U.S. Domestic Travel and Road Trips On the Rise

Road trips - roadside

ORLANDO–Domestic vacations now make up 85 percent of total U.S. vacations, according to MMGY Global’s 2017 Portrait of American Travelers. During the past 12 months, 13.9 million more vacations were taken within the U.S. compared to internationally. The rising preference for domestic destinations has also resulted in the increasing popularity of road trips.

Roadtrippers–who the study defines as U.S. travelers with annual household incomes of at least $50,000 who took at least one road trip during the past 12 months–have become a large segment of the U.S. traveler market and now account for 46 percent of American travelers. These estimated 27.8 million traveling households went on a combined 99.7 million vacations and spent $215.1 billion on leisure travel during the past 12 months. More than half of the 99.7 million combined vacations taken by this segment were road trips.

From 2016 to 2017, road trip vacations taken by Americans rose from 22 percent to 39 percent. In terms of economic impact, consumer expenditures on road trip travel increased from $66.6 billion in 2015 to $113.7 billion in 2016. Boomers are leading the growth of road trips with 42 percent of vacations taken as road trips compared to millennial road trip vacations which only constitute 36 percent.


The primary motivations are mostly convenience and flexibility rather than lower overall vacation costs, and excitement and surprise play a big role in selecting a road trip over other vacation types. The growth of road trips goes well beyond an attachment to the past with only 18 percent of road trippers citing nostalgia as a reason travelers choose this vacation style.

“Vacations focused on a single destination or activity aren’t as appealing to roadtrippers,” said Steve Cohen, vice president of insights at MMGY Global. “One of the reasons road trips are so appealing to these travelers is their ability to make multiple stops to experience a wider variety of vacation activities and attractions, especially ones that are uniquely local. Destinations that effectively communicate their authentic, unique offerings will go a long way toward attracting more roadtrippers.”

Because almost half of American vacationers are roadtrippers, microsegmentation is essential for the hospitality and travel industry to attract the most relevant and profitable slice of this market. MMGY Global analyzed roadtrippers and developed the following roadtripper microsegments:

  • “The Griswolds” are a distinctive, younger, and less affluent microsegment of travelers. With an average age of 37, they are the second youngest among the road tripper microsegments–57 percent are millennials and 43 percent are Gen-Xers. They have discretionary income and want to invest it in life experiences rather than belongings.
  • “Well-to-Gos” have an average age of 42 and average annual household income of $217,000. They are the highest earning group among the road tripper microsegments.
  • “Retired-on-Tires” are made up of boomer or “mature” roadtrippers who are married or living together, retired, and don’t have children 17 or under living at home.
  • “Freewheelers” are the youngest of the road tripper microsegments with an average age of 36, these are millennials and Gen-Xers without children that find hiking, biking, and other outdoor adventures desirable on vacation.