Are We There Yet? Survey Looks at Family Road Trip Trends

Labor Day weekend is likely the last chance families have to hit the road together before fall schedules start filling up. The road trip has long been an American staple, and a new survey looks at how it has changed over the years.

Nearly 35 million people are expected to travel for Labor Day weekend this year, the highest number since the recession, according to a report by AAA. Of those traveling, 85 percent (29.7 million) will put the rubber to the road for one last family road trip before school starts up again.

The term “road trip” can evoke a variety of emotions and memories, even among members of the same family. For example, the kids who sat in the backwards-facing seats of the old station wagon might have had an entirely different experience than those seated up front. For others, the National Lampoon’s Vacation series might come to mind (it’s getting rebooted, by the way).

Whatever your opinion, AAA’s data makes it clear—road trips are still a staple of American culture. Families still take them, and Hollywood still loves them.

“The old fashioned road trip … remains a memorable experience for the entire family,” Auto Alliance CEO Mitch Bainwol said in a statement.

But how has the road trip changed over the years? The Auto Alliance’s latest Auto Index consumer survey, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, looked into just that. The survey asked 4,660 adult vehicle owners to recall some of their favorite road-trip memories and compare them to trips they take today.

In the past, Americans spent their hours in the car taking in the scenery and playing games (of the “I Spy…” variety) and singing songs.

Today, 40 percent reported that gazing out the window is still their favorite activity in the car. But the songs and “I Spy” of trips past have been at least partly replaced by use of portable electronic devices (15 percent) on present-day road trips. Respondents also said that the best part of their trips from years past included spending time with family (40 percent) and stopping at roadside attractions (35 percent).

When deciding on a mode of transportation, 47 percent said cost was their biggest concern, and just 3 percent cited distance. The ability to bring more gear like bikes and golf clubs when traveling by car was at least somewhat important for 70 percent of respondents.

While distance wasn’t the top concern for many, a majority of those surveyed said the longest distance they’d be willing to travel by car is between 300 and 500 miles. Just 5 percent said they’d drive any distance.

What’s your favorite way to pass the time on a road trip? Have any stories to share? Tell us in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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