Road Trips Rule: Survey Indicates Road Trips Will Dominate Travel

Excited family on a road trip in car, The Best and Worst Things to Buy in August 2017, rear passenger POV
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Last year saw the return of the great American road trip experience. Indeed, according to a new GOBankingRates survey, more than half of people who have vacationed in the past year traveled by car. Road trips, which have exploded in popularity because of the pandemic, seem set to continue to dominate travel as the survey revealed that for those who haven’t vacationed, cars are also the most popular choice for transportation for a future vacation.

The survey finds that 55.6% of Americans who went on vacation last year chose to do so by car, and 43.8% of people surveyed are planning on driving for their first post-COVID vacation. While this is great for the car industry– and the business microcosm thriving around it, such as gas stations and car rental agencies– it’s not great news for the airline industry.

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This is reflected in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) updated projection of airline industry losses of $47.7 billion in 2021, up from the $38 billion it had projected in November 2020.

“This crisis is longer and deeper than anyone could have expected. Losses will be reduced from 2020, but the pain of the crisis increases. Government imposed travel restrictions, however, continue to dampen the strong underlying demand for international travel. Despite an estimated 2.4 billion people travelling by air in 2021, airlines will burn through a further $81 billion of cash,” Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said in a statement.

Find Out: Flying vs. Driving: Which Is More Cost Effective for Travel This Year?

Jeremy Scott, founder and CEO of adventure and travel subscription site TravelFreak, tells GOBankingRates that the simple reason why more people are opting to drive to their vacation destinations rather than flying is due to the fear of COVID.

“When traveling by car, people interact with far fewer people than in airports or in planes. It is a form of social distancing; and the individual has control over their personal health measures,” Scott says.

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He adds that saving money on road trips is relatively easy; splitting costs with friends, carrying creative car meals, redeeming fuel points, and sticking to a strict budget are all ways of reducing costs.

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The GOBankingRates findings are in line with a recent Hertz survey, which notes that 65% of people surveyed said that a rental car was the mode of transportation that made them feel the safest. The survey also shows that more than 80% of people surveyed say they plan to take a road trip this summer and 86% agree they are more likely or as likely to hit the road compared to previous years. In addition, the Hertz survey finds that 29% of those surveyed said they prefer rental cars over taking their personal vehicle to avoid putting extra miles on their car.

Tips: How To Save Money on Rental Cars for Your Upcoming Trip

Another factor influencing vacationers to choose a car versus flying is that many airlines have been canceling flights due to staff shortage. For example, Southwest and American each canceled approximately 3% of their flights between July 1 and July 16, the highest among mainline carriers, according to data provided by FlightAware, Travel Weekly reports. Regarding departure delays, JetBlue had the highest percentage at 42%, followed by Southwest and Allegiant at 39%. And Spirit Airlines had to cancel hundreds of flights due to staffing shoratges, leading to airport mayhem.

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Check Out: The Best and Worst Airlines for Cheap Flights

“When you drive, you can control your own destiny getting to your location. Given the current environment with airlines, I couldn’t imagine risking getting stranded somewhere with your children, because an airline didn’t have a crew available for your flight,” Matt Schmidt, founder of Diabetes 365, tells GOBankingRates.

In terms of saving money on car trips, experts have a few tips.

Michael Robinson, security expert advises to be aware of your insurance status.

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“You’ll be asked to acquire insurance when you pick up a rental automobile. If you already have auto insurance for the vehicle you drive at home, you’re likely covered for car rentals as well,” he says. “Your credit card may provide automobile rental insurance even if you do not have auto insurance- be sure to confirm in advance. In either case, you must decline the car rental insurance policy for your current coverage to remain valid. Keep in mind that credit card insurance coverage doesn’t cover third-party liability, so you’ll need to buy it separately to be safe.”

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Another way to save money is to book your car rental as early as possible.

“Booking your car rental early is more critical than before since prices are going up because of lack of supply and high demand,” Ben Reynolds, Sure Dividend CEO and founder, tells GOBankingRates. “But you can also track any price decreases with AutoSlash. You can easily cancel your car rental and book the lower price when prices become more affordable without worrying about cancellation fees,” he adds.

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Finally, another simple way to save money is to let your phone locate cheap gas stations, thanks to apps.

Edward Mellett, co-founder of WikiJob, tells GOBankingRates that driving miles out of your way to find the cheapest gasoline is not cost-effective.

See: 35 Things Your Hotel Will Give You for Free

“Rather, utilize your phone to locate a nearby station with reasonable rates. Apps like Gas Guru and GasBuddy can help you save money on each tankful of gas,” he says. Mellett adds to not forget to “wear disposable gloves so you don’t have to clean the nozzle or the car handle afterward, which can help you prevent getting sick and incurring medical bills.”

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Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 500 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country, asking six different questions: (1) How much did you spend on your last vacation?; (2) How did you travel for your last vacation?; (3) Where did you stay on your last vacation?; (4) How did you pay for your last vacation? (Select all that apply); (5) What was your biggest incentive to travel?; and (6) If money and COVID/health restrictions were no object where would you choose to go on vacation?. All respondents had to pass a screener question of: Have you taken a vacation in the past year (July 2020 – July 2021)?, with an answer of “Yes”. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

GOBankingRates surveyed 500 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country, asking six different questions: (1) When are you planning to travel for your next vacation?; (2) How much will you spend on your next vacation?; (3) How will you travel ; (4) Where will you stay on your next vacation?; (5) What’s the current biggest obstacle to you going on vacation?; and (6) If money and COVID/health restrictions were no object where would you choose to go on vacation?. All respondents had to pass a screener question of: Have you taken a vacation in the past year (July 2020 – July 2021)?, with an answer of “No”. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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