Forbes: Why We Need A National Road Trip Day
As you know, I'm a frequent traveler and love trips of all kinds. While there's no rush like the moment your plane lifts off the ground, I'm a huge fan of road trips and recently had the opportunity to share my thoughts with Forbes' Christopher Elliott. The following article originally appeared in Forbes.
Don't get me wrong, I love flying as well! I guess anything that takes me somewhere new to explore....I love the random, wacky, and wonderful things that happen when least expected. Deadass, the BEST road trip song of all time is Runaway by Gino McKoy (sorry, Bon Jovi and Guns N Roses, I still love you!)
My mom and I have a long tradition of Road Trip Without a Map Day to officially mark the beginning of summer and we've missed the past couple of years. The only requirement is that we get lost along the way. Looking forward to heading out with her this year!
GET LOST AND FIND YOURSELF
The below article was originally published in Forbes
May 13, 2019 | By: Christopher Elliott
It's time for a National Road Trip Day. America is on course for one of the biggest summers for driving vacations in recent memory, perhaps ever. While overall travel is down, road trips are up. Travel research firm MMGY says 51% of Americans took at least one road trip in the last year, an increase from 46% in 2017. And a new survey by Hankook Tire found 83% of Americans plan to drive the same or more this year.
So someone decided to commemorate our national love affair with road trips. Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America, has named the Friday of Memorial Day weekend National Road Trip Day. The company also has the numbers to prove why we need National Road Trip Day.
With the start of summer vacation season only a few weeks away, maybe it's helpful to remember why Americans take road trips -- and to reflect on how popular this American vacation has become.
WHY AMERICANS TAKE ROAD TRIPS
Pilot Flying J's study on American road trips is illuminating. Among its findings: Pilot Flying J's survey found the top reasons people take road trips are that it’s more affordable than any other forms of transportation (57%), they have more control over the trip and plans (51%) and they like being able to stop whenever they want along the way (50%). Road trips have been a national fascination since the first cross-country road trip in 1903. Since then, we've had On The Road, Travels With Charley, Easy Rider, and, of course, National Lampoon's Family Vacation to remind us that we love road trips.
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL ROAD TRIP
The study also revealed Americans' must-haves for a successful trip. Three out of five road trippers say that having good snacks and drinks for the road, finding great places to eat on the way and finding clean bathrooms to use while traveling are the most important parts of a successful road trip. The top “road trip essential” snacks are chips and salty foods (52%), freshly made, grab-and-go foods (50%) and fast-food options (49%). It's impossible to mention road trip food without a nod to Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood book and site. Indeed, part of the adventure is the food.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DRIVE
What Americans do when they're on a road trip depends on their ages. For Millennials and Gen Zers, it’s all about what happens in the car. They place more value on having music, audiobooks and podcasts (67%), good snacks and drinks (63%) and good conversations (52%). Gen X and Baby Boomers, meanwhile, care about making stops along the way, placing more value on finding clean bathrooms (67%), great places to eat (63%) and pleasant places to stop, rest and stretch their legs (56%). Most travel is multigenerational -- the adults want to listen to something they downloaded from Audible, and the kids just want to hear whatever is on Hits 1. Are we there yet?
WHAT ARE THE BEST REST STOPS?
Finally, the Pilot Flying J survey found that when making a stop for their road trip necessities, more than half of the road trippers wanted an all-in-one rest stop that offered gas, food, drinks, and bathrooms.
WHY DO AMERICANS TAKE ROAD TRIPS?
Talk to road trippers and they'll tell you why they travel -- and why the time for recognizing the great American road trip is long overdue.
I caught up with Jennifer Lehman, a college professor from Salt Lake City, on her way to Austin, Texas. She says she's making the 1,291-mile drive in her Hyundai Elantra because she can. "Yes, it's a long drive and, yes, there are flights from Salt Lake City to Austin and back," she admits. But if she flew, she'd miss Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Albuquerque, N.M., and Lubbock, Texas. Flying over those places is just not the same thing.
“Every road tripper knows that getting there is half the fun,” says Whitney Haslam Johnson, chief experience officer for Pilot Flying J.
Jake McKenzie who works for Auto Accessories Garage, an online retailer of auto accessories and parts, agrees. "You can’t learn much about a city by their airport alone, and you won’t learn a thing about any of the places in between your destinations. If you really want to get to know America, you have to set out on the open road."
Adam Cole, a jazz musician, is taking a road trip from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., with his family. "I'm looking forward to spending time with my boys, to seeing DC and showing them interesting things, and to visiting with my family and friends on the way up and down," he says. Roadtripping is also typically cheaper. The cost of driving his Toyota Prius is significantly less than airline tickets for the whole family, plus he has ground transportation when he gets to the nation's capital.
Larissa Lowthorp says she "almost always" chooses driving over flying. For her, it's not what's happening outside the car, but inside.
"When you're traveling cross-country with companions, you learn so much about the people you’re with," says Lowthorp, a consultant from Minneapolis, who is planning a big road trip to Los Angeles this summer. "You talk to them about subjects that never came up before. Traveling in such close quarters, you can get on each other’s nerves and learn a lot that way. It’s a one-of-a-kind bonding experience and road trips with friends are among my favorite memories. It's a great way to learn more about yourself and how you deal with unexpected circumstances."
But there is something else about the American road trip, something that almost defies explanation, that keeps us coming back year after year. I know because for the last two years I've lived an untethered lifestyle -- moving from one place to the next. This month I'm in Phoenix. Last month we were in Santa Fe. In February, we lived in Los Angeles.
My three school-age kids and I drive everywhere in our Honda CR-V. And I really couldn't tell you exactly why we love it so much. The drives are often monotonous. We fight from time to time. The weather doesn't always cooperate. And yet we cherish every moment spent on the road and look forward to the next adventure. I feel like it's in our blood, perhaps an essential part of being an American.
HOW MANY ROAD TRIPS DO AMERICANS TAKE?
We're hardly alone.
Americans traveled 3.1 trillion -- yes, that's trillion with a "t" -- miles in 2018, according to the government. That's about three times as many miles as in 1971. We just can't stay off the road.
Some say road trips fell out of fashion in the 80s and 90s, but apart from a little recessionary flatness in the mid-2000s, it looks as if road tripping has never gone out of style.
Studies suggest our appetite for road trips remains healthy. MMGY's latest portrait of the American traveler has the numbers to prove it. In 2015, 22% of all the vacations taken by American travelers were road trips. By 2016, that number rose to 39%. In terms of economic impact, consumer expenditures on road trip travel increased from $66.6 billion in 2015 to $113.7 billion in 2016.
MMGY says the appeal is obvious: It's the open road, a car and the freedom to drive anywhere. "There’s something distinctly and nostalgically American about the road trip," it notes. "Celebrated in numerous novels, stories and songs, Americans have been traveling by car with stops along the way since the rise of the automobile and the development of highways and interstates on which to drive them."
Which is why it's time for National Road Trip Day -- a day to remember and celebrate this important American vacation.
"We are in a society where people are so often overplanned, overscheduled, and overconnected with the world that people truly undervalue a road trip," says Jeff Guaracino, president of Visit Philadelphia. "Road trips give us an outlet to forget the formal itinerary and go for the unexpected. It’s an experience that can be just as fun, if not even more fun, than the formally planned vacation and it doesn’t need to be lavish and expensive."
If anyone knows that road trips are on the upswing, it's probably Pilot Flying J. With more Americans on the road, its travel centers are surely seeing an uptick in guests. Maybe that's why it just rolled out a new Pilot Flying J app with an enhanced trip planner feature and that, ahem, also shows the nearest location of a Pilot Flying J.