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The year of the road trip: Americans are ready to travel in 2021, but not by plane

More than two-thirds of Americans do not feel safe traveling on an airplane

The year of the road trip: Americans are ready to travel in 2021, but not by plane

The results of a new travel survey were announced today. Survey data received from over 10,000 respondents, reveals promising plans of increased travel this year – except for the airlines.

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To feed their travel bugs, most Americans are planning to travel more this year than they did in 2019, even before the pandemic hit. What’s different now is that travelers’ values and priorities are shifting — now focusing on safety, cost-effectiveness and more accommodating travel options for the new normal — and because of this, RV travel has skyrocketed.

After the rough year we had in 2020, people are itching to hit the road. For many, travel is a basic human necessity. Survey results show that you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to scratch this itch. The survey results may seem extreme, but it comes down to the fact that many still have reservations about air travel. The data shows that people will continue opting for the safety of road trips, leading to a boom in backyard exploration and growing interest in RVing.

Below are key findings from the survey with a roadmap for what to expect in travel this year.

Almost All Americans Are Planning to Travel More This Year Than 2020 and 2019

While it’s unsurprising that most people (76%) are planning to travel more than they did in 2020, planned travel is also exceeding 2019 numbers.

  • Seventy-six percent of respondents said they plan to travel more than they did in 2020
  • Sixty percent of respondents said they plan travel more than they did in 2019 before the pandemic
  • Fewer than a quarter of respondents (24%) said they plan to travel a normal amount with no changes from 2019, and only 13% of Americans said they plan to travel some, but less than they did in 2019
  • Only two percent of respondents said they plan not to travel in 2021

Less Than a Quarter of Consumers Will Fly, and They Don’t Feel Good About Hotels Either

People don’t currently feel safe flying, opting instead for the safety of road travel. Consumers are not seeing hotels as appealing options either.

  • More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) do not feel safe getting on a plane
  • Fewer than 21% said they plan to travel on a plane in 2021
  • Fifty-six percent of total respondents said they do not feel safe staying at a hotel
  • Eighty-one percent of total respondents said they plan to not travel internationally in 2021

Increased Interest in Road and RV Travel

With people hesitant to fly, but so many itching to travel, this begs the question: How will they do it? They will use RVs, and can still visit places near and far. Currently, there are 11 million RV owners in the US, but many more – 46 million in total – are planning to RV this year alone, continuing the upward trend.

  • A vast majority of respondents (99%) said they feel safe traveling in an RV
  • Fifty-three percent are planning to only travel using RVs this year
  • Of people planning to travel by road, 61% plan to travel over 500 miles, and 34% plan to travel moderately far, within 100-500 miles

Increased road travel has provided more opportunity for Americans to visit states and areas they might not have otherwise.

  • The most popular states visited in RVs were California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Oregon
  • On the other hand, the least popular states to visit were Wyoming, South Carolina, South Dakota, Alaska, and Alabama

Helping Local Businesses

The impact on the travel industry during COVID-19 quickly became apparent. In turn, fallout from the decline in travel as a result of the pandemic was felt by local businesses who rely on travel and tourism for a majority of their revenue. As people travel in RVs, they are able to safely support these businesses without breaking the bank. In fact, through Harvest Hosts, nearly $25 million was spent at local businesses across the country in 2020, which helped keep them afloat.

  • When staying somewhere with their RV, nearly half of Americans (47%) spend on average two or three nights where they are spending money on food, wine, services,  and other items
  • Ninety-four percent of people typically spend less than $75 each night when traveling via RV, which is much less than a typical hotel stay, but can make a big difference for an independent farm or winery

More Accommodating Travel Means More Family Time, Pets Included

Hotels that are open to pets are few and far between, and with airlines, there have been changes made regarding emotional support animals, adding another layer of complexity that can be avoided with RV travel. When traveling with family, bringing kids can also add additional expenses, and these issues are virtually eliminated with RVs.

  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they would take their children on RV trips
  • Seventy-one percent of total respondents said they would take their pets RVing 
  • Because RV travel is so customizable and easy, 85% of respondents said they would plan an RV trip with friends even during the pandemic if traveling in separate vehicles

Changes in Work / Life Balance

COVID-19 completely changed work for professionals around the world. Remote working became the “new normal” for many, and looks like it will continue to be so for a majority of 2021, which has also impacted travel.

  • Approximately one-third of respondents (31%) plan to travel more now that remote work is an option. For example, consumers can now opt to start a road trip mid-week, since they can work from anywhere – even the road.
  • Twenty-three percent of respondents reported they are fully remote for work; of that percentage, 62% reported they are considering RVing more, with the freedom remote work allows being one of the main factors.
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