Low Gas Prices Spur Holiday Road Trips

GasBuddy survey finds 1 in 3 Americans plan to travel by car this season, lifting demand for fuel.

December 16, 2020

BOSTON—Travel plans have been upended this entire year due to COVID-19, but when it comes to being “home for the holidays,” GasBuddy’s just-released Holiday Travel Survey found that more than a third (34%) of Americans are planning to make that happen and will be taking to the road for the special day.

When asked if gas prices were affecting holiday travel plans, 14% of survey respondents said that they are taking a road trip because gas prices are low this year, a significant increase compared with previous years.

“With most of the country’s views unchanged about driving or celebrating the holidays, fuel demand is expected to rise in the short-term due to holiday travel before tapering off to likely multi-month lows once the New Year arrives,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, in a press release.

Nearly 60% of those surveyed said that COVID-19 has impacted their holiday travel plans. While a majority plan to stay put, 10% said they have switched up their mode of transportation to driving by car instead of traveling by plane or train.

“It’s been a nightmarish year for many due to the spread of COVID-19 and economic challenges that came with it, but many Americans have deeply rooted traditions for the holiday and are unwilling to let them slip away like the rest of the year. Ironically, due to the challenges 2020 has presented, gas prices have fallen, and we project the national average to be $2.19 per gallon on Christmas Day, the second lowest in the last decade,” De Haan said.

The regions that are expected to see the most holiday road trips include the Rocky Mountains (40%) and the Southeast (39%), followed by the Southwest (39%), the Pacific (38%) and Midwest (31%), with the lowest percentage of travelers expected in the Northeast (27%).

“We’re expecting to see heightened driving activity across some of the most hard-hit areas of the coronavirus,” said De Haan. “It’s more important than ever for travelers to remain safe and vigilant on the roads … but also amidst state quarantine requirements since many that are hitting the road may be crossing into other states.”

When asked if the news of the COVID-19 vaccine trial results have changed their outlook on driving or celebrating the holidays, the majority of travelers (78%) have said that news has not changed their outlook on driving or celebrating the holidays, while 13% said they feel more optimistic about travel and 7% say they feel less optimistic about travel.

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