53% Planning to Take a Summer Road Trip

Pandemic fears inspire consumers to hit the road this vacation season
Monument Valley roadtrip

As consumers consider their summer vacation plans, many are looking to road trips to satisfy their wanderlust while minimizing their potential exposure to the coronavirus. The appeal of road trips is strong this year, according to a survey conducted by travel center operator Pilot Flying J. More than half of respondents — 53% — said they plan to take a road trip this summer and for some, their reasons are rooted in protecting themselves amid the pandemic.

  • 52% of survey respondents said they are more likely to take an outdoors-focused trip because of the pandemic. Health experts have suggested in recent weeks that COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is less easily transmitted in outdoor settings.
  • 35% said they would prefer driving over flying because of fears that they could be exposed to the coronavirus on an airplane.

Consumers were even open to the idea of spending more time to get to their destination, which road trips would require. In fact, survey respondents said they would be willing to add, on average, six hours and 38 minutes more to their trip in order to drive.

Delayed travel plans inspire future getaways

Some consumers may also be making summer travel plans later than usual. A ValuePenguin survey from April found that 48% of Americans had canceled summer travel plans because of the coronavirus and many had lost money on non-refundable trips.

Now, with states reopening their economies and people returning to work, some consumers appear to be revisiting their plans to get away.

According to the Pilot Flying J survey, 65% of respondents said they plan to take more trips than usual once they feel they will be relatively safe from being exposed to COVID-19. Also, 44% said they had used some of their quarantine time to plan future trips and 88% said they had already planned one summer trip.

Travel deals, going solo or visiting family spur desires

More than half — 54% — have taken advantage of travel deals available because of the pandemic. Among those planning to travel, 65% are even thinking about taking three months off from work to get away.

Interestingly, the time spent quarantined at home with family might have left some craving a solo trip, as 62% of respondents said they need a break from loved ones. Others may be planning to visit those they haven’t seen in a while. More than half of respondents — 56% — said they reconnected with friends and family members they had not spoken with in a while during quarantine, and of those respondents, 64% said they planned to visit those connections this summer.

The post-COVID-19 road trip experience

The survey also looked at how COVID-19 may change the road trip experience:

  • 50% said they will travel with extra masks and gloves
  • 40% said they would only stop at places they knew were clean
  • 37% said they would bring different supplies

Respondents also were particular about where they would eat and rest:

  • 48% said they would prefer stopping at fast-food restaurants
  • 41% said they would feel most comfortable at travel centers and gas stations
  • 41% said they would prefer places that have increased their cleaning procedures
  • 41% said they would feel most comfortable at non-fast food restaurants

Methodology: Pilot Flying J commissioned OnePoll to survey 2,000 adult drivers between April 27-30.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.