Summer travel is looking quite different this year, and that is if travel is even in the mix. For North Americans, the search has been on for safe and affordable travel ways to get away, find an escape for the mind and experience more than the same everyday walls and fences in what has become some sort of COVID-19-style Groundhog Day. To that end, new research shows hitting the road in an RV may be the way to go — especially for families on a quest for a packaging of sanity and safe travels.

Outdoorsy, an RV rental company, conducted its Road to Wellness national survey with 1,000 Americans and 400 Canadians on July 7 to obtain real-time perspectives on outdoor travel sentiment. Nearly 100% of North Americans (94%) reported they are happier and healthier when spending time outdoors.

Of the parents surveyed, some 93% said they feel more bonded with their children when on a road trip, with 75% adding that their kids say “thank you” more often when on vacation.

"We had always believed that time spent outdoors has a positive effect on an individual's wellbeing, but with this survey we learned more about the wellness benefits attributed to time spent outdoors with family," said Jen Young, Outdoorsy's co-founder and CMO.

The survey, which included responses from 1,400 North Americans, found that:

The open road is a welcome relief: 71% of respondents who had to cancel their summer travel plans are now considering alternative vacation options, such as a road trip, as a result of COVID-19.

Air travel is still a hassle: 65% of parents said they consider it easier to drive with children than to fly, with 75% of respondents noting they would describe their last road trip as a "much needed escape" and would plan to take one again soon.

Quarantine companions are key: 70% of respondents noted they would rather go on a road trip with family or a significant other than go alone.

Remote workers have caught the travel bug: WFH workers are 2.5 times more likely to say they would take more road trips if they had access to an RV, with 72% of respondents reporting they are planning to take more road trips as a result of widespread work-from-home policies due to COVID-19.

Van life is ageless: Among the demographics surveyed, millennials are 2.13 times more likely than any other generation to spend their COVID-19-related stimulus funds on a road trip this year and Boomers are 1.8 times more likely to opt out of plane travel this summer due to COVID-19.

When asked about the ideal length for a road trip:

  • 21% feel that 1-2 days is the perfect length
  • 28% would like to spend 3-4 days on their trip
  • 25% say that 5-7 days is the right amount of time
  • 12% want their road trips to be between 7-10 days long
  • 9% prefer to spend 2+ weeks on the road at a time

Results from the survey found two factors that typically prevent North Americans from hitting the road — not having enough time off work (36%) and high gas prices (43%) — are now an advantage for the majority of individuals working from home, especially with gas prices at historic lows.

"The survey found an overwhelmingly positive sentiment to family road travel and anecdotal reports found that family ties were strengthened in direct correlation to the amount of time a family spends together in nature," Young said. "We are seeing more and more people enjoy the silver linings from this unique and challenging time as they head for the open road to reconnect with themselves, their families, and the benefits of the outdoors."

Overall, 88% of survey respondents say they want to incorporate the outdoors into their daily routine more often.

Love the journey; stay flexible

In a similar survey conducted by Expedia in early July, response showed that summer travel plans were likely to look more like staycations than vacations with trips taking place closer to home.

  • 85% of U.S. travelers said they are likely to take a road trip this summer
  • Interest in domestic summer stays is up 10% year-on-year, making up nearly 85% of hotel searches overall in June
  • Demand for staycations is on the rise
  • Flexibility is key: 97% of stays booked in June were refundable rates, up nearly 20% year-on-year
  • Health and safety, avoiding crowds were prioritized over price

Tips and tricks for the road

Expedia survey respondents offered their top advice and considerations for those planning a summer road trip:

Have a plan. Thinking about where to stop for gas, how long to drive each day and what time of day to drive through a town are all aspects of a road trip to map out in advance.

Know where to stay. If you're among the 52 % of travelers staying in hotels and motels this summer, research ahead of time or inquire about specific policies such as whether the property will have decreased occupancy. Other accommodation types people will most likely opt for on a road trip this summer include staying with friends/family (31 %), vacation rentals (28 %) and camping (24 %).

Do vehicle maintenance. Car trouble, especially with kids or pets in the mix, is rarely a fun experience. When planning a road trip, have your car serviced or inspected before leaving. Alternately, rent a car with better gas mileage or more space.

Download apps. Whether it's a kid-friendly game or navigation, it's a good idea to download any apps you'll need before hitting the road.

Remember to bring cash. Tolls, cash-only services and tipping are just a few things you might need money for during a road trip.

Pack the essentials. In addition to clothing and toiletries, road trippers advise bringing snacks, an emergency kit, cleaning/sanitary products, valid documents (ID and insurance card) and a spare car key.