Student Travel Trends for 2016

The Family Travel Forum Student Travel Trends Report finds teens prefer cultural explorations and heritage travel while “vacations” diminish in popularity.

(New York, December 12, 2016) – Family Travel Forum, the global family vacation planning resource, has released findings on student travel trends from the 10th annual FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship. The 2016 merit scholarship received applications from nearly 2,000 teens in American, Canadian, American international schools, and U.S. homeschool programs. Student bloggers chronicled every type of adventure in destinations around the world and tagged their blogs with travel motivations and activities.

* For only the second time in the past 10 years, more than half of the teen applicants reported on travel within the United States, a number that has increased from 49% to 53% since last year’s report.
* 70% of teens report domestic travels with their parents (as opposed to friends or school groups). FTF believes that the increase in domestic family trips is due to national pride in an Olympic and election year, as well as anxiety about international affairs.
* Heritage trips, defined as teens travelling to explore their roots, jumped to 13% of all travel tales, up from 9% in 2015. “Despite their expense, the continued growth in heritage trips demonstrates how valuable they are among immigrant families,” notes Senior Editor, Fran Falkin. Top destinations included China, India, Mexico and several African nations, in line with the latest U.S. immigration statistics.

* Although 66% of teens reported traveling with family, 35% rejected the label “vacation” and chose another motivator (41%–Cultural Exploration, 13%–Heritage, Service–12% and Other-2%) as the primary reason for their trip. FTF analysts believe this reflects a greater emphasis in sharing experiences and learning while traveling, and teens’ awareness that travel provides value towards their future studies and life.
* The most popular blog topics were cultural explorations, vacations, and heritage trips to meet grandparents, in that order.
* Many blogs focused on the national parks, to be expected in this centenary year, with teens expressing an appreciation for the natural world, gratitude for a privileged lifestyle, and for the sacrifices made by parents to support it.
* Besides the increase in trips within the United States, travel increased slightly to Central America and the Middle East at the expense of Europe and the Caribbean. Travel to Africa, Asia, the Pacific and South America remained constant.

Family Travel Forum’s annual teen scholarship is hosted on, the trusted resource for parents and grandparents planning fun family vacations. For the complete report, download a PDF version. To read more of the winning work, please visit Teen Travel Writing Scholarship Winners 2016.

About FTF
Family Travel Forum has been the trusted vacation planning resource for global travel with kids and grandkids since 1996. FTF’s expert and community content has been seen on Disney’s and other sites, in “America’s Most Popular Family Vacations,” “The Complete Idiots Guide to the Best Family Destinations,” “Amazing Places to Take Your Kids in North America” and by millions of traveling families. In addition to co-hosting the annual TMS Family Travel Summit and conferences, FTF ventures include the “The Family Vacationist” blog and e-alert; and Family Travel Consulting to the trade in partnership with Taking the Kids.

About FTF’s Travel Industry Partners
FTF is grateful to the many industry sponsors who made the 2016 Scholarship possible: Allianz Global Assistance, a leading specialty insurance and assistance company best known for its travel insurance, insures 16 million customers in the United States. In addition to FTF’s Teen Travel Writing Scholarship, they support the education of young travelers through their own ScholarTrips essay contest. Travel Media Showcase brings together leading print and broadcast travel media with tourism representatives from around the world to showcase new regions for media to cover, and connect destinations with qualified leads. Both TMS and TMS Family Travel are divisions of J. Vero & Associates. The Society of American Travel Writers, a professional association established in 1955, includes journalists, editors, photographers, filmmakers, bloggers, and communications professionals who specialize in the travel industry.  We also thank CityPASS and Lonely Planet for their in-kind contributions.

Contact: Fran Falkin
E-mail: FTFstaff

Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.