Description

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Road Trips market, including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Road trips are known as the quintessential American holiday, with 78% of US adults having taken at least one in the past 2 years. With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down nearly all non-essential travel, the US Road Trip market took a hit throughout 2020 as many people stayed home for the majority of the year. However, road trips remain incredibly popular for many holidaymakers, hinting at a pent-up demand.

As vaccinations continue to be rolled out nationwide, consumers will grow more and more confident in taking longer trips away from home. With 47% of adult road-trippers using them as a way to visit friends and family, reconnecting with loved ones could be a key marketing message for companies.

To maintain the categories current competitive edge, providers will have to focus not just on price but also individual benefits they can offer over other companies. Uncertainty over travel will remain in the short term, meaning that providers and venues will have to also focus on safety and hygiene to attract customers.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our US Holidays and Travel market research.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the road trip market.
  • How the economic downturn has affected consumers’ preference for road trips.
  • How travelers plan for road trips.
  • Where consumer preferences lie when comparing road trips to air travel.

Covered in this report

Brands: Choice Hotels, Amtrak, Volta Charging.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Mike Gallinari, a leading analyst in the Travel & Leisure sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Road trips have predictably been a popular travel option during the pandemic, but they have also had their share of challenges. While the post-pandemic outlook is rosy for this vacation format, more can be done by brands in the space to solidify their position in the leisure travel landscape, particularly as competing forms of travel recover from the COVID-19-induced travel downturn.

Mike Gallinari
Travel & Leisure Analyst

 

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definitions
    • COVID-19: US context
    • Economic and other assumptions
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Number of road trips in the past two years, February 2021
    • Road trips follow travel market trends
      • Figure 2: Characteristics of a road trip, February 2021
    • Target audience: dad remains king of the road
      • Figure 3: Heavy road tripper demographics, February 2021
    • Impact of COVID-19 on road trips
      • Figure 4: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on travel and road trips, March 2021
    • Road trips haven’t been spared the pandemic’s effects
      • Figure 5: Road trip planning and timing of last road trip, February 2021
    • Opportunities
    • Road trippers have motivations beyond seeing friends and family
      • Figure 6: Reasons for taking last road trip, February 2021
    • There’s room for loyalty among road trippers
      • Figure 7: Road trips and loyalty, by HHI, by age, February 2021
    • Authenticity resonates with road travelers
      • Figure 8: Road trip enjoyment attitudes, February 2021
    • Challenges
    • Choices are often set before the garage door closes
      • Figure 9: Road trip planning, February 2021
    • Younger consumers have more affinity for air travel than others
      • Figure 10: Road trip vs air travel descriptions, by age group, February 2021
    • People are torn about travel during the pandemic
      • Figure 11: Attitudes toward road trip travel during the pandemic, February 2021
    • What it means
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • People want to hit the road
    • Road trips haven’t been untouched by COVID-19
    • Economic factors are favorable for travel’s return
  4. Road Trip Market

    • Road trips are a popular type of vacation
      • Figure 12: Number of road trips in the past two years, February 2021
    • The typical road trip
    • Destination is relatively close, and trip length is less than a week
      • Figure 13: Characteristics of a road trip, February 2021
    • Youthful endurance makes for longer journeys
      • Figure 14: Miles traveled on last road trip, by age group, February 2021
    • Demographic profile of road trippers
    • Light road trippers (30%)
      • Figure 15: Light road tripper demographics, February 2021
    • Medium road trippers (26%)
      • Figure 16: Medium road tripper demographics, February 2021
    • Heavy road trippers (22%)
      • Figure 17: Heavy road tripper demographics, February 2021
    • Non-road trippers (22%)
      • Figure 18: Non-road tripper demographics, February 2021
  5. Impact of COVID-19 on Road Trips

      • Figure 19: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on travel and road trips, March 2021
    • Immediate Impacts
    • Short term
    • Recovery
    • Effect of COVID-19 on road trips
    • Road trips attract travelers, but are still constrained in a declining market
      • Figure 20: Timing of last road trip, February 2021
      • Figure 21: Road trip planning, by timing of last road trip, February 2021
    • Road trips have temporarily become more of a high-income activity
      • Figure 22: Timing of most recent road trip, by HHI, February 2021
    • COVID-19 has reduced length of road trips
      • Figure 23: Length of most recent road trip, by trip timing, February 2021
    • Road trips likely to remain popular as worry about COVID-19 persists
      • Figure 24: Worry about COVID-19 exposure, by age group, January 28-February 10, 2021
      • Figure 25: Worry about COVID-19 exposure, by race and Hispanic origin, January 28-February 10, 2021
    • Vaccine prognosis good, but optimism waning
      • Figure 26: Current perspectives on coronavirus, December 2020-February 2021
  6. Market Factors

