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Top ways people prefer to communicate while traveling

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Image of happy young man walking on the street and looking aside while talking by his phone.
(Shift Drive via Shutterstock)

Forget going off the grid — half of millennials stay more connected with friends and family while traveling than when they’re home.

That’s according to a recent survey of 3,000 U.S. adults, divided evenly among Generation Z (18–25), millennials (26–41), Generation X (42–57) and baby boomers (58–76).

Compared to 50% of millennials, only 37% of Gen X respondents said they’re more connected with loved ones during their travels than in their day-to-day lives.

However, when the unexpected occurs on the road, nearly half (48%) of Gen Zers call an immediate family member.

People’s top three preferred methods of communication while traveling are text messaging (47%), calling (39%), and video calls (32%). While Gen Z was found to favor texting (54%), millennials opted for chat apps such as WhatsApp and Viber (41%), and Gen X preferred phone calls (41%).

Regardless of age, 60% would be completely lost if their phone were lost or stolen when traveling.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of AT&T, the survey also found more than a third (36%) of those who use social media don’t feel like they’ve had a real vacation unless they’ve posted about it.

Some are ramping up their travels, with 37% traveling more now than they were before the pandemic. Of those who are taking more trips, 44% revealed they have more free time and 44% shared the lifting of pandemic-related travel restrictions as a contributing factor that helped drive their decision to travel more.

In fact, people’s summer travel must-haves included a smartphone or tablet (44%), more so than sanitizer (37%), face masks (36%) and at-home COVID tests (27%).

A third of people made plans to travel across North America (32%) this summer, and almost a quarter (24%) planned a trip to Europe. Other destinations included the Caribbean or Bahamas (18%) and Central America (16%).  

“People want an international plan that not only connects them back home, but is simple to use and doesn’t break the bank,” said Jeni Bell, senior vice president of wireless product marketing at AT&T. “With 37% of people traveling now more than they were before the pandemic, being able to upload photos on social or make a video call back home is more important than ever.”  

The most popular apps people depend on when traveling included map apps (37%), Google Translate (28%), airline apps (27%), and booking apps (26%). Gen Z was more likely than Gen X to summon Google Translate when on the road (37% vs. 29%). As for map apps, 42% of Gen Z and Gen X respondents preferred these, with only 28% of boomers relying on them to chart their course.    

For 35%, too many pandemic-related regulations would be deal-breakers for traveling abroad, while 29% cited a lack of options for flights or hotels. More than a quarter (25%) also said they wouldn’t consider international travel without access to mobile connectivity. More than half (70%) agreed that unlimited talk, text and high-speed data were important when traveling internationally. Forty percent prefer to have a data plan and about a third (32%) rely on free Wi-Fi.


  • Too many pandemic-related regulations - 35%
  • Not enough options for flights and/or hotels - 29%
  • Lack of public transportation at the destination - 26%
  • Unpredictable weather at the destination - 26%
  • Not having access to mobile connectivity - 25%
  • Multiple layovers - 25%
  • Having to obtain a visa - 24%

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