Millennials—defined as anyone born between 1981 and 1996—often have a modest travel budget and limited vacation time, and will only use both on adventurous or unique experiences. But it’s possible to see dreamy destinations without breaking the bank or compromising on the itinerary, if you know where to look. Here are 10 millennial travel experiences the under-35 crowd will love. From budget options and services to niche retreats and tours, see which one is right for you.
Editor’s Note: All prices were correct at time of publication and are subject to change. Some services and amenities listed below may be altered/halted due to the pandemic.
Contrary to popular belief, small-group tours are one of the best ways to see far-off destinations, and are affordable with seasoned millennial travel providers like Intrepid Travel. The key word here is “small”—avoid tour providers that will plop you on a giant bus with dozens of strangers. Large groups stick out in most destinations, and are unlikely to get off the beaten path for any local experiences or hidden gems.
Previously Gecko Adventures, Intrepid Travel’s 18 to 29s Adventures Tours serves travelers under 30 and packs plenty of value into trips like South America treks and Southeast Asia island adventures. Intrepid’s local guides provide indispensable insight and connect visitors with locals for unique experiences—and a safari in the Serengeti or road trip from New York to New Orleans is going to be a lot more enjoyable with people your age. Plus, as part of their “travel for good” ethos, Intrepid will plant 50 trees in Kenya for every 18 to 29s Adventures Tour booked as part of their Eden Reforestation Project. With nightly accommodations and day-to-day transportation included, you can spend less time thinking about your travel plans and more time dreaming about what adventure is waiting the next day.
Not sold on spending your money on a tour? Use ViaHero to get expert insight without being chained to a guided experience. For $40 per day, ViaHero connects travelers in destinations across North and South America, Central America, Europe, and Asia with seasoned locals to craft an itinerary full of hidden gems. The app offers an offline mode for when you don’t have Wi-Fi or data, and matches you up with a trip planner based on your specified interests.
Your personally assigned local “hero” will recommend an itinerary for your trip, and will tailor it upon request if you have suggestions or concerns. ViaHero says 70 percent of proceeds go directly to the locals they employ, and the company is hoping to expand soon to other destinations. The local help and low price point make it the perfect millennial travel option.
REI Adventures Weekend Getaways
Want a quick, all-inclusive outdoor getaway? Millennial travelers can join hikers, mountain bikers, and backpackers of all ages for REI Adventures Weekend Getaways. Dozens are available across North America, and start at around $799 including accommodation and activities.
REI also offers women-only packages designed to connect women through the outdoors, such as Women’s Backcountry Navigation and Women’s Introduction to Mountain Biking. Find one within driving distance to skip airfare costs. You’ll meet like-minded female travelers for day trips or long weekends, little to no vacation time required.
Camping is a great way to unplug, but as a millennial traveler, I can confidently say that many of us don’t know how (or don’t want) to purchase, pack, and set up all the campsite necessities. If you’re more of a glamping person, try Tentrr—the Airbnb of camping.
Land owners list campsites on Tentrr, which provides the equipment when you rent the space. Forget lugging grills, chairs, or water. Upgrade to a campsite with a toilet and giant tents, which are included in the nightly price of about $120—a steal if you’re splitting among friends. The service is currently offered in limited U.S. locations.
For the Love of Travel
Looking to befriend some fellow young professionals with a passion for jet setting? A millennial travel service called For the Love of Travel caters to those between the ages of 24 and 34, and provides both weekend and longer international trips for like-minded travelers. Groups are tailor-made to complement your interests based on your personal profile, and a roster of your group will be provided before departure.
For the Love of Travel tells me most participants are under 30. The service’s more affordable trips include simpler weekenders like a weekend on a Colorado ranch from $799, or niche options like Mexico City Foodie Trip for $1,099—but the itineraries extend far beyond North America. The company also recently launched Sojrn, a program that gives young professionals the “study abroad” experience of their dreams by sending them to live and work in a new country for a month alongside a like-minded Sojrn community.
If “shoestring budget” sums up your millennial travel needs and Southeast Asia tops your list, it’s still possible to get a guide-led tour. G Adventures offers travelers age 18 to 30-something an array of affordable no-frills tours, some for less than $1,000.
Destinations include Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and many more. Skip the hassle of researching and booking hotels and transportation—these tours include both (but not airfare) plus a local guide to lead you through it all. When you don’t speak the language or understand the day-to-day customs, the help of a local is invaluable.
EF Ultimate Break
With a focus on 18- to 28-year-olds, EF Ultimate Break is perfect for anyone looking to travel before settling into a day job. Trips can be paid in monthly installments, many starting well under $200 per month, and EF College Break prices out excursions separately so you’ll only pay for what you want to do.
Trips include experiences rather than cookie-cutter vacations, like a 14 day itinerary around Japan or a 57 day, 5 continent trip across the world’s major cities. Whether it’s the study abroad adventure you never had or a chance to abandon your day-to-day work schedule for a while, EF Ultimate Break is a versatile millennial travel option.
Sandeman’s New Europe
Backpacking or hostel-hopping around Europe means counting your nickels and dimes, so walking tours, while insightful and educational, usually won’t make the budget. In some cities, however, you can get a walking tour for free—Sandeman’s New Europe tour guides work for tips, and therefore draw millennial travel addicts happy to capitalize off of anything labeled “free.” Next time you’re in a European hub wondering where to begin, see if Sandeman’s guides can tell you about the local history and culture, and maybe recommend a restaurant or two. Locations include London, Brussels, Paris, Prague, Munich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Liverpool, and many more. Tip what you can.
Deal-hunting millennial travelers can find affordable vacation packages at Topdeck Travel, which offers sales of as much as 20 percent off. Think island-hopping around Bali from $644, or seeing the Sphinx up close on a 9 day Egypt Express itinerary from $964. Topdeck’s unique packages are available across the globe, and pack value if they’re not already surprisingly affordable. Once you purchase, there’s no need for planning: most meals, lodging, activities, and a guide are included. Unique add-ons like yoga classes and guided tours make it a customizable experience.
International Volunteer HQ
Want a volunteer opportunity worth traveling for, but not sure where to start? International Volunteer HQ can set you up with a vetted and affordable volunteer program in more than 50 destinations, from Brazil to Romania to Vietnam. Thousands of under-35 travelers have used International Volunteer HQ to start their voluntourism, with program fees starting at $180 per week. In exchange for your time, you’ll get transportation from the airport, a place to stay, meals, an orientation session, and pre-departure as well as on-site support services. Weekends are yours to travel as you’d like, and you’re likely to find yourself surrounded by like-minded volunteer travelers making lasting memories.
You Might Also Like:• 9 Affordable Travel Gift Ideas for Under $25
• 7 Terrible Travel Presents, and What to Give Instead
• 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Sleep While Traveling
• The Best Black Friday and Cyber Monday Travel Deals
• SmarterTravel Spotlight: The Sanctuary Hotel New York
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.