NEW YORK—Using data from its widely adopted Daily Travel Index, travel data company Arrivalist is predicting that Americans will take 36.8 million road trips over the Fourth of July weekend, making Independence Day the biggest road trip event so far this year. Compared to the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) travel prediction last year, road trip travel will be down 11% from the 41.1 million travelers AAA predicted in 2019.
Arrivalist recently revealed that Memorial Day road trip activity returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. Despite widespread social unrest and ongoing health threats from the novel coronavirus, the Daily Travel Index, a free resource posted online, continues to rise. Arrivalist predicts the Daily Travel Index will cross 100% for the first time over the Fourth of July weekend, meaning that twice as many travelers will hit the road compared to an average day in February.
“In many respects these are unprecedented times, but solid data and reliable models can still provide the certainty that travelers and the travel industry need to adapt to the times,” said Cree Lawson, founder/CEO, Arrivalist.
The Daily Travel Index is a daily measure of road trip activity (trips by car more than 50 miles) taken by residents of all 50 U.S. states, with volume indexed against a baseline of activity established just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Arrivalist’s prediction for Fourth of July road trip activity is based upon historical data captured within the Daily Travel Index and takes into account the day of week that road trips occur, seasonality and the impact of COVID-19 on travel since the pandemic began in March.
The highest indexed volume observed in 2020 by the Daily Travel Index was 85.2% over the index baseline, during the President’s Day Weekend. Arrivalist predicts that indexed volume for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday will reach even higher—113% over the index baseline on July 3. The Fourth of July holiday is typically one of the busiest weeks of the year for car travel, and this year is especially notable with decreased demand for air travel, lower than normal gas prices, and many destinations, theme parks and other attractions reopening around the country.
“The pent-up demand for travel we’re seeing, coupled with low gas prices, limited flight service and the fact that July 4th falls on a Saturday all indicate that the Independence Day holiday will be the largest road trip event of 2020 so far,” said Lawson.
Arrivalist’s prediction model assumes no major impacts in the next week related to a new spike in COVID-19 cases across the nation. It also assumes that states and cities will not re-enact lockdown measures and that the economy and gas prices will remain relatively stable in the days leading up to the Independence Day weekend (Wednesday, July 1 to Sunday, July 5).
Weekends leading up to this year’s Fourth of July festivities have seen marked increases in road trip activity; the second weekend in June (June 11-13) had road trip volumes even exceeding measured activity over the recent 2020 Memorial Day Weekend. While Americans took to the road for longer trips (100 miles or more) over Memorial Day, shorter trips (50-100 miles) have been more popular since. A key question for the upcoming holiday weekend is whether American consumers will once again journey further in their cars, trucks and SUVs, eschewing air travel for the perceived safety of personal autos.
“There’s nothing that binds Americans of all races, persuasions or beliefs together like the great American Summer Road Trip,” said Lawson. “Whether it’s a cross-country trip or a jaunt to see fireworks set off the highest local bridge, it’s a time-honored tradition, just like guessing how many Americans will hit the road.”