As States Start to Reopen, Travelers Feel Safest in Their Cars

Consumers are delaying rather than canceling their 2020 travel plans, but they look much different

person pointing at a map in their car
Over 68% of respondents feel safest traveling in their personal cars. Dominika Roseclay/Pexels

Key insight:

When Americans are willing to travel again, whether the specter of Covid-19 is lingering or not, they’ll be doing it by car, and not going nearly as far as they used to.

That’s according to an ongoing survey taken by the U.S. Travel Association, which has been taking biweekly polls since March 27 of 1,200 U.S. residents who travel for either business or leisure.

The results of the survey all but confirm that consumer travel sentiment is matching the expectations of the travel industry’s top leadership, who have consistently told investors that local leisure travel would signal the start of the industry’s recovery.

For now, the number of consumers who intend to travel within the next six months sits roughly at 36%. That’s down 2% from the last time consumers were asked in the week of May 1-6.

When they do travel, it’ll be in their personal cars, where more than 68% of respondents feel safest. Only 12% of participants said they would feel safe on an international trip.

One-third of all travelers are willing to drive 300 miles to reach a destination, and 19% of Americans were willing to drive 500 miles.

Those figures are actually up from 2019, when just 24% of travelers reported driving at least 300 miles to reach a destination.

Besides their own vehicles, travelers also feel relatively safe at destinations such as parks (34%) and beaches (26%).

Those figures should only increase as summer weather sweeps the country and restrictions on beaches begin to lift.

Most importantly, one-third of Americans are postponing their vacations in 2020 rather than outright canceling them. That keeps those dollars in the pockets of America’s airlines, hotel brands and Airbnb hosts.

Overall, the biggest concern among travelers of all ages remains contracting Covid-19.

@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.