Survey Says Americans Still Love Their Summer Road Trips
BY MANDY DONOVAN
Despite the rise of more mobility options than ever—bike sharing, self-driving cars, even hoverboards—people still have a soft spot for the classic: a good ol’ great American road trip. (The Griswolds still got it.)
Some might be surprised that the summer road trip still has so much appeal, even in the days when fewer and fewer people are owning cars, or even getting driver’s licenses. Here’s the thing: Nostalgia is a powerful force.
Find out what else people love about America’s favorite summertime drives.
The family road trip inspired decades of Griswolds films - and it’s still inspiring travelers, with 33% of Americans listing it as their favorite type of summer trip. Courtesy of Warner Brothers
THE FAMILY ROAD TRIP: SUMMER FUN? OR HELL ON WHEELS?
When you conjure a summer road trip with the family, do you picture a smiling backseat chorus singing Oklahoma? Or your little sister peeing her pants because your dad didn’t want to stop before the next rest stop? (Just us?)
Well, for 33% of the Americans we surveyed, the most popular summertime drive in 2016 is still a family road trip, with more people opting for it over road trips with friends or a solo morning drive sipping java. (Shocking, seeing as how your family will be in the car with you… in an enclosed space… for hours.)
Not surprisingly, those aged 18-24 preferred a sunset drive to a family vacation. Maybe it’s the sense of independence, the freedom to get out of the city… or the #NoFilter Instagram opportunities? All good reasons to enjoy the moment.
Family road trips may make you crazy, but these memory-builders remain a fave.
DESTINATION (ARE WE THERE YET?)
When asked what about a summer drive makes you feel most nostalgic, men chose traveling through back roads with no destination, while women chose cruising to the beach with a warm, summer breeze. Is it too cliché to say that perhaps this has something to do with a man’s purported fear of asking for directions? Hey, if you have no destination, you can’t get lost, right? BOOM! Is this thing on?
Altogether, folks showed a slight preference for the beach over the mountains (37% vs. 32.4%).
We were impressed at people’s practicality when we heard that 41% would choose the all-wheel drive capabilities of an SUV for cruising through the woods or mountains. Good idea. Slightly over 32% said they would love driving a convertible to the beach or lake. It’s nice to have the ability to match the car to the trip (thanks, Zipcar).
The genders are divided: men prefer to embrace their inner Bob Dylan by rolling like a stone.
HOT TOWN, SUMMER IN THE CITY
Who would have guessed that windows up or windows down would be such a polarizing topic? Over 25% of people we surveyed like driving with their windows down in the summer, and over 20% leave their windows up all the time. Get this: One in five people in the Northeast leave their windows down all year long. You will recognize these people. They will be the ones wearing shorts when it’s 35 degrees out. Some people just run hot. (Or stubborn.)
The women we surveyed favored trips involving sea breezes, a comfy chair, and a good book.
Summer evacuations from the city are the stuff of movies like the Seven Year Itch and Everyone Says I Love You. For those who don’t “summer” outside the city for the whole three months, grabbing a Zipcar and taking off to the nearest swimming hole sounds like a pretty great plan. Whether it's Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore, Half Moon Bay, or Lake Minnetonka, it’s not summertime without the classic road trip to the beach. (Shotgun!)
Windows down or up? Radio or aux? Convertible or 4WD? Grab a friend, a car, hit the road, and find out.
NOSTALGIA DRIVES THE SUMMER ROAD TRIP
Something about summertime road trips brings to mind thoughts of a bygone era—when we piled in our shiny new convertibles, took long Sunday drives, and had not yet heard the term “greenhouse gas emissions.”
These days, we know that driving is not always the best way to go. And that the best summer memories can be made taking the F Train to Coney Island. But the fantasy that the quintessential American automobile equals freedom and prosperity is one that’s hard to shake. And the further memories get in the rearview mirror, the more golden they seem.
No matter what the numbers say, as long as there’s paid time off from work involved? Count us in—wherever you’re going.
Freedom, air conditioning, and wheels – there’s not much that’s more American than the summer road trip.
Source: “Zipcar’s American Summertime Driving” survey via Google Consumer Surveys