BOSTON — With work and school taking place at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, some U.S. consumers are going to be ready to hit the road when stay-at-home directives ease.
GasBuddy's 2020 Summer Travel Study found that 31 percent of Americans plan to take a road trip this summer, down 44 percent from last year. However, that number has time to tick up. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they have not made a decision yet, while 18 percent definitely said they will not be taking any road trips.
"We are starting to see a rebound in fuel demand from our Pay with GasBuddy program since mid-April," said Sarah McCrary, CEO of GasBuddy. "There could be a surge in last-minute, shorter road trips in the second half of summer as people continue to access the situation."
According to the survey, 72 percent said that COVID-19 has directly impacted their summer travel plans by:
- Taking fewer road trips than previously planned (48 percent),
- Canceling trips that require flying (36 percent), and
- Making shorter trips (24 percent).
Broken out by region, the percentage of people planning to take summer road trips are similar, ranging between 28 percent to 34 percent, despite varying reopening schedules among states. The Southwest has the highest percentage of anticipated travelers (34 percent), largely due to Texas, while the Northeast saw the smallest percentage at 28 percent, GasBuddy found.
Low gas prices are partly driving consumers' plans. Currently, the national average gas price is more than $1 per gallon cheaper than 2019. Notably, 36 percent of GasBuddy's survey respondents said the low prices are playing a factor in their plans to hit the road. By comparison, only 6 percent said prices at the pump factored into road trip plans in 2019, and 5 percent in 2018.
As for destinations of these road trips, 60 percent plan to visit friends and family, followed by to the beach or lake (38 percent), and a national park (24 percent).
GasBuddy's Summer Travel Survey was completed by 1,820 GasBuddy members between April 30-May 4. Summer travel is defined as the period between May 22-Sept. 7 (Memorial Day through Labor Day).