Seasonal Travel Trends Among College Students

college kids hanging out in dorm roomThink it’s just retirees and the jet-setting crowd that is bolstering this year’s staggering travel figures? Think again. College students are traveling en masse, and the trends related to the wanderings of the 18-25 crowd are definitely unique. Let’s look at the way college-aged students travel today, including how seasonality can affect their decision to roam.

Where Are They Traveling?

It would be pretty general to state that all or even the majority of college students are traveling to a specific handful of destinations, but we can state that approximately 48% of millennials plan to travel during the winter holiday season. 87% of them aim to spend the majority of their time visiting relatives.

Of those who do not plan to primarily spend time with relatives, vacations to discover new cultures or to simply relax tops the charts (65%), while engaging in sports activities (26%) comes in second.

As far as the specific destination, the Caribbean is the most popular international travel spot. However, eco-tourism opportunities are quickly gaining ground. The ability to visit The Galapagos Islands, hike in the Andes, or trek through Nepal is quickly gaining ground among college-aged individuals as well.

Brands can capitalize on a millennial preference for meaningful travel by creating opportunities to collaborate and learn from native individuals in foreign lands. This may involve volunteerism, alternative spring breaks, and more personalized itineraries in other countries.

How Far Are They Traveling?

A big chunk of college students travels home during the holidays. 70% of these students go to school within 100 miles of home, which mean many 18-25 year-olds simply drive home to see family. Additionally, college costs have steadily increased over the years. Housing expenses continue to rise. Family units have become more accustomed to multiple generations under one roof. This has all lead to an increase in the number of students who attend school close to home for economic reasons. Consequently, it has reduced the number of students flying home for the holidays, and it’s limited the overall distance that many have to travel.

Where Are They Staying?

A large percentage of college students stay with relatives while traveling during the holidays. Others choose the traditional route of booking a hotel room and splitting the cost with other travelers. Intrepid vacationers opt for alternative (read: less expensive) options, like finding free accommodations on sites like,, or one of the other, numerous low-cost hospitality sites. Some even opt to camp out to save money, though no one would typically recommend this in the dead of winter in a northern state.

How Are They Getting There?

Planes? Trains? Automobiles? Yes, yes, and yes. Students in the 18-25 bracket are generally tech-savvy, and most can figure out how to find the least expensive method of travel. This may mean hopping on a train to get home or to their preferred destination, or waiting for the perfect day to buy a cheap airline ticket. Even if it costs $100, a rideshare program could get a student who does not own a car home to mom and dad during the holidays.

Students are resourceful when it comes to traveling in an economical fashion. Brands must understand traditional travel philosophies may not always apply to this group. By thinking through each of the questions posed above and strategizing based on behavioral trends and recorded statistics, brands can improve success rates across their digital campaigns for this demographic.

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