On the basis of previous life cycle literature, this study aims to further deliberate over the concept of travel life cycle (TLC) by integrating Pearce’s travel career pattern (TCP) theory. Links between TLC and TCP are investigated by determining the differences between the age and income groups. Results of four-year annual tourist surveys among 21,972 participants corroborate that TLC cannot be equated to family life cycle and be simply categorised by age, in which income level plays an important role. Middle-aged tourists in the high-income range show the most purchasing power in tourism, whereas those with mid-level income are the most business-oriented. Coinciding with Pearce’s TCP work, core travel motives are common motivations over the different stages of TLC. In addition, the middle layer motives are valued by tourists at an early stage. Moreover, theoretical and managerial implications are discussed.