Gone Today, Here Tomorrow

by Joe Dyton

Have we reached the point where the only time someone will go on a seven-day, six-night getaway is if they won it on a game show?

Chances are things won’t get that extreme, but recent trends are showing that many travelers are opting to take shorter vacations these days.

In May, Citi ThankYou Premier’s Summer Travel Survey (conducted by Wakefield Research) polled 1,000 adults ranging in age from 35 to 54 years old. Almost half (46%) said they would most likely take a series of weekend trips rather than a long vacation.

In particular, millennials are a big part of this shorter vacation trend. According to travel marketing agency MMGY Global, of the all types of vacations millennials take, shorter trips are the most common. According to the agency’s poll numbers, 43% of vacations taken by millennials were of the weekend variety, as opposed to 33% of their vacations lasting five days or more. Generation X’ers also fell into this trend: MMGY’s research saw 40% of their vacations were weekend trips, but the gap was much closer, as 39% of their vacations were extended (five days or more).

“What we primarily see with millennials is that they take lots of shorter vacations, for a couple of reasons,” said MMGY Global Vice President of Insights Steve Cohen. “One is they are saving for a bigger trip. They are taking more ‘staycations,’ saving on air travel and lodging costs.”

A shortage of vacation time also plays into this trend. Millennials don’t have as many vacation days to play with when they first start a job, and have to pick and choose when to use them. One way they do that is center their trips around holiday weekends, like Labor Day and Memorial Day, so they can get an extra day without having to use any additional leave.

This shorter-trip trend might be problematic for travel agents; after all, the less time one takes for a trip, the less it costs. But Csilla Dali, owner of Chicago-based Global Voyages doesn’t it see it that way. To her, the trend ss an opportunity.

“I don't see this as a negative to my business. In fact, it gives me the chance to interact more with my clients within the year,” Dali said. “I get to know their preferences better and each time they travel I plan better experiences for them.

“This trend is making my repeat business flourish. Plus, shorter trips mean more emphasis on experiences, so clients tend to seek out our expertise more.”

Paying a premium for last minute
Another way this shorter-trip trend has played in travel agents’ favor is that abbreviated trips often aren’t planned too far in advance. Last-minute trip planning forces travel agents to scramble a bit, but it’s worth it because travelers are willing to pay a premium, as long as they can go where they want.

Kelly Grumbach is the General Manager of Quintessentially Travel Group, the in-house travel agency for a global luxury private members concierge service, Quintessentially. Her clients, and millennials in particular, are more and more likely to make weekend vacation plans just a day or two before they want to leave.

“The main trend we have seen is that travelers are traveling for shorter periods and a lot of (their trips) are done last minute, but they’re also willing to pay premium pricing for that,” Grumbach said. “There’s no more trying to negotiate a lower rate the day before they depart.

“I’m very straightforward in letting them know before I start looking into rates that this is a peak weekend and probably the top suites are the only room types available.”

While Quintessentially hasn’t changed its marketing efforts significantly around this trend, the e-newsletter it sends to clients now includes a section dedicated to shorter weekend getaways.

Cohen and his team also see the trend as a positive for travel agents. After checking in with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), they found there has been a resurgence in the use of travel agents among millennials, for a number of reasons: millennials don’t have the time to do the travel research and book the trip themselves; they feel less likely to get ripped off working with an agent; and they want someone who knows the city to which they’re headed to help them plan itineraries, especially for multi-city trips.

“We’re talking about people who were not alive when there were travel agencies in every strip mall, every corner,” Cohen said. “So, while trip length does affect that, there is an interest that hasn’t existed since the late ‘90’s. I always say this is a problem they are happy to have.”

For Dali and her agency, the trend is more than welcome. In fact, she admits she won’t even try to upsell a customer on a longer trip unless she knows the destination absolutely requires a longer stay.

“I don't think this trend is changing any time soon,” she said. “I think it is still in its early phases, and as more destinations become easily accessible due to new flights and routes, more people will opt to see more of the world by exploring one destination at a time over a long weekend.”

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