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Overall Road Trip Activity Continues Upward Trend on the weekend of July 10th, Despite Increasing COVID Cases

Published on Jul 13, 2020 in Blog, Daily Travel Index

Shorter Road trips stall in the Southern States, Texas and Florida while mid-range road trips surge in the Great Plains States. Travel of 250 or more miles continues to rise compared to an index of the average day in February (Pre-COVID)  

US Summer road trip activity, as measured by Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index, initially cooled on the weekdays following July 3rd, 2020 – the busiest travel day of 2020. On the following Monday and Tuesday, the Daily Travel Index (“DTI”) retracted to -30.2% and -32.2% – roughly the same levels where weekday road trip activity had been a month before.

But did that downturn reflect increased reluctance among Americans to travel due to an increasing threat of contracting COVID19? Or was the slow post-Independence Day activity cyclical… the type of tapering that initially follows a holiday weekend? 

It’s not unusual for the weekends following holiday weekends to see reduced activity. The Friday after Memorial Day this year, for example, road trip activity fell 53%. By comparison, the Friday after July 4th, this year fell only 46%. 

Road Trip Activity: Recovery after holiday weekends

Road Trip activity on Saturdays tends to be the peak day of the week for travel on non-holiday weekends while Friday is the peak day on holiday weekends. And activity on Saturday, July 11th, 2020 will exceed the activity from July 4th, 2020 by a sizeable margin. Final numbers will for Saturday be revealed in the next few days. 

While there are wide variations regionally, this leads to the conclusion that the initial dip in road trip activity following July 4 was more cyclical than representative of a downward trend overall. 

What’s Driving the Continued Rise? 

Not all states and regions participated in the continued growth in road trip activity. There are stark contrasts between states in the South and Sun Belt compared to states in the West, Midwest, and Northwest–especially in the 50-100 mile range: 

Road Trip Activity: Daily Travel Index 50-100 mile range

States including New Mexico (-15.6%), Arizona (-13.7%), California (-12.2%), Texas (-3.8%) and Florida (-4.7%) all lagged the February index. Connecticut was the exception in the Northeast, down 28% from the average day in February 2020. 

Mid-Range road trips surged in the midwest, with Minnesota (+158.9%), Wisconsin (+123%), and Michigan (+176.9%) leading the way. 

Road Trip Activity: Daily Travel Index 100-250 mile range

Overall, road trip activity of 250+ continued to outpace the Daily Travel Index, which is a comparison of current activity to activity on an average day in February 2020, generally regarded as the last full month before the impact of novel CoronaVirus (COVID19). Long road trips, those defined as travel of 250 more miles, retracted from the peaks that they achieved over the Independence Day weekend, however. 

Road Trip Activity: Daily Travel Index 250+ mile range

Methodology

Arrivalist’s methodology is based on a representative balanced panel of GPS signals representing road trips taken specifically in cars (excluding travel by air). A trip is measured as one where the user has traveled a minimum of 50 miles and spent a minimum of 2 hours at the destination. Commuter travel or other frequently repeated trips—i.e., cargo deliveries or other recurring activities — are excluded from the Daily Travel Index. 

 About Arrivalist

Arrivalist is the leading location intelligence platform in the travel Industry. The company uses multiple location data sets to provide actionable insights on consumer behavior, competitive share, media effectiveness, and market trends. Over 200 travel marketers, including 100 cities, 40 U.S. States, and four of the top 10 U.S. theme parks, use these insights to inform media strategy, operations, and destination development. Arrivalist is headquartered in New York City, with offices in San Francisco and Toronto.

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