How Americans Travelled in 2020 and 2021: Road Trip Trends


If there’s one thing that the pandemic brought, it was a return to simpler living. We’re less scheduled, have fewer places to be, and road tripping has made a big resurgence. Road travel provides its own set of luxuries that air travel previously overshadowed. There is more flexibility for families with young children, along with safety and cleanliness that aren’t found in public transportation hubs.

Let's take a deeper look at how American's travel plans changed since last year and the trends the travel industry is talking about.

2020 Travel Trends

Early 2020 started as a normal travel year.

"2020 even showed signs of being a peak travel year,” said Alex Miller, founder and CEO of UpgradedPoints.com, a leading travel data and review site.

While air travel decreased at the beginning of the pandemic, it didn’t stop Americans from road travel during the 2020 holiday season. While our research shows that Even 67% of people had different holiday plans than a typical non-pandemic year, data from SafeGraph estimates that approximately 22% of Americans were not home on Thanksgiving. Also, one in eight people were more than 30 miles from their homes.

“In 2020, road trips were one of the most popular ways to travel," said Miller. "Same with domestic travel; gone were the trips overseas or to far-off places. More people rented cars, and there was an increased focus on family travel, instead of group travel."

Our own survey supports this data. We found that 74% of survey respondents avoided traveling by plane over the holidays and took a road trip instead.

"While families did travel more, it wasn’t because it was easier with kids," continued Miller. "Since family 'bubbles' help reduce the spread of COVID, more people traveled as a family unit.”

Travel Trend: RVing

RVing is a great way to have a successful road trip. RVing offers large accommodations, a place to sleep, and the luxury of avoiding public restrooms, rest stops, and hotels. It can also be a mobile office for many Americans who continue to work from home.

According to Outdoorsy, an online RV rental and outdoor travel marketplace, RV bookings increased in 2020. The company saw a4,500% increase in bookings post-March 2020. Almost 90% of those who rented an RV on Outdoorsy were first-time renters. This shows that the RV lifestyle has reached a new demographic. The company anticipates the RV trend will continue and stick around well into 2021.

Bowlus, a luxury travel trailer company, also saw a rise in road travel throughout 2020.

“As a result of the pandemic, RV inquiries were up 4.5 times the average in 2020," said Geneva Long, CEO, Bowlus. "Our inquiries remained steady through the winter season as people prepped for holiday travel. This is significant because RVs sales are slower during cold weather. Customers usually opt for delivery in warmer seasons. RV purchases by new RV owners were up 15%. The number of new people to RVing is even higher than traditional peaks in the luxury RV segment.”

2021 Travel Predictions

Research shows that Americans are more comfortable with renting cars than traveling via planes, trains, and buses. About 39% of Americans said they felt either very or somewhat comfortable renting a car as of early February 2021. Additionally, 23% said they are comfortable riding on a plane, train, or bus.

Much of this comfort with vacations slowly increased in January 2021 to reach a record high since April 2020. Only 33% of people felt comfortable going on vacation from April 2020 to January 2021. The rate finally increased to 37% as of February 2021. This may be because the vaccine is now getting distributed to more people — meaning the end of the pandemic could be in sight.

“In 2021, we will see more people flying," said Miller. "There is a significant pent-up demand that will outweigh fare increases.”

While flying may make a resurgence in 2021, road travel is back and here to stay. As you plan your next road trip, stay current on your defensive driving skills to have safe driving adventures.

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