Despite sharp declines in total travel since the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have been taking significantly more long-distance road trips than in previous years. COVID-19 took hold during the warmer months and peak travel periods for many Americans, contributing to a more than 30 percent decline in total travel since 2019, according to recently released government data. However, while social distancing measures and remote work have led to a decrease in short-distance trips and air travel, the number of miles logged on long-distance road trips has risen dramatically above last year’s numbers.
On average, during the first two weeks of August last year, about 2.5 million people passed through U.S. airports per day. This year, that number was about 700,000. On the other hand, in the first two weeks of August this year, Americans recorded nearly 12 million long-distance (100-500 mile) road trips per day, compared to 8.6 million in 2019 — a 37.6 percent increase. Such a shift in travel behavior may serve as an example of the “new normal” when it comes to how Americans will travel to more distant destinations.
At the state level, residents from the Mountain West and Southeast have recorded the greatest increases in long-distance road trips compared to 2019. Specifically, travelers from the states of Colorado, North Carolina, and South Carolina have logged the largest increase in long-distance road trips. Conversely, travelers from the Northeast, where initial rates of COVID-19 cases were the highest, have shown the largest declines in long-distance road trips.