Everywhere we look, we see travel stories from young people – visiting multiple countries all over the world and posting on Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook and elsewhere.
How do they afford it?
I did some online research and saw several things. For example, this.
- Many people my age are asking the same question and are perplexed as to how so many young people can travel so much.
- Some young people say they save their money, then spend most of it on a trip, and return and resume working again, to save for the next one. There is a generational mind-shift here – the older generations, like mine, were influenced by Great Depression values (my parents lived through it). Those generations learned they had to save for “rainy days”.
- Young people have a different attitude – which I now agree with – who knows what will happen tomorrow? We need to travel when we can (meaning both young and healthy and before the next global catastrophe hits). Some believe the future is so bleak (it’s not) that it’s not worth saving for a future that will not happen. Thus, once you’ve got enough saved for a trip, go do it. You can always find another job when you get back (easy for young people, harder for older people due to age discrimination issues.)
- Related to that, many are not saving to buy a home, or have not bought a home. They have no mortgage or other large expenses. Nothing is permanent. They can move out of their apartment and travel for months.
- Health insurance for young adults is far less expensive. Little known fact: About 80% of ObamaCare premium price hikes occur after about age 42. Below that age, rates are the cheapest. By the time you are our age, a $13,500 deductible “Bronze” insurance plan costs $2,000 per month. (For 2023, the deductible is now $17,600 per year – the ACA is a joke.) And no one has money to travel since it’s all spent on ACA “affordable” health care.
- Travel insurance for older adults is far more expensive, costing 3x to 4x more than when young. Some countries prohibit renting a car to anyone age 70 or older. The discrimination based solely on age is intense.
- Some young people admit they get financial help from the Bank of Mom and Dad. Sometimes that is in the form of donated frequent flier miles, sometimes in the form of direct financial help, and sometimes just knowing that parents will bail them out if they run out of money. In fact, there’s a quiet meme that many, if not most, are, in fact, getting financial aid from their parents.
- Online posts (a lot of them) say far more young people than let on are subsidized by their parents. Many admit to it.
- Some youth have the freedom of time – they can travel when they want and stay as long as they want. This enables them to travel during the cheapest seasons, to use flexible flight options, and to leverage their airfare by staying at a destination for months. Or then traveling my less expensive rail between local countries. They may also stay at “youth hostels” for a fraction of the price of hotels. They may travel with small groups – rather than renting a car for one or two, they might form a group of 4 people to split costs.
- Those living in countries other than the U.S. may get 6-8 weeks of paid vacation per year – whereas most of us in the U.S. get 2 weeks off each year – with my experience being that half of that will be staying home with sick kids (I predated paternity leave) or visiting extended family, like parents.
- Some work in jobs that have a lot of work-related air travel – and get to collect frequent flier miles funded by their employer.
- We just went through a “Golden age” of air travel – flight options were plentiful and often with discount pricing. According to United’s CEO, air fare now runs about 25% more than it did in pre-pandemic 2019, when comparing the same months. (Smart) youth took advantage of that when times were good (I didn’t). Today there is talk of adding high carbon taxes to future air travel and taking steps to make travel difficult for all but the wealthy (several countries have announced policies to discourage low-cost travelers and encourage high spending travelers).
There is another reason perhaps: Families in recent years are much smaller than a few decades ago. In 1960, the fertility rate in the U.S. was 3.75. Today it is under 1.8 and has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 for almost all years since 1972.
What does this mean? It means families growing up in the 1960s and 1970s were larger – and the costs of travel were expensive for large groups. Today it is rare for families to have more than 2 children whereas 3, 4, and more, were common in the past.
Here’s the fertility rate chart:
This chart was a huge surprise to me. Born in the peak Baby Boom year, we grew up for decades hearing doom and gloom population forecasts – that were, in fact, out of date the day they were published. The Baby Boom was a short lived, self-correcting anomaly occurring after World War II. It occurred throughout the world. The global fertility rate is now about 2.3 and continuing to rapidly drop. The population forecast for the end of this century could be as low as 5 billion (or up to 11 billion – unlikely). By 2200 to 2300, the UN estimates the global population may drop to as low as 2.3 Billion people.
The main point is that today’s families are likely half the size of families of my generation. These families can afford to travel as families, and likely have sufficient resources to assist their youth and young adult family members, financially, as the younger ones travel about the world.
Some web pages are filled with suggestions for lower cost travel. I shake me head: people were not already doing these things?
- Don’t eat out much, buy food at restaurants (duh!)
- Use public transport, avoid renting a car (duh!)
- Research your trip well in advance (people don’t do this?)
- Travel in the off season (duh!)