Suddenly, old-fashioned road trips are trendy again.
Surveys show they’re on the rise.
Websites, newspapers, magazines, and even books are featuring road trips like they’re the next big thing—even though they’re actually a longstanding American tradition steeped in nostalgia and pop culture, from the 1950’s Beat Generation literary classic “On the Road” to the 1983 comedy movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
On Instagram, the hashtag “#roadtrip” shows up 37 million times.
In some ways, the comeback of this 20th century-style vacation is surprising in an era when “time has become more far more precious than money, a priceless commodity not to be squandered on lumbering along down endless miles of highway,” writes Richard Ratay in his upcoming book, “Don’t Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip.”
In other words, why spend 18 hours driving 1,200 miles when you could get there in two hours by plane?
Well, here’s the thing: flying is expensive, and the more people taking the trip, the cheaper it is to pile everyone in an RV— instead of buying airfare for a family of four.
Flying is also unpleasant. Getting to the airport, allowing time for security, dealing with delays and baggage can easily turn a two-hour flight into a trip that sucks up most of your day.
It’s more appealing to pack the RV, hit the road, and spend several hours on the road to a camping site of your choice. And you can stop to stretch your legs where you want and when you want.
So is the summer of 2018 the summer of the road trip?
Here are some insights into why it might be.
MMGY Global’s 2017-18 Portrait of American Travelers found road trips represented 39 percent of vacations taken by American travelers in 2016, up from 22 percent in 2015. The top reason cited for taking road trips: the ability to make stops along the way. Another reason (besides lower costs and avoiding air travel) was the ease of taking pets along with you.
One surprise finding: The resurgence in road trips is “led by millennials,” said Steve Cohen, senior vice president, travel insights, MMGY Global. “When we look at the total number of road trips, there were more taken by millennials than any other generation.”
And even though they’re young, nostalgia plays a role. Millennials are remembering trips they took “when they were kids, which wasn’t that long ago,” Cohen said.
And, the price of fuel matters less than you might expect.
A recent AAA survey concluded that even though gas costs more now than at any time since 2014, that’s not keeping people at home. AAA also said road trips were the most popular option for family vacations in their survey.
Top road trip hashtags include:
If ever there was any doubt about the state of the American road trip, the latest research seems to squash it, finding that more travelers are driving hundreds of miles to explore unfamiliar places.
“Where are we going, man?”
“I don’t know, but we gotta go.”
—Jack Kerouac, in On the Road