Overnight Vacations Popular with Aging Baby Boomers

Published in Pawtucket Times, August 1, 2014

As the nation slowly emerges from a severe economic downturn along with gas prices rising, a new AARP Bulletin Survey delves into travel planning of vacationing boomers. A phone survey, statistically sampling 76 million baby boomers sought, to shed light on their views on overnight vacations, specifically, trips taken away from home that usually lasted one night or longer.

According to the May 2014 report, “Boomers and Vacations: An AARP Bulletin Survey,” over 57 percent of the nation’s boomers say they are planning to take an overnight vacation in the next 12 months. Among those planning this overnight vacation, seven-in-ten (68%) responded they may take more than one overnight trip, while three-in-ten (29%) reported they are just planning to make one overnight excursion.

Getting Away for Short Vacations

The 19 page AARP report noted that almost half of those surveyed (47%), who are planning overnight vacations in the next 12 months, are planning one or two week vacations, while just one-third (34%) are planning to take longer trips, lasting over two weeks.

Overnight vacations can hit boomer vacationer’s right in their wallets, indicate the AARP report’s findings, with survey respondents noting they will budget a minimal of $1,000, up to a whopping $5,000 for an overnight vacation outing. The majority of those surveyed (56%) say that they plan to travel with their spouse or partner, 15 percent plan traveling with their child or children. Meanwhile, seventeen percent say they will go it alone. .

While two-thirds (64%) of vacationing boomers say they will travel to another state within the United States, twenty percent will travel throughout their home state, noted the AARP report. However, 19 percent of survey respondents say they will book vacations outside of the country, with Europe being found to be the most popular destination (38%) followed by Latin or South America (21%), Caribbean (13%), and Canada (10%).

As to motives taking overnight vacations, most respondents say “to see, connect, or spend time with family and/or friends (45%), or “for a pure fun, or relaxation (38%).

Balancing Work and Play

The AARP findings suggest that Boomers are active and looking for ways enjoy life,” Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell said. “We all know that staying active is important for both physical and mental health as we age. If this is a trend, I hope it builds and I think it will,” she says, noting that one of the reasons will be that AARP motivates people to be maintain active lifestyles – whether it’s an extended vacation or a day trip to a nearby attraction.

Connell believes that as boomers decide to work longer for the purpose of retirement security, they also realize that as they work longer and harder they have earned a break. “Working longer allows people to delay dipping into retirement savings. Many say that if that’s your plan, you actually can and should reward yourself and take that vacation and return to work refreshed.” she says.

“As to those Boomers who have ‘retired,’ I shouldn’t have to tell you that AARP encourages those people to get out and enjoy life,” says Connell.

“The AARP study certainly reinforces the fact that Boomers have a significant amount of discretionary income and that they are an important part of the economy. If the Boomers stayed home, the tourism industry would be is big trouble,” she observes.

Connell states that “Rhode Island is a great destination for people of all ages and I am sure that the local tourism promoters are aware of that. It’s very competitive out there when it comes to capturing Boomers, so the good news is that even attractive destinations such as Rhode Island offer travel discounts and incentives. People should take advantage, and I imagine the AARP survey reflects some of these opportunities to save, too.”

Rhode Island Tourism Officials Have Their Say

Carl G Richardson, Director, Branch Office Sales & Service, of AAA Southern New England, cites similarities in AARP’s report findings from his personal experiences in the travel industry. Just like the findings that 15% of Boomers are traveling with their child or children, “we’re seeing our members traveling with their grandchildren as well.”

Another finding as to the reason for travel also jumps out for Richardson. “When we conduct our Holiday Travel forecasts we see “visiting family or friends” as the number one reason members travel 50 miles or more away from home. AARP’s findings supports that point,” he says.

Mark Brodeur, Rhode Island’s Tourism Director with Commerce RI, sees boomers as a generation driving tourism to the Ocean State for more than three decades.

As the state’s main sales person and a boomer, Brodeur understand this demographic group, especially their buying power associated with them. “American Express Travel insights indicated that more than 50% of Rhode Island overnight visitors are 50 and above,” he says.

“Boomers are foodies where Rhode island’s varied and celebrated culinary scene fits right in with this demographics interest, says Brodeur, noting that they want fresh, farm or ocean to table creations in a unique atmosphere. “Rhode Island offers some for the country’s best food and foodie experiences. Walking tours, culinary museum, cooking classes, wine, brews and now distilled lavations,” he says…

Brodeur adds, “The boomer is active; walking, cycling, swimming, sailing, tennis. Whether you’re offshore or landside, Rhode Island offers the perfect soft adventure. He observes that the boomer generation is considered lifelong learners; they’re curious, very educated and intellectual. “Rhode Island is a classroom with Colonial to gilded age, industrial to pristine and natural. Audubon, art museums, historic societies and attractions offer educational experiences that are world class,” he says.

Robert Billington, President, of the Pawtucket-based Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, is a firm believer of overnight vacations, experimenting with the idea of seeing providing trips for Rhode Islanders in their home state. Over a decade ago, the Central Falls resident developed a tour, “Tour Rhode Island, There’s No Place Like Home,” one that attracted the attention of Boomers and seniors. “Over 1,200 persons returned, year after year, traveling to sites throughout the Ocean State in 24 motor coaches,” he says.

The tour gave Rhode Islander’s a chance to personally visit places in their home state they never saw, state’s Billington. “Our state has so much to offer visitors and even more to offer its residents but sometimes you have to be shown the beauty in your own back yard,” he adds.

Billington says, for Rhode Island Boomers, especially those outside of the state, the greatest thing Rhode Island offers to vacationers is its size. “You can enjoy the best of America within a1, 240 square miles drive…”

Planning Your Overnight Getaway

AARP’s newest tool to plan your overnight getaways (travel.aarp.org/weekend-getaways), includes itineraries curated by Fodor’s Travel. The collection recommends local escapes less than three hours from home, including where to eat, shop, and stay, from popular cities including Denver, Washington, D.C. and more locations nationwide.

As detailed in a recent release, AARP Travel’s range of travel tools and features include:

● Trip Finder — a fun, smart and visual series of questions to deliver ideas and recommendations for destinations — including some unexpected ones;

● Map Explorer — a detailed street-level interactive map that includes attractions, restaurants, hotels, local color and reviews for each destination;

● My Trips — a personal page where users can save and organize trip ideas, itineraries and related articles in one place and add to or edit them over multiple visits;

● Articles and Destinations — travel tips from AARP Travel Ambassador Samantha Brown, articles specifically geared toward the 50+ traveler and information about hundreds of domestic and international locations; and

● Book Trips — booking tools provided through AARP’s relationships with
Expedia and Liberty Travel and directly to hotels, and rental cars.

Data for AARP’s “Boomers” and Vacation Plan survey were gathered by a random-digit dial telephone omnibus survey fielded March 5-March 30, 2014, using a national representative sample of 1,410 respondents ages 49 to 67 (Boomers). Of those, a total of 907 respondents are under age 60 and a total of 461 are age 60+, and 42 respondents refused to report their actual age.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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