How 2020 Changed the Way Americans Traveled

2020 was a year of changes in nearly every aspect of our lives, and travel was no exception. Air travel took a major dip and made way for travel via car, RV, and even boats. While the number of flights went down, Americans proved they were still determined to find other means of travel. Learn more about how 2020 changed the way Americans traveled when it comes to flying, driving, boating, using RVs, and biking.

Air Travel

The beginning of the pandemic saw an extremely high flight cancellation rate — higher even than after 9/11. In March 2020, 17% of flights were canceled, which was right behind 20% of flights in September 2001. In April 2020, the cancellation rate more than doubled, with 41% of flights being canceled.

This trend continued in the months that followed. Flight cancellations did level off in May 2020, but the month set a new low for air travel. There were 42% fewer flights scheduled in May than in April.

Road Travel

To no one's surprise, road travel was the preferred method for Americans to travel in 2020. Car trips were favored by 97% of road trippers during the summer of 2020. Some reasons for this might be because road travel offers travelers more control over their schedule, comfort levels, and costs.

With an increase in road travel also came an increase in traffic violations. Several states saw a significant jump in speeding tickets. California Highway Patrol officers reported more than a 100% increase in speeding tickets from mid-March through mid-August compared to the same time period one year ago. In Utah, state police saw a 23% increase in speeding tickets from March through August, compared with one year ago. And in Iowa, the Iowa State Patrol reported a 101% increase from January through August over a four-year average.

While car sales went down in 2020, experts have noticed that car loan refinancing went up in 2020. The total U.S. car and truck sales were between 14 and 15 million, compared to approximately 17.5 million sales in 2016.

“In 2020, Americans held onto their cars for longer and sales on new vehicles were down," said Chris Speltz, CEO, RateGenius.com. "Not only did more borrowers apply for car loan refinancing in 2020 than in 2019, but 17% more of them got their new loan approved and funded. Those who were approved had slightly higher credit scores than approved applicants in 2019."

Boat Travel

The COVID-19 pandemic helped Americans become creative with travel, and there’s nothing like being out on the water to help you forget reality momentarily. GetMyBoat, a boat rental app, saw considerable growth in 2020.

“We achieved 3,900% growth in 2020," said Val Streif, Marketing Manager of GetMyBoat. "Boat rental reservations were made every few minutes, and that trend has continued into 2021. We are currently seeing three times the demand for boat rentals for the summer of 2021. Boats are great for social distancing — you can stay away from crowds in your own space outside.”

RV Travel

The summer of 2020 could be considered the summer of the RV. Togo RV looked at trip planning data from more than 18,000 RVers to get some insights into where vacationers traveled last summer.

According to the RV site, of the 50 most popular points of interest from Roadtrippers app users, 46 were west of the Mississippi River, with California being the top spot.

The site anticipates RVing to stick around. In the survey, 63% of people are planning to make a campground reservation in 2021 further in advance than they normally do. Additionally, 74% of people said they will use their RV more in 2021 than they did in 2020.

“Last spring as the airline industry was reeling and most Americans were reluctant to fly, the RV industry started to see explosive sales and a dramatic increase in RV rentals,” said Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi, of the RV Family Travel Atlas. “RV travel is safe and self-enclosed. No need to use restrooms or stop at crowded travel plazas while en route. And campgrounds are built for social distancing. Most campsites provide ample space for social distancing.”

Bike Travel

In 2020, bikes were added to the shortlist of items that were in high demand. According to The NPD Group, a market research company, bike sales increased 75% compared to the previous year. With gyms closed, people wary of public transit, and an increased focus on family time, bicycling moved up to one of the tops methods of both transportation and recreation.

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