to the global economy could reach $8.6 trillion.
According to #client American Express’ 2022 Global Travel Trend Report, which summarized what travelers are planning for the year ahead, moods are invariably shifting: 65% of respondents would rather take a dream vacation than purchase a new car, and 62% of respondents plan on taking two to four trips this year alone. It’s not simply the urge for new horizons that’s captivating the imaginations of those bored by the prospect of another staycation. There’s also a shift in offerings reflective of Gen Zers’ current desires, as dictated by the Great Resignation and the promise of Hot Vax Summer—whether they’re craving a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, embracing indulgence or prioritizing sustainability.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of the year’s rising travel trends amongst generation Z to see how desires have evolved from the influencer-centric Millennial postcard vacation to the more specific jaunt that prioritizes the journey, not the destination. Before we take off, please fasten your seatbelts and ensure your table trays are in the upright and locked position.
Rest, Relaxation and Revenge
Two words: revenge travel. As the pandemic lifts and mask mandates vanish, pent up anger over canceled trips in the past few years has made travelers desperate to one-up their canceled plans with better, longer, and more luxurious vacations. The intention is to take advantage of loosened travel restrictions with even more ambitious plans than before. Despite inflation and conflict in the Ukraine and Yemen, travelers are booking bucket list trips and leaving work behind for even longer (48% plan to take off for more than two weeks). And getting “revenge” has never been easier, with experts like award-winning travel experience company Black Tomato creating revenge-tailored trips that can be booked through their site. However, soaring demand to GTFO has driven flight prices up by 40% and jet fuel costs by 75% over what they were last year. Maybe the benefactors of all this planned revenge travel aren’t who we think they are. —Trey Taylor
Out of Office
Forget the return ticket. While nomadic living and working predated the pandemic, Covid lifestyle changes significantly accelerated the trend, freeing up office workers to eat, pray, love and Slack from their dream destinations or office hammock. The number of these paradise-seeking “digital nomads,” mostly Millennials, increased by 42% in 2021 year-over-year, catered to by “communities” like Noma Collective and Digital Nomads Madeira Islands, responsible for what GQ has dubbed “Zoom Island.” In an update on the Airbnb model, Wander services a more upscale clientele, offering smart homes with a state-of-the-art workstation, textable concierge and, naturally, a Tesla (for groceries). The selling point for slow travel experiences like this is less about sight-seeing and more about replicating the comfort and community of home with the wifi connection of a Midtown Manhattan office—and a nice view of the beach. —Clara Malley
Part of the allure of travel is immersing oneself in an unfamiliar locale, and adventure-seekers are taking their thirst for untrodden terrain to the extreme. After being cloistered at home due to the pandemic, “getting away” for some means going off the grid, as in the case of luxury travel company Black Tomato’s “Get Lost” expedition. Similar to Bear Grylls’ Man vs. Wild, travelers are dropped in a previously undisclosed area (whether jungle, desert or mountain) armed with only a backpack, GPS device and experts on call to ensure a safe return to their final destination. Much of the thrill comes from the mystery factor, and booking agencies like Pack Up and Go and Magical Mystery Tours conduct pre-travel questionnaires with clients before surprising them with bespoke itineraries. And for the true Castaway experience, Bushmasters—which bills themselves as “sustainable eco-tourism”—will “shipwreck” you off the coast of Panama or Belize for a ten-day survival course—Wilson not included. —Colleen Kelsey
Escape in a Bottle
Anxiety around Covid continues to limit some people’s travel plans, but consumers are still itching for an escape. A variety of brands in the beauty sector have tapped into the wish for sun and sand, bringing beachy destinations to those remaining close to home. Take Poolsuite FM and their “Leisure-Enhancing Sunscreen” lineVacation, designed to evoke the nostalgia of ’80s summers with retro design and a transportive tropical scent. Self-tanning brand St. Tropez has also created a bronzing water that mimics the effects of hours spent lounging surfside, something that consumers would typically obtain by flocking to the nearest coast. The benefit to all of these new products? You don’t even have to leave the Sephora aisle to experience a getaway. —Danielle Lee
