Americans Ready to Hit the Road as Summer Approaches

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Americans Ready to Hit the Road as Summer Approaches

05/22/2020
National Road Trip Day

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cabin Fever may be striking and Americans are ready to get moving.

Roughly two months after stay-at-home directives spread across the country, new research from Pilot Flying J found that many Americans are inspired to travel more this summer once they feel safe from COVID-19 exposure. Specifically, 65 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in the number of trips they plan to take.

The findings comes just in time for National Road Trip Day, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Pilot Flying J declared the first National Road Trip Day in 2019.

Falling on May 22, the travel center operator celebrated by reimagining the road trip with its Road Trip Reimagined campaign, which encouraged Americans to share different ways to enjoy the open road, favorite road trip memories and ultimate road trip destinations on social media. Pilot Flying J gave away a $500 gift card everyday from May 18 through May 22 to fuel future road trips.

"As the nation continues its road to recovery, we know many people are thinking about ways to safely enjoy summer vacations," said Whitney Haslam Johnson, chief experience officer for Pilot Flying J. "While current travel guidelines vary across the country, we hope this National Road Trip Day will inspire people to discover new places to visit once they are ready to get back on the road. Our travel centers will be open with everything they need for a successful road trip, from clean bathrooms to everyday items and a large selection of snacks, food and beverage offerings."

To find out how the pandemic has affected travelers' plans and mindsets, Pilot Flying J commissioned a survey of 2,000 U.S. adult drivers. After having spent weeks indoors, it comes as no surprise that many people are ready for the open air and the open road, the company said.

Slightly less than half (44 percent) of respondents reported using their time in quarantine to plan future trips, with 88 percent reported having at least one trip mapped out for summer.

Travelers might leave behind their quarantine companions, however, as 62 percent of respondents admitted they need a break from loved ones after being cooped up together.

Other key survey findings include:

  • More than half of people (53 percent) plan to take a road trip this summer, and many will be venturing outside, with 52 percent of respondents reporting that the pandemic has made them more likely to take an outdoors-focused trip.
  • One-third of respondents (35 percent) said they would prefer to drive due to worries about flying post-COVID-19. People reported they would be willing to add an average of six hours and 38 minutes to their trip by opting to drive.
  • More than half of Americans (54 percent) have taken advantage of the travel deals and discounts available due to COVID-19. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed took a discounted trip when the pandemic began (before travel restrictions), while 22 percent booked a cheaper trip for the future. 
  • Of those planning to travel this summer, 65 percent are thinking about taking a three-month hiatus from work and traveling instead.
  • During quarantine, more than half of people (56 percent) reconnected with friends or family members they had not communicated with in a while. Of those, two-thirds plan to visit one of these friends or family members this summer.

Given that two-thirds of respondents had to cancel or postpone vacations due to COVID-19, people may be looking to compensate for lost time. A summer trip may seem long overdue, especially for the more than half (54 percent) who reported that they have not left their home state in two or more years, the survey found.

According to Pilot Flying J, though the survey asked respondents to answer questions under the assumption that social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions were lifted, summer travel is going to look different in the wake of COVID-19.

The study revealed how people are adjusting their future travel plans and habits for a safe and successful trip, specifically:

  • People will travel with spare masks and gloves (50 percent); only stopping at pre-planned places where they know it's clean/safe (40 percent); and bringing different supplies (37 percent).
  • When taking their next road trip, people will feel most comfortable stopping at fast food restaurants (48 percent); travel centers/gas stations (41 percent); only places they know have increased their cleaning procedures (41 percent); and non-fast food restaurants (41 percent).

"Whether you're stopping for a food and bathroom break or taking a minute to stretch your legs, know that our Pilot and Flying J locations put health and safety first with thorough cleaning procedures, social distancing guidelines and friendly team members ready to help make your stop a great experience," Johnson added.

Pilot Flying J, along with the One9 Fuel Network and other brands, is part of Knoxville-based Pilot Co. The Pilot Flying J travel center network has locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces, more than 630 restaurants, 73,000 truck parking spaces, 5,200 deluxe showers, 6,200 diesel lanes and 35 Truck Care service centers.