The Rise Of Travel Anxiety And How It’s Affecting American Travelers

As the summer travel season kicks off, there’s a new trend among younger American travelers: high levels of travel-induced anxiety, leading to significant trip cancellations. Babbel’s latest survey of 1,000 travelers from the United States reveals the challenges and behaviors when it comes to holiday planning. 

The survey provides a comprehensive look at how Americans, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, navigate their vacations, highlighting the impact of social media, the importance of cultural immersion, and the consequences of unpreparedness. Here’s what we found out.

Cancellation Culture

A staggering 69% of Gen Z travelers have canceled or changed their travel plans due to anxiety and a lack of preparedness. A significant portion of Americans experience anxiety related to various aspects of trip preparation. The most common sources of anxiety are not knowing the language of the destination (32%), not saving enough money for the trip (30%), and not being in the desired physical shape (24%). 

Additionally, 20% of travelers are anxious about failing to adequately research and plan their itinerary or lacking information about safety measures at the destination. Poor planning by travel partners, difficulties in securing accommodation, and not booking necessary activities in advance also contributed to travel-related anxiety for many.

Language Barriers

Language proficiency plays a crucial role in enhancing travel experiences, with nearly one in four (23%) Americans reporting that knowing the local language led to discovering authentic experiences during their trips. However, 57% of Americans choose to not learn the local language before traveling, leaving 43% who do make the effort. 

Younger travelers are the most proactive, with 80% of Gen Z and 75% of Millennials learning the language before a trip, compared to just 21% of those aged 65 and over. Men are slightly more likely to learn the language than women (45% of men vs. 42% of women). When they start learning varies, with younger people (under 45) preferring to start learning between one week and one month beforehand, compared to older travelers who start six months or more from their trip.

The Social Media Effect

About 30% of Gen Z feel compelled to create perfect holiday experiences for their online profiles, which adds to their stress and influences their decision to cancel trips. Millennials and Gen Z are heavily influenced by social media when traveling, with 40% of Gen Z and 75% of Millennials using influencers and social media to plan trips, compared to just 12% of Gen X and 8% of Boomers. 

About 43% of 18- to 24-year-olds choose destinations based on movies, TV shows, and podcasts, compared to an overall average of 24%. This generation also leads in travel for ancestral connections, with 33% traveling to explore their heritage. Social media remains a significant part of the travel experience, with 26% of Millennials viewing posting as a crucial part of their vacation.

Not Always a Happy Holiday

Travel can strain relationships, with 20% of Americans ending romantic or family ties due to travel disagreements. Gen Z is particularly prone to these conflicts, with 72% reporting relationship breakdowns because of holiday tensions. The top cause of these arguments is getting lost, cited by 53% of young travelers. The lack of preparation not only fuels travel anxiety but also leads to numerous practical issues. 

Among Gen Z travelers, nearly half have gotten lost, one-quarter have missed a flight, and 23% have lost reservations. Alarmingly, 15% have faced serious consequences such as getting arrested or deported. These issues underscore the importance of thorough travel planning to avoid both personal and logistical problems during vacations.

Popular Destinations and Youthful Travel Habits

In the next 12 months, Americans plan to explore various destinations, with top choices being the United States (56%), Canada (15%), and the United Kingdom (13%). Gen Z emerges as the most active travel group, with 95% planning one or more holidays this year. Their preferred destinations include the United States, Mexico, Italy, France, Japan, and Canada. Young Americans, particularly Gen Z, are known for their impulsive travel habits, often packing early but booking their trips at the last minute. Despite packing a week in advance, 40% of Gen Z finalize their travel plans within the same week. 

Work and Play Balance

Balancing work and relaxation is crucial for many travelers: 48% of Americans prefer to be unreachable by work during their holidays. That’s not the case for Millennials though, with over 40% saying they feel the pressure to stay on top of work while on vacation.

Enhancing the Holiday Experience

As travel habits evolve, younger generations face unique challenges and anxieties. Proper preparation, cultural engagement, and supportive resources can help alleviate travel stress and enhance the holiday experience for Gen Z and Millennials. Babbel’s language learning tools offer a helpful solution for reducing travel anxiety and ensuring more enjoyable, stress-free trips.