SPF & Sound Barriers
While American Airlines’ latest and greatest offering is a bus service, there’s widespread technological innovation happening in the travel sector. Nineteen years after the Concorde—the world’s first supersonic passenger jet—was grounded indefinitely, new efforts are underway to usher in the next generation of ultra-fast travel. Boom, a start-up with the goal of building a “supersonic future”, has signed a deal with United Airlines that will result in the purchase of 15 jets. Beijing-based Space Transportationis also working on a jet that could take passengers from Shanghai to New York in just two hours. Meanwhile, the world’s first flying car airport opened in the UK. No word on what surge pricing in the sky looks like… yet. —Eli Williams
Hot Vax Summer 2.0
Life should be lived according to one pervading maxim: If it’s not fun, then what’s the point? With travel feeling more feasible for the first time in the past two years, trips once thought of as distant fantasies are now becoming a reality. Travelers are already spending more, planning to go all in on what Expedia is calling the year of the GOAT, or, the “greatest of all trips.” The carnally curious are even chartering planes to fulfill some very specific desires. Is this the year to drink buckets of liquor on the streets of Bangkok? Or book your spot at Sparty—aka the Grand Budapest Bath Party—where you can listen to techno while swimming in a Hungarian thermal bath accompanied by trippy visuals and fire jugglers? All signs point to yes. The pandemic has forced us to face the uncertainty of the future, but this year calls for embracing pleasure above all else. If 2019 had Hot Girl Summer, let’s decree 2022 as Hedonist Girl Summer. —Emma Fecko
Room With a Queue
Call it the Wes Anderson Effect or blame it on the oversaturation of Airbnb, but staying in hotels is back in style. When Airbnb was first introduced, the appeal was not just cheaper rates, but a sense of local authenticity—and a place that felt like home. That quickly turned into hefty prices, hidden fees, privacy issues and charmless spaces. Now, travelers are seeking maximalist and lavish accommodations with white-glove hospitality. Boutique hotels with drool-worthy design and robust cultural programming are on the rise, and there’s a revival of historic icons like New York’s Plaza Hotel, The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Ritz Carlton and the Chelsea Hotel, which reopens this summer after a decade-long renovation. The fandom around these establishments has even sparked lines of merch for those who won’t be checking in anytime soon. And even if you’re not straying far from home, the HotelTonight app allows last-minute bookings, for those nights when only room service will do. —Elise Bang
Swap My Crib
With rising flight and hotel room prices, some travelers are thinking of other ways they can save. Enter: #homeswap. With 6.8 million hashtag views, TikTokers like @justjazzyidk and @grace_gagnon are just a few of those who have taken full advantage of how the social media app allows users a more affordable way to see the world. Those looking to trade places will create a post with their location and a tour of their pad before connecting with their perfect match. Home swaps are also gaining popularity outside of TikTok via exchange sites like Homeswap and Love Home Exchange. According to The New York Times, Homeswap reported a 51% increase of exchanges in April 2022 compared to April 2019. Seems like there’s no better time to channel The Holiday IRL. —Braelyn Diamond
Travel For Good
While most humans sat behind screens at the height of the pandemic, goats, racoons, turtles, and even sea lions took to the streets. Carbon emissions reached record low levels during this period and travelers took an opportunity to examine their individual impact on the planet. According to a 2021 global research report from Booking.com, 53% of those surveyed said they wanted to “travel more sustainability in the future.” In response, travel companies are offering experiences geared toward these interests. Intrepid Travel, a small group adventure company that launched “Impact Initiatives” for its 2022 tours, includes activities that directly support environmental or wildlife conservation, preserve indigenous culture or support marginalized social groups. Other resources include Impact Travel Alliance, a non-profit that provides tangible tips for how to travel in a way that empowers local communities and protects the earth. —Carolyn Cutrone