The Tinker family, like many Australians, are taking more holidays overseas.

The Tinker family, like many Australians, are taking more holidays overseas.

The Tinkers have just arrived home from two weeks in Hawaii. Last year, they sunned themselves in Bali. Before that, they ate pho and trekked across Vietnam.

But Greg and Barbara Tinker and their children Erin and Josh haven't always taken exotic overseas holidays. Not so long ago they went to places like Port Macquarie or the Gold Coast.

"We're now in a better financial position that allows us to be able to go overseas," says Greg Tinker, who lives in Cronulla. "Often there is very little difference in price between an Australian holiday and an overseas trip."

The shift in the Tinkers' holiday habits is emblematic of a broader trend. The long, lazy summer break spent beachside in a tent, a caravan or a shack is less common than it used to be. The way we holiday is being transformed by economic and demographic change.

Associate Professor  Richard White, a cultural historian who has written a history of tourism in Australia, believes workforce trends, especially the participation of women in the jobs market, is behind a move to "shorter and sharper" vacations.

"That long holiday was really sustained on the backs of the work of women in the home. As they often said, they simply exchanged one kitchen for another one," White says.

Co-ordinating two job schedules has made it much more difficult for dual-worker households to fit in a long break. Holiday patterns have shifted to accommodate time-poor working couples. Vacationers now spend much more on food and accommodation – necessities once provided by stay-at-home mothers, even when they were on holidays.

"Once women were in the work force they started making the argument that they ought to have a holiday too, and because families are earning more money with two incomes they can also afford a more expensive holiday," White says.

"You just want to pay your money and get everything done for you. The thing about all holidays is that they are an escape from where you are at that moment and for that reason the idea of doing nothing is a great attraction for people who have a sense of a hectic life."

Other new workplace norms, such as project-oriented working patterns, have also helped alter holiday behaviour. A growing proportion of workers experience periods of intense work, followed by down times that might involve time off. A significant proportion of workers such as contractors, casuals and self-employed workers now have "non-standard" employment conditions and may be   unable, or unwilling, to take extended breaks.

The National Visitor Survey conducted by Tourism Research Australia shows the average domestic trip remained unchanged at around 4.25 nights from 2004 until 2009. But during the past five years the average has drifted down to 3.97 nights a trip.

"What that says to me is that instead of taking a week off, or two weeks off, so many people are taking a long weekend,"  says Margy Osmond, the chief executive of the Tourism & Transport Forum.

"That change has definitely been generated by people's work environments. The long-term trend is more about quality than quantity."

But the influence of work on our holidays goes deeper - the lines that once separated work and leisure are becoming increasingly blurred. Research published last year by travel firm Expedia showed those aged under 30 - the so called "Millenials" – were much more likely to blend work trips with personal leisure when travelling alone than those aged over 45.

"Millennials have grown up in a world of working from remote locations and on the move so when it comes to business travel they are equally comfortable with blurred boundaries," Expedia's report says.

Tim Harcourt, a University of NSW academic and author of a book called The Airport Economist says the frequency at which Australians now travel for business has influenced our holiday-making.

"Generation X and generation Y have been backpackers as teenagers and now they have jobs where they travel around Asia and Latin America and there is always a spare day or two for tourism on those trips," Harcourt says. "That market of semi-business tourism is going to grow."

Other economic changes – especially decades of robust wealth gains, the strong Australian dollar and cheaper air travel – have underpinned a surge in the number of Australians taking overseas trips. 

During the past decade the number of Australians holidaying abroad surged by 145 per cent to 5.4 million, Tourism Research Australia's annual survey of travel by Australians shows. Overseas holiday travel jumped 8 per cent last financial year. Osmond says the growth in outbound travel is set to continue.

"At the moment the market place is about 70 per cent domestic and 30 per cent international but I think you'll see that balance change to 60 per cent and 40 per cent," she says.

No longer is the overseas holiday a "once in a lifetime" opportunity; we are getting our passports stamped younger and having shorter, more frequent trips abroad.

"Certainly in the '60s and '70s the idea of a major holiday in Europe was something you would do once, sort of like the Grand Tour of the 18th century," says White. "The concept has lingered on in the gap year, but now most young people have already been to Europe or overseas with their family."

Escape Travel general manager Mark Hodgson said customer booking data shows the No. 1 holiday destination for families with young children is Bali. Fiji, Phuket, Hawaii and Los Angeles rounded out the top five. 

"The resort-style nature of these holiday destinations contribute to their appeal where family-friendly resorts, kids' clubs and activities are prevalent, the flying time is manageable with children in tow and the destinations are inexpensive when on the ground, thanks to a strong Aussie dollar," Hodgson says.

According to Escape's booking data, the average length of holidays during the past three years has remained 14 days with customers planning their trips on average 2½ months in advance.

Hodgson expects the frequency of overseas trips to keep rising. He also predicts a shift towards combination holidays, where tourists go to more than one destination during the same trip.

New technologies have also dramatically reshaped the way we holiday. The Expedia report found half of under-30s had used their smartphone to plan a trip and more than a third had used a smartphone to book a trip. But mobile technology is not only changing the way holidays are planned and booked - we also expect to be able to use our electronic devices wherever we go.

"Wi-Fi is more important than extra legroom or upgrades," the Expedia report said.

So could these economic and demographic trends kill Australia's summer holiday traditions?

For many, a month at a sleepy coastal village with poor mobile signal and no Wi-Fi is not that attractive. Most beach-side destinations also lack things that modern consumers take for granted, like shopping centres and big entertainment venues.

Tinker, the Cronulla father who has switched from local holidays to overseas trips, says it would be difficult to convince his children – now young adults – to go on a family holiday if didn't involve a foreign destination.

"I can't imagine taking Erin and Josh for a six-week-long beach holiday, not now, although when they were younger we probably could have sold it," he says. "If you want to entice 20-plus-year-olds to come on a family holiday, you have more success with an overseas holiday."

White says the long summer beach holiday is unlikely to disappear altogether because there is still a strong sense of nostalgia for them. But there are signs that style of holiday will eventually become a niche travel product rather than a national, summertime norm.

"Even the idea of the beach holiday is now a niche," says White. "Places are almost advertised as giving you the beach holiday of your past."