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Christmas Road Trip Travel Down 25% This Year But Many Americans Still Hit The Road

| December 31, 2020

There was a brief period – on Christmas Eve – where we saw road trips reach 2019 levels

Christmas road trip travel was down more than 25% this year, but more people traveled for this holiday than for Thanksgiving, which was down 35% compared to last year.

Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index shows that road trip volume over the Christmas holiday was 27.8% lower than during the same period in 2019. The only exception to the downturn was on Christmas Eve, which saw the same level of road trip departures as the same day last year. 

“There was a brief period – on Christmas Eve – where we saw road trips reach 2019 levels, but it was short-lived and may have had more to do with Christmas Eve falling on a Thursday this year rather than on a Tuesday last year,” said Cree Lawson, Founder & CEO of Arrivalist.

Day by Day Fluctuations in Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index

Arrivalist’s findings take the day-of-week changes between 2019 and 2020 into consideration. The periods compared were December 20, 2019 (Friday) to December 29, 2019 (Sunday) versus December 18, 2020 (Friday) to December 27, 2020 (Sunday). The data was compiled from road trips of 50 miles or more. Road trips of less than 50 miles and travel completed by plane are not included in the calculations. Arrivalist will continue releasing updates on holiday travel through the weekend at www.Arrivalist.com/Daily-Travel-Index.

Some States Nearly at 2019 Levels

Outside of Hawaii and Alaska, the contiguous states which stood out for having close to the same volume of road trips originating there in 2020 as 2019 included:

  • Florida (-10.3%)
  • South Dakota (-16.3%)
  • Louisiana (-17.7%)
  • North Dakota (-19.2%)
  • Oklahoma (-19.3%)
  • Colorado (-19.5%)
  • Montana (-19.5%)

Greatest Impact in the Northeast

Road trip activity varied greatly by state over the holiday. Nearly all states in the Northeast saw around half the road trip activity of the prior year. States with the greatest reduction in road trip activity included:

  • Vermont (-52.9%)
  • Connecticut (-44.8%)
  • New Hampshire (-43.1%)
  • Rhode Island (-42.7%)
  • Delaware (-42.6%)
  • Massachusetts (-41.9%)
  • Pennsylvania (-41.9%)

The Daily Travel Index was designed as a free online resource available on Arrivalist’s website to provide the travel industry with insights to help plot its path to recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic. Site visitors can view trends in travel year-over-year by origin market and by mileage bands. Additionally, a customized Daily Travel Index is available to clients, which allows them to compare activity in their market to a nationwide index.

How the Data is Calculated

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.

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