Can you build the perfect unforgettable vacation? These travelers think so…

The 18-34s have spoken. 2000 of them to be exact. The results are in, and the consensus for what makes the most memorable vacation looks like this…

Who goes with you?

When it comes to the number of travelers, the general consensus is me + 4. Makes sense, right? You’re surrounded by your nearest and dearest, but perfectly placed to make new friends on the road (which is basically our MO.)

What will you do?

In a word: adventure. In a phrase: stepping out of your comfort zone. In examples: the survey respondents claimed that pushing their boundaries was central to an unforgettable adventure. On average, they’d like to step out of their comfort zone 4 times during their trip. This includes meeting approximately 3 new friends, and trying up to 3 new dishes.

And when it comes to unforgettable activities, how does an active Scandinavian adventure sound – with bobsledding, polar plunging and Swedish bear spotting all high up on the agenda?

A ‘right amount’ of photos?

It’s a position we’ve all found ourselves in. Wanting to be present in the moment, but also wanting to take enough pictures and videos to look back on when the trip is all over. How many pics is too many? And what just isn’t enough?

According to participants, their 4 ‘perfect moments’ would be best captured with 45 photos and 15 videos. Does that sound like a lot to you? Or barely any? Either way, your peers have spoken.

“The reason we travel is, at its core, to create memories – whether it’s from that perfect moment or trying something new outside of your comfort zone.

“Exploring a new destination and culture is opening yourself up to the unknown with the potential to create memories that can last a lifetime when you make every moment count.”

Rachel Storey, Brand Director at Contiki

A hearty handshake, you can’t beat it

In a digital world where you can order pizza, earn a living, study for a college degree and even become famous without so much as brushing shoulders with another human being, you could argue that the need for a true and authentic human connection is greater than ever – especially among 18 to 34-year-olds.

A huge amount (45%) of the travelers surveyed agreed that spending real time with real people was a key component of their unforgettable trip. After all, as funny as a virtual background can be, it doesn’t beat real laughter in a real live group setting. (Nothing does.)

If there’s one thing worth doing in person, it’s arancini making in a traditional restaurant on the coast of Sicily – with a group of 18-35s to help you along the way.

Choosing where to go

Traveling is like reading a great book: the more places you visit, the more places you realize you still need to visit. With a list so long that you keep tripping over it, how can you ever hope to prioritize?

Well, according to our survey, 43% of travelers choose their destination based on the experiences they could have during their visit, while 36% have a ‘vacation bucket list’ full of would-be moments for them to cross off.

And when it comes to bucket list moments, our ‘European Magic’ trip is chock full of ’em. Think Paris at twilight, an Amsterdam canal cruise, the dizzying heights of the Austrian alps and much more in 10 star-studded days.

The proof is in the planning… or is it?

The best moments in life are the unplanned ones, everyone knows that. But ask yourself this: where would you be if you never planned anything? We think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, and the survey responses appear to agree.

58% of travelers say they’ve tried to plan the ‘perfect moment’ on their vacation, while 53% prefer to let their perfection occur naturally rather than trying to engineer it. If this sounds like a split of opinion, here’s one the majority agreed on: 81% said it’s the imperfect or unexpected moments that make a vacation more memorable. So keep planning, and keep embracing the unexpected.

Sometimes good, sometimes bad, always social

So we know what travelers want from their mesmerizingly memorable trip, but what about documenting it? Well, realists, this is your lucky day. Authenticity is in, with 47% preferring to showcase unfiltered content, compared to 28% who said they’d want their images to be perfectly staged.

Quitting, all in a day’s work

For those wondering how important vacation time is in 2023, the answer is ‘very’. 36% of those surveyed said they consider vacations to be more important than ever, while 34% said that an increase in work pressures have left them more eager to make every moment count during their travels.

Perhaps the most revealing stat of all, though, is that almost half (47%) of respondents said they’d be prepared to quit their job if they weren’t given enough vacation time to accommodate their travel dreams.

“When you reflect on trips from the past, it’s often the moments you couldn’t have imagined that leave the deepest impact.

“Whether it’s a moving encounter with a local, making a new friend, ordering an unusual item in a restaurant, or taking a leap of faith on a new activity – the ultimate souvenir is the memories you make along the way.”

Rachel Storey, Brand Director at Contiki

Top 20 ‘perfect moments’ to experience on holiday, as chosen by our respondents

Watching a sunrise or sunset with friends/family

A one-off joke (or funny event) that becomes a running joke

Something funny that becomes a story to tell for years to come

Leaving your comfort zone

Drinks or food with a view

Making a connection with a local person/group of people

Trying a local delicacy which is considered unusual at home

Taking a detour or getting lost, only to find an amazing view

Seeing a famous landmark

Swimming in the sea

Making a new friend

Doing something adrenaline-spiking, such as bungee jumping or parachuting

Ticking something off your bucket list

Getting the full tour of a beautiful city

Seeing animals in their natural habitat

Finding the ideal souvenirs/gifts

Getting the tour of a local town/village

Being proposed to/proposing to someone/witnessing a proposal

A holiday romance or a kiss

Climbing a mountain

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