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Mature 'Flashpackers' Are The New Backpackers

Mark Gale

Mark Gale



Get your bags packed and start travelling!

The generation that invented backpacking has graduated to flashpacking, and is travelling the world in style and by no means on a shoestring…

Travel is a big trend for those who have retired from the 9-to-5. In fact, according to the McCarthy & Stone Colour Report, the top thee ambitions of retirees are to go on a world cruise, embark on a round-the-world trip or just visit a new city or country.

Though holidaying has always been big with retirees, the way they’re holidaying has now changed. When the last generation reached retirement age, they were content with package holidays and tour guided sojourns. This generation however are far more adventurous: yes, cruises may still be top of the ambitions list, but more and more ‘grey gappers’ are sabbaticals or years out later in life and spending months at a time travelling the globe.

It’s recently been reported that some can’t even wait to retire, with 31% of those approaching state pension age considering a six-month sabbatical before finally finishing work.

Ticking off the bucket list

Couple taking a break from their backpacking to look at their map

One defining factor in the retiree travel trend is the desire for new experiences. Popularised by the 2007 film of the same name, the bucket list (a list of things to do before you ‘kick the bucket’) has become significant inspiration for later generation travellers.

Travelling to an exotic destination is at the top of many people’s bucket lists, while experiencing the Northern Lights is in the sights of 50% of people aged over 50. Flying first class, visiting at least five continents, living abroad and learning a new language are also common bucket list entries.

The passion for travel was further enflamed by The Beatles tour of India in 1968, which encouraged more and more to explore distant lands and experience the culture clash and their own personal epiphanies.

So it’s no surprise that the first generation of globetrotting backpackers are returning to their roots and rediscovering a love of exotic travel. After all, while you’re on the road, you might as well keep travelling and tick off as much of your bucket list as possible, right?


Seeing the world in style

Couple map-reading whilst discovering a new city during their retirement

They may be away from their home comforts but don’t be fooled into thinking that the ‘grey gappers’ are prepared to give up their little luxuries whilst on the road. With over 80% of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the over-50s, many retirees have the means to spend big on tourism. Over three-quarters of over-50s ticking off things off their travel bucket list are willing to spend £1,000 or more on their holiday, while 20% would fork out £5,000 plus.

Willing to splash out on flashpacking, mature tourists are now more tech savvy and they know what they want – 60% research holidays online and many record their trips by posting photos on social media too.


The backpacking bug closer to home

Couple exploring the world together during their retirement

The trend of flashpacking abroad has also influenced UK-based holidays, especially when it comes to music festivals.
Like exotic travel, UK music festivals have experienced a huge boom in the last decade or so. In 2004, there were 80 big festivals around the UK; now there are 250 or so a year – and that number is growing. Last year alone, music festivals brought in £1 billion for the UK economy.
The increasing cost of festivals and the increasing age of headline acts (think of The Rolling Stones, Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton at Glastonbury) has contributed to the rising age of festival-goers. And thanks to glamping packages as well, mature music fans are able to bypass the mud and mayhem for the most part too.


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