Pilot Flying J reveals new trends in summer travel plans, reimagines the road trip in celebration of National Road Trip Day

May 18, 2020

New study finds restless, quarantined Americans are planning more trips once travel is deemed safe

With several stay-at-home orders still in effect, new research from Pilot Flying J suggests that many Americans are inspired to travel more this summer once they feel safe from COVID-19 exposure – with 65% reporting an increase in the number of trips they plan to take. This data comes just ahead of National Road Trip Day, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, which was established last year by Pilot Flying J and National Day Calendar as the official start of summer road trip season.

Falling on May 22, Pilot Flying J is celebrating National Road Trip Day a little differently due to the pandemic. In the spirit of the road trip and everything it stands for – exploration, discovery and connection – Pilot Flying J is reimagining the road trip. Starting today through May 22, people can visit Pilot Flying J social channels to participate in the Road Trip Reimagined campaign by sharing different ways to enjoy the open road, favorite road trip memories and ultimate road trip destinations. Each day this week, Pilot Flying J is giving away a $500 gift card to fuel future road trips, whenever or wherever they may be.*

“As the nation continues its road to recovery, we know many people are thinking about ways to safely enjoy summer vacations,” said Whitney Haslam Johnson, chief experience officer for Pilot Flying J. “While current travel guidelines vary across the country, we hope this National Road Trip Day will inspire people to discover new places to visit once they are ready to get back on the road. Our travel centers will be open with everything they need for a successful road trip, from clean bathrooms to everyday items and a large selection of snacks, food and beverage offerings.”

To find out how the pandemic has affected travelers’ plans and mindsets, Pilot Flying J commissioned a survey of 2,000 U.S. adult drivers. After having spent weeks indoors, it comes as no surprise that many people are ready for the open air – and the open road. Almost half (44%) of people reported using their time in quarantine to plan future trips, with 88% having at least one trip mapped out for summer. Travelers might leave behind their quarantine companions, however, as 62% of respondents admit they need a break from loved ones after being cooped up together.

The survey also found:

  • Road trips and outdoor adventures More than half (53%) of people plan to take a road trip this summer, and many will be venturing outside, with 52% of respondents reporting that the pandemic has made them more likely to take an outdoors-focused trip.
  • Opting to drive There might be more travelers opting to hit the road this summer, as one-third (35%) of respondents said they’d prefer to drive due to worries about flying post-COVID-19. People reported they would be willing to add an average of 6 hours and 38 min to their trip by opting to drive.
  • Saving while social distancing More than half (54%) of Americans have taken advantage of the travel deals and discounts available due to COVID-19. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed took a discounted trip when the pandemic began (before travel restrictions), while 22% booked a cheaper trip for the future.
  • Summer Sabbatical Of those planning to travel this summer, two-thirds (65%) are thinking about taking a three-month hiatus from work and traveling instead.
  • Reuniting with loved ones (in real life) – During quarantine, more than half (56%) of people reconnected with friends or family members they hadn’t communicated with in a while. Of those, two-thirds (64%) plan to visit one of these friends or family members this summer.

Given that two-thirds (66%) of respondents had to cancel or postpone vacations due to COVID-19, people may be looking to compensate for lost time. A summer trip may seem long overdue, especially for the more than half (54%) who reported that they have not left their home state in two or more years.

Though the survey asked respondents to answer questions under the assumption that social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions were lifted, summer travel is going to look different in the wake of COVID-19. The study revealed exactly how people are adjusting their future travel plans and habits for a safe and successful trip, specifically:

  • New road trip essentials The top ways people will change their future road trips are traveling with spare masks and gloves (50%); only stopping at pre-planned places where they know it’s clean/safe (40%); and bringing different supplies (37%).
  • Trusted road trip stops When taking their next road trip, people will feel most comfortable stopping at fast food restaurants (48%); travel centers/gas stations (41%); only places they know have increased their cleaning procedures (41%); and non-fast food restaurants (41%).

“Whether you’re stopping for a food and bathroom break or taking a minute to stretch your legs, know that our Pilot and Flying J locations put health and safety first with thorough cleaning procedures, social distancing guidelines and friendly team members ready to help make your stop a great experience,” said Johnson.

To learn more about National Road Trip Day, visit pilotflyingj.com/nationalroadtripday. To plan your next road trip and save along the way, download the Pilot Flying J app.**

Follow @PilotFlyingJ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate in the Road Trip Reimagined campaign and share your National Road Trip Day plans with #NationalRoadTripDay and #RoadTripReimagined.

*Terms and conditions may apply.

**Standard data rates may apply.


The 2020 National Road Trip Day survey was commissioned by Pilot Flying J through OnePoll, who conducted an online survey among n = 2,000 U.S. adults aged 18+ who are drivers. The survey was conducted Apr. 27-30, 2020 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

About Pilot Flying J

Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America, is committed to connecting people and places with comfort, care and a smile at every stop. Pilot Flying J, along with the One9 Fuel Network and other brands, is part of Pilot Company. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Pilot Company supplies more than 11 billion gallons of fuel per year and is currently ranked No. 10 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies. The Pilot Flying J travel center network offers a variety of amenities and products to make road travel easier with locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces, more than 630 restaurants, 73,000 truck parking spaces, 5,200 deluxe showers, 6,200 diesel lanes and 35 Truck Care service centers. Visit www.pilotflyingj.com for more information.