Bucket List Travel: Not Just For Retirees Anymore

Michelle Edelman

Michelle Edelman

Chief Strategy Officer

If you poll a group of seniors about destinations that are on their travel “bucket list,” they’ll likely list dream vacations that they have longed to complete for decades. Whether it’s the Seven Wonders of the World or a high-end Nile cruise, these fantasies have been built over a long period of time and will take a lifetime to complete – if ever.

However, if you poll a group of millennials about their bucket list, you will receive very different answers. The destinations might be the same, but millennials have no intention of retiring with this list. Their entire notion of a bucket list is markedly different.

While both groups define the term bucket list the same way – places they want to visit before they die – millennials see the bucket list as something to be acted on now and remade over time. 60% of millennials will check off a bucket list destination this year, far exceeding their GenX and boomer counterparts (source: Hipmunk 2015).

Not surprisingly, millennials are prioritizing a high share of wallet for these experiences. (Ypulse 2015)


If your brand is after its “dream millennials,” here are 6 ideas to tap into.

Know What Is Bucket List Worthy

For millennials, to make the “bucket list” means to inspire them. Because they will continually remake their bucket lists, “intriguing” is more important than “elaborate.” For example, 46% more millennials reported the National Parks as part of their hot list than older generations (source: AAA 2016). Millennials are more likely to want to engage in voluntourism (source: NPR 2014) as well as “exotic on a budget” like the Philippines or Indonesia (Source: POPSUGAR). Visual appeal and friend recommendations are likely to get your brand considered – so get those Instagrams fired up and make sure they are shared to the right groups.

Go Hyper Local

Millennials are twice as likely to use peer-to-peer activities for travel. Whether it’s calling an Uber or renting an Airbnb, 31% of this generation’s travelers are very likely to use P2P services (source: Hipmunk 2015). Even if you are marketing a hotel, you can tap into this trend by partnering with Lyft. If you’re a restaurant, why not offer welcome packages to local Airbnb operators to drive traffic?

Do Tech on Their Terms

Millennials say fast, free wifi is a requirement, and they want it available at every point on their journey (source: Hipmonk 2016). Yet there’s strong evidence that Millennials want a digital detox while on vacation: 49% were willing to totally unplug compared to 37% of travelers age 40-50 (Intel Security Study 2016). This dichotomy presents an opportunity for marketers to be artful about where and when they offer connection – or market a lack thereof.

From Here To There On The Cheap

There is a lot of evidence that Millennials want to minimize the cost of getting to their destination in order to spend on in-destination experiences. While they’d forgo legroom on a flight and maid service at a hotel to save money, they won’t sacrifice a view at a hotel, for example (source: Hipmunk 2015). Knowing how to maximize their experience is the key to attracting them.

Get Into Their Briefcases

The blurring of business and pleasure is becoming significant for Millennials who want to pursue their bucket list on a budget. Over 82% of business travelers say they would like to tack on time to explore their business destinations (source: BridgeStreet Hospitality 2014). Helping Millennials use strategies like red-eye flights and work sabbatical policies could tip their favor in your favor (source: Millennial Magazine 2016).

Think Creatively

Millennials are thinking creatively about how to squeeze in more trips. Some claim they’ve studied abroad primarily to explore Europe (source: Millennial Magazine 2016). And the cruise industry has a huge opportunity to attract a new generation of travelers by marketing their itineraries as a concentrated burst of experiences.



Do you get our travel and tourism newsletter?

Sign up to get the latest industry insights delivered to your inbox.

Get our Travel & Tourism Newsletter