    • CDC lifts some requirements, but travel still discouraged
    • TSA throughput is starting to improve
      • Figure 27: Monday TSA checkpoint throughput, 2020-21
    • Road traffic has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels
      • Figure 28: Vehicle miles traveled, seasonally adjusted, in millions, 2010-21
    • Unemployment is slowly improving
      • Figure 29: Unemployment and underemployment, January 2007-February 2021
    • Consumer confidence remains depressed
      • Figure 30: Consumer Sentiment Index, January 2007-March 2021
    • A surge in gas prices may shift road trip demographics
      • Figure 31: US gasoline and diesel retail prices, January 2007-March 2021
  7. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Road trips have an opportunity to assert themselves
    • Choice Hotels chases car travelers
    • Amtrak takes some of the work out of road trips
    • Immunization offers discount opportunities
    • Growth in electric vehicles provide new marketing opportunities
  8. Market Opportunities

    • Highlight underrepresented destination heritage in an age of consciousness
    • Bolster road trip strengths to prepare for flying’s return
    • Develop robust road trip-focus FTPs
  9. Competitive Strategies

    • Chain hotels can cater specifically to road trippers
      • Figure 32: Choice Hotels road trip section, March 2021
    • Public transportation can share the driving burden for older travelers
    • Promote vaccine deals and discounts
    • Market around electric vehicle charge stations as EVs grow in popularity
      • Figure 33: Volta charging station Instagram post, February 2021
  10. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Road trips, like most travel, are for visiting family
    • Much of the itinerary is set ahead of time
    • Travelers are more grounded in road trips than air travel
    • Wayfinding is the biggest opportunity for assistance
    • Leery road trippers need urging
    • Those loyal to driving would like to be rewarded
  11. Road Trip Motivations

    • Family wins out as a motivation for road trips
      • Figure 34: Reasons for taking last road trip, February 2021
    • Motivations vary with age
      • Figure 35: Reasons for taking last road trip, by age group, February 2021
    • Pandemic made family travel more specific to an occasion
      • Figure 36: Reasons for taking last road trip, by trip timing, February 2021
  12. Planning Road Trips

    • Road trips are destination-based, with limited room for spontaneity
      • Figure 37: Road trip planning, February 2021
    • Younger travelers are more likely to take opportunities as they come
      • Figure 38: Road trip planning, by age group, February 2021
    • Travel sites are underserving road trip planners
      • Figure 39: Attitudes toward road trip planning, February 2021
    • OTAs should establish themselves among older travelers
      • Figure 40: Attitudes toward road trip planning, by age group, February 2021
    • Successful road trips involve a pleasant drive and authentic stops
      • Figure 41: Road trip enjoyment attitudes, February 2021
    • Authenticity matters to all ages
      • Figure 42: Road trip enjoyment attitudes, by age group, February 2021
  13. Road Trips vs Air Travel

    • Driving is mostly chosen for practical reasons
      • Figure 43: Reasons for driving vs flying on last trip, February 2021
    • Driving can be an avenue of discovery for young consumers
      • Figure 44: Reasons for driving vs flying on last trip, by age group, February 2021
    • Road trips have extensive advantages over air travel
    • How airlines will compete
      • Figure 45: Road trip vs air travel descriptions, February 2021
    • Road trips have inroads with young travelers, but airlines are a threat
      • Figure 46: Road trip vs air travel descriptions, by age group, February 2021
    • Cost isn’t the only benefit for low-income travelers
      • Figure 47: Road trip vs air travel descriptions, by HHI, February 2021
    • Black and Hispanic travelers find intangible value in road trips
      • Figure 48: Road trip vs air travel descriptions, by race and Hispanic origin, February 2021
    • Safety issue for Black travelers may have historical roots
      • Figure 49: Road trip vs air travel descriptions, by race and Hispanic origin, February 2021
  14. Solving Road Trip Challenges

    • Travelers want assistance in wayfinding
      • Figure 50: Challenges that warrant assistance, February 2021
      • Figure 51: TURF Analysis – Assistance, February 2021
  15. Road Trips during the Pandemic

    • COVID-19 makes otherwise willing road trippers reluctant
      • Figure 52: Attitudes about road trip travel during the pandemic, February 2021
    • Hospitality brands need to give prospective travelers a nudge
      • Figure 53: Attitudes about road trip travel during the pandemic, by age group, February 2021
    • Road trips’ grasp on higher-HHI travelers may be tenuous
      • Figure 54: Attitudes about road trip travel during the pandemic, by HHI, February 2021
  16. Road Trips and Loyalty

    • Road trippers are underserved by loyalty
      • Figure 55: Road trips and loyalty, by HHI, by age group, February 2021
    • Black consumers can be reached by a possible FTP
      • Figure 56: Road trips and loyalty, by race and Hispanic origin, February 2021
  17. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Direct marketing creative
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
  18. Appendix – The Consumer

      • Figure 57: Table – TURF Analysis – Assistance, February 2021

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