With Boomers spending $120 billion a year on travel, there’s a huge incentive for marketers to give them a better experience. So, if not for this holiday season but the next, I talked to a few Boomers to see what was on their travel wish lists. Although they visit a wide range of places, from local campgrounds to international cruises, it was surprising how many preferences they shared.
One Boomer recently had a wake-up call: a stroke. After six months of rehab, she knows that life can change in an instant. “I’ve put off things all my life, and I’m not going to do it anymore,” she said. Here are 12 travel gifts that this Boomer and others would like to see under the tree:
Better review vetting. “With so many fake reviews these days, it’s hard to be sure you are getting a good place to stay,” one Boomer said.
Improved plane service. “The last two times I flew, I was informed that there was no longer any storage room in the overhead bins,” another traveler said. Another gave a thumb’s down to mediocre food and poor movie selection.
Flexible cancellation policies. “The only time we used a bargain site, we lost a lot of money because we had to cancel,” one Boomer said.
Updated accommodations. Hotel rooms with poor lighting and loud plumbing are pet peeves.
Affordability. Boomers want to stretch retirement dollars with midweek travel packages and last-minute specials. One Boomer joined Evergreen — a club for people 55 and up that only charges $20 for a stay in a member’s home, including breakfast. She’s had great experiences, with gracious hosts who welcome her with open arms and provide insider information about the local area. Another traveler likes Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) because “you can split the cost with friends and get a whole house.” Another is a fan of hotel loyalty programs, which get him upgrades and free stays.
Convenience. Most Boomers care about the convenience of being near sights they want to visit. A free hotel shuttle would be nice, and so would complimentary laundry service.
Pet friendliness. “Many places will allow dogs, but they charge quite a lot extra,” said one dog owner. “I’d suggest instead a deposit, which would be returned if there is no additional cleaning required.” She would also like a dog-sitting service, so she could sightsee at places that don’t allow pets.
Cleanliness. “Cleanliness is something that we look for,” one traveler commented. “As we age, our immune system is depressed, so we realize the value of a cleaner environment.”
Experiences. All of the travelers I talked to ranked experiences at the very top of the list. “I like to immerse myself in the culture and get to know the local people,” one said. A change of scene, new ideas, fresh perspectives, history and landscape were all important.Services like Airbnb and Evergreen make that easier because homeowners provide advice about restaurants and local culture.
Freebies. Extra perks can make it easier to enjoy those cultural experiences — like passes to health clubs, restaurant coupons and discounted attraction fees.
The great outdoors. State and national parks with access to hiking, fishing and beautiful scenery are popular destinations.
Healthier food. Whether they’re on the road or in airports, people want healthier menu options.
If we make the travel experience more enjoyable and affordable, the gifts will come back to us from Boomers who are eager to get out and explore. One traveler summed it up: “Traveling is an adventure. It’s a big world out there, and I didn’t have time to really enjoy it until I retired. Now I intend to celebrate every day.”