5 Biggest Travel Trends for 2016

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Young people will spend more on travel in 2016 and are more interested in booking adventure vacations than cruises, according to a survey of more than 34,000 global travelers conducted by TripAdvisor. Millennials – who are more likely to leave home without their toiletries than to travel without a smartphone – are driving many of 2016’s biggest trends in travel, the site’s annual TripBarometer study found.

Forty percent of millennials will spend more on travel in 2016 than in 2015, the survey found. Only 30% of gen Xers and baby boomers will increase their travel budgets (though they’ll spend more than millennials overall). Not only will people of all ages spend more on vacations and getaways, but the kind of trips we’ll take will be different too. People, especially younger travelers, are more open to solo travel and increasingly interested in exploring new cultures and having different experiences.

Bigger budgets and a desire for a different type of vacation are just two of the major travel trends for 2016. Here are TripAdvisor’s five predictions for travel in 2016.

1. We’ll seek out new experiences

Worldwide, 69% of travelers say they want to try something new in 2016. Three-quarters want to travel somewhere they’ve never been, and 67% want to learn something new on their trip. Unfamiliar destinations are most appealing to travelers under age 35, with 80% in this group planning to travel somewhere new. Adventure travel is the new experience millennial travelers are most interested in.

A number of previously hard-to-reach destinations have become more accessible in recent years, which could sate travelers’ desire for the novel. U.S. travelers will soon be able to hop on a commercial flight to formerly off-limits Cuba. Patagonia is also a hot destination for 2016, according to CNN, with new roads and boat routes making it easier to reach the region.

2. We’ll budget more for our trips

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A third people surveyed plan to spend more on travel in 2016 than in 2015, including 40% millennials who will up their travel budgets. Younger travelers in the U.S. will spend an average of $3,900 on trips this year. More than half are spending more this year than last because they want to visit a place on their wish list, while 41% are stretching their budget because the destination they have in mind is expensive.

Bigger budgets don’t mean that people aren’t looking to save on travel, though. Millennials are also among the most price conscious of travelers. Three quarters said the price of airfare influenced their travel plans, with 30% picking a destination specifically because they found a cheap flight, more than any other age group. Finding affordable accommodation was a factor for 72% of millennials.

3. We’re choosing destinations based on culture

Just under half of millennial travelers surveyed said they’d picked a destination because they wanted to experience a particular culture. Yet a desire to hear new languages or try a different cuisine isn’t the only way culture is influencing where we want to go. Roughly 20% of millennials said they’d decided to vacation somewhere because they’d seen it on either the big or small screen.

Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones have descended on Northern Ireland, where many scenes from the series are filmed. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is predicted to drive tourism to filming locations in Abu Dhabi and England. You can also visit the filming locations for shows and movies like Deadwood, The Walking Dead, and The Lord of the Rings.

4. We’ll demand better amenities

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Amenities matter to people when they hit the road, though younger travelers are looking for slightly different perks than their parents. Fifty-five percent of U.S. millennials say they won’t book a room at a place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi (only 34% of boomers consider not having wireless Internet a deal breaker). Air conditioning is essential to travelers of all ages, but younger people are more likely to want to stay at hotel that offers room service,  breakfast, and in-room coffee. Overall, the under-35 set is more likely than older generations to say that amenities are important when booking a hotel.

“Millennials want to do things on their own terms: check in virtually, choose to interact with the hosts or to use a virtual concierge, sleep in and have breakfast too,” Rob Blood, founder and CEO of Lark Hotels in New England, told U.S. News & World Report. “They want to leave a hotel experience and a destination having had a unique experience, and feeling connected to the stay.”

5. We’ll pay more for hotel rooms

Better accommodations and amenities don’t come cheap. Roughly half of the more than 10,000 hoteliers surveyed by TripAdvisor said they planned to raise room rates in 2016. In 2014, the average room in a U.S. hotel cost $137 a night, according to Hotels.com’s Hotel Price Index. In 2016, that number is likely to climb even higher.

Savvy travelers can still score a deal on accommodations, though. Airbnb is the obvious choice for those interested in saving money. Rent an apartment through the site and you could save up to 20% of the cost of a hotel room. Last-minute travelers can book discounted rooms through sites like Hotwire and Priceline, and you can find a free place to crash on Couchsurfing.com. Meanwhile, a Seattle startup called WinstonClub promises to save you money on a hotel room, provided you’re willing to share it with a complete stranger.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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