NEW YORK — Using data from its Daily Travel Index, travel data company Arrivalist is predicting 36.8 million road trips over the Fourth of July weekend in the United States, making Independence Day the biggest road trip event so far this year. Compared to AAA’s travel prediction last year, road trip travel will be down 11 percent from the 41.1 million travelers expected in 2019 over the July 4th holiday.
Arrivalist recently revealed that Memorial Day road trip activity returned to pre-COVID levels. Despite widespread social unrest and ongoing health threats from COVID-19, the Daily Travel Index, a free resource posted online, continues to rise. Arrivalist predicts the Daily Travel Index will cross 100 percent for the first time over the Fourth of July weekend, meaning that twice as many travelers will hit the road compared to an average day in February.
“In many respects, these are unprecedented times, but solid data and reliable models can still provide the certainty that travelers and the travel industry need to adapt to the times,” said Cree Lawson, Arrivalist founder and CEO.
The Daily Travel Index is a daily measure of road trip activity (trips by car over 50 miles) taken by residents of all U.S. states, with volume indexed against a baseline of activity established just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Arrivalist’s prediction for Fourth of July road trip activity is based upon historical data captured within the Daily Travel Index and takes into account the day of week that road trips occur, seasonality, and the impact of COVID-19 on travel since the pandemic began in March.
Arrivalist launched the Daily Travel Index on April 1, providing free access to the industry and the public. The tool shows the relative performance of road trip volume across the United States compared to an average day in February 2020, before the pandemic began impacting travel in America. Road trips are generally considered to be the leading indicator of the return of the travel industry from the COVID-19-related recession and the ensuing lockdowns designed to thwart its spread.
The highest indexed volume observed in 2020 by the Daily Travel Index was 85.2 percent over the index baseline, during the President’s Day Weekend. Arrivalist predicts that indexed volume for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday will reach even higher—113 percent over the index baseline on July 3. The July 4th holiday is typically one of the busiest weeks of the year for car travel and this year is especially notable with decreased demand for air travel, lower-than-normal gas prices, and many destinations, theme parks, and other attractions reopening around the country.
“The pent-up demand for travel we’re seeing, coupled with low gas prices, limited flight service, and the fact that July 4th falls on a Saturday all indicate that the Independence Day holiday will be the largest road trip event of 2020 so far,” Lawson said.
Arrivalist’s prediction model assumes no major impacts in the next week related to a new spike in COVID-19 cases across the nation. It also assumes that states and cities will not re-enact lockdown measures and that the economy and gas prices will remain relatively stable in the days leading up to the Independence Day weekend (i.e., July 1-5).
Weekends leading up to this year’s July 4th festivities have seen marked increases in road trip activity: The second weekend in June (June 11-13) had road trip volumes even exceeding measured activity over the recent 2020 Memorial Day Weekend. While Americans took to the road for longer trips (100 miles or more) over Memorial Day, shorter trips (50-100 miles) have been more popular since. A key question for the upcoming holiday weekend is whether American consumers will once again journey further in their cars, trucks, and SUVs, eschewing air travel for the perceived safety of personal autos.
Arrivalist’s methodology is based on a representative balanced panel of GPS signals representing road trips taken specifically in cars (excluding travel by air). A trip is measured as one where the user has traveled a minimum of 50 miles and spent a minimum of two hours at the destination. Commuter travel or other frequently repeated trips—i.e., cargo deliveries or other reoccurring activities—are excluded from the Daily Travel Index.
For the purpose of projections, the Independence Day travel period is defined as a five-day period between July 1-5, 2020. The actual forecast for domestic drive volume was based on daily drive volume recorded from July 1, 2019, IMHE projected COVID-19 deaths in the United States, U.S. Department of Transportation State Motor Registrations, and travel and tourism economic factors such as seasonality and day of week.