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Why 3 in 4 prefer road trips over flying

Road trip veterans say the best part about their journey is seeing new landscapes and listening to music

Road trip

A recent poll of 2,000 American drivers found that the open road is the best way when embarking on an adventure.


By Talker Research

Nearly three-quarters of Americans prefer driving to their vacation destination over flying, according to new research.

A recent poll of 2,000 American drivers found that the open road is the best way when embarking on an adventure.

So what makes driving the most popular option? Road trip veterans reported the best things about road trips include seeing new landscapes (50%), listening to music (43%), getting a break from their routine (26%) and enjoying the feeling of driving (25%).

In fact, only 22% of respondents will opt to fly rather than drive when going on a trip.

Commissioned by Michelin for Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, and conducted by OnePoll, the study found that almost half of those who’ve ever gone on a road trip (43%) rank themselves as experienced, and a fifth (21%) go so far as to label themselves as expert-level.

And of those who have ever taken a road trip, the average respondent has racked up the miles, knocking out 16 road trips in their lifetime.

Forty-five percent prefer to assume driving responsibilities for the trip, 22% prefer to have another person drive, and 28% enjoy splitting the driving role with someone else.

The biggest concerns for respondents while on a road trip or long drive include having a safe and reliable car (35%), traffic (32%), staying alert and awake (28%) and being aware of dangerous drivers (27%).

Safety is top of mind for respondents embarking on a long road trip.

The most common hacks respondents use to stay alert and awake on long drives and road trips include listening to music, audiobooks and podcasts (57%), talking to someone else in the car (57%), and drinking coffee or energy drinks (52%).

More than three in five (68%) will also have a check-in schedule while on a long drive or road trip to let friends or family know they’re safe. Twenty-two percent of those will check in halfway through the drive and 20% will send a check-in text or call every two hours.

“Sometimes, a little preparation can go a long way, especially with road trips. The best trips and vacations include a safety plan. As all drivers and road trippers know, you need to account for unexpected bumps in the road,” said Russell Shepherd, technical communications director of Michelin North America. “If you know you have a reliable car and you can safely get to where you’re going, you’ll be better able to enjoy the ride, without worrying about little mishaps.”

For those who have taken a road trip or long drive in the last five years, respondents ranked losing cell service (36%), needing to make frequent bathroom stops (35%) and passengers asking, “Are we there yet?” (27%) as their biggest pet peeves.

But little annoyances aren’t the only things to worry about on the open road: 37% of road trippers have experienced what they’d call a road trip nightmare.

The survey respondents told tales of flat tires, broken down cars, brakes giving out, accidents, blizzards, rock slides, icy roads and troublesome travel companions to name a few. One respondent memorably lost their wallet and pawned a boom box for gas to make it home.

It’s not surprising then that 93% of long-distance drivers agree that they’re able to enjoy themselves to the fullest, make more memories and be fully present on the trip if they know their car is safe and reliable.

Pre-road trip, 79% of road trippers prefer to have their car inspected, either by themselves or by a professional.

Over nine in 10 of those (95%) will check their tires for nails, tread depth and tire pressure, and almost all (94%) say it’s a high priority to have a reliable car when embarking.

“For drivers and road trippers hitting the road this spring and summer, we encourage you to check out your car and make sure it’s in the best shape possible before making the drive,” said Shepherd. “Car trouble is stressful, which isn’t the point of an adventure or vacation.”

The best parts of road trips and long drives:

● Seeing new landscapes and scenery — 50%

● Listening to music — 43%

● Getting a break from my routine — 26%

● Enjoying the feeling of driving — 25%

● Trying local food along the way — 24%

● Getting to my destination — 24%

● Talking to the people I’m driving with — 23%

● Getting a chance to clear my head— 19%

● Getting some peace and quiet — 16%

● Listening to podcasts — 8%

● Calling friends or family — 6%

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 American drivers was commissioned by Michelin between Feb. 9 and Feb. 20, 2024. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).