This study investigates how age, period, and birth cohorts are related to altering travel distances. We analyze a repeated cross-sectional survey of German pleasure travels for the period 1971–2018 using a holistic age–period–cohort (APC) analysis framework. Changes in travel distances are attributed to the life cycle (age effect), macro-level developments (period effect), and generational membership (cohort effect). We introduce ridgeline matrices and partial APC plots as innovative visualization techniques facilitating the intuitive interpretation of complex temporal structures. Generalized additive models are used to circumvent the identification problem by fitting a bivariate tensor product spline between age and period. The results indicate that participation in short-haul trips is mainly associated with age, while participation in long-distance travel predominantly changed over the period. Generational membership shows less association with destination choice concerning travel distance. The presented APC approach is promising to address further questions of interest in tourism research.