Memorial Day

It’s estimated that Americans will be driving this Memorial Day weekend at higher rates than even before the pandemic began. Arrivalist is predicting that 38.5 million Americans will take a road trip this Memorial Day weekend, reflecting a massive rise in road travel of around 46%. At that rate, it will exceed 2019 road trip figures by more than 2%.

The data is taken from Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index that compiles data across all 50 states. In most cases, road travel is more than 100% higher than last year’s long weekend travel while much of the nation was under lockdown.

Arrivalist’s founder and CEO, Cree Lawson, said, “Americans continue to seek respite on the road. Vaccination elation seems to be overpowering sticker shock at the gas pump. These latest projections are a promising sign for the travel industry that says, ‘We’re back.’ We continue to see outdoor attractions, from beaches to parks to mountains, hitting record levels of visitation and being filled to capacity in some cases.”

The recent Colonial Pipeline hack and subsequent shutdown caused fuel prices to spring upward, but the increase in fuel prices hasn’t seemed to deter many drivers from taking to the roads for travel at least 50 miles from home.

Lawson mentions, “The fact that a spike in gas prices has yet to curb this trend makes us pretty enthusiastic about the prospects for the great outdoors having another strong summer and some downtown areas possibly seeing some recovery, too.”

A sign that car ownership is important to Americans

A similar survey by identifies that road travel has been the predominant choice for Americans, even as air travel confidence is climbing due to vaccination uptake nationwide. Their survey indicates that 60% of respondents plan to get away this long weekend, and nearly 9 in 10 will drive to their destination. editor-in-chief Jenni Newman said, “”It’s clear that car ownership will prove to be a durable post-pandemic travel trend. Memorial Day marks the first major travel holiday since vaccination efforts began across the country, and Americans are excited to finally see family and friends in person. But even after widespread vaccination availability, we continue to see people prioritize travel by car because they don’t quite trust other forms of transportation yet.”

More personal vehicle travel in the plans

Vehicles are often rented to prevent wear and tear on personal vehicles, but this year, the pandemic-related rental vehicle shortage is forcing more drivers to take their own cars. “Limited availability of rental cars” impacts more than one-third of travelers to road trip rather than fly since renting a car at the airport is tougher to find and more expensive than usual.

The rise in travel by car, especially with personal vehicles, often leads to increases in traffic volume in the service drive too. Pre-trip inspections and maintenance increase but returning travellers should also be on a dealership’s radar for booking appointments.

Opportunities exist for service departments to capture tire sales and related services when there’s less pressure on the owner for an immediate last-minute purchase, for example. It could also be a chance to market to customers whose vehicles have had a maintenance reminder message come on while driving or a warning light illuminate on their road trip.

With much higher rates of road travel than last year and 2019 also – and with deals on replacement vehicles all but wiped out – owners will be seeking to keep their cars in better shape for longer. Service departments should be looking at ways to capitalize on the trends.

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