2020 Travel Trends: 81% of US residents planning a vacation say they will travel by car

Reviews.com Staff
Reviews.com Staff

We surveyed 906 US residents on their plans regarding travel for summer 2020 and found several emerging trends, specifically taking into account how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered their plans:

  • Of the people we surveyed, over 81% of those who plan on some form of leisure travel this summer plan on doing so by car.
  • Under 18% of survey respondents say they still plan on air travel for their summer vacation.
  • Cruise, bus, and train travel are all below 5% expected usage by travelers currently planning a trip this summer.
  • Interest in travel, led by sharp increases in demand for car travel, continues to tick upward following a steep drop off in spring 2020, but a return to previous interest in airlines, cruises, and other forms of mass transportation will be unlikely in the foreseeable future.

A lot has changed about driving over the past three months. Things like gas prices dropping, most major car insurance companies offering discounts and rebates or people cancelling their car insurance entirely, social distancing encouraging more single occupancy vehicle usage have all shifted how we commute by car. There is no more notable example of this than the increase in the way travelers now plan on using their cars for summer vacations.

With that in mind, one of the industries hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the travel industry, both domestic and international. And while much of the industry remains stalled over the last three months, our most recent analysis has found that one part of the industry is starting to spike as many people look to adventure out of their homes for the first time in months: road trips and car travel.

We estimate that for the foreseeable future, road trips and car travel will see the largest growth of any travel sector as more people look to avoid large crowds seen in airports, bus terminals, train stations, and cruises. While domestic air travel, cruises, and international travel remain near record lows, interest in road trips and car travel is spiking as people start looking for alternative vacation plans this summer.

Despite being down approximately 15% year-over-year in June 2020, US consumer interest in road trips is seeing a faster return to normalcy than all other forms of travel by several multiples. For comparison, air travel is still down over 80% year-over-year (as of publishing), a number as high as 96% at one point during the start of the pandemic.

While many vacation options are off the table for US travelers this summer, road trips and driving to isolated vacation rentals has seen a noticeable spike the past thirty days. Our analysis has found that this trend will continue to spike into the 2020 summer as consumers look to take some form of a vacation.

In a recent survey conducted in Massachusetts, 74% of respondents said they are wary of traveling by air due to the threat of coronavirus, and this seems to align nationally as many people are proactively avoiding flying until the pandemic is under control.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a recent interview that he doesn’t expect travel to ever look the same as it did leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are not getting on airplanes, they’re not crossing borders, they’re not meaningfully traveling to cities, they’re not traveling for business. They’re getting in cars. They’re traveling to communities that are 200 miles away or less. These are usually very small communities. They’re staying in homes and they’re staying longer,” The CEO said. “People will, one day, get back on planes, but one of the things that I do think is a fairly permanent shift is a redistribution of where travelers go.”

Survey demographics:

  • 906 respondents, US residents.
  • 51.9% female respondents, 48.1% male respondents
  • 49.5% were between the ages of 18-44, 50.5% were 45+

About the Authors

The Reviews.com staff is dedicated to providing you with all the deep-dive details. Our writers, researchers, and editors came together from Charlotte, Seattle, San Juan, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, and Chicago to put this review together.