So much for staying within 10 miles of home. After weeks of laying low, Colorado drivers got into their vehicles this holiday weekend and drove, and drove and drove.
“Memorial Day kicked travel up into a higher gear,” said Matt Clement, vice president of marketing at Arrivalist, which produces a Daily Travel Index.
The index uses GPS data from personal mobile devices to anonymously track how much people are moving around. It subtracts out flights, work commutes, freight traffic and short trips of under 50 miles.
Alaska led the nation for the increase in road trips of 250 miles or more during the Memorial Day weekend. But getting around in that massive state is a long-haul affair.
Within the continental U.S., Colorado drivers recorded the largest percentage increase at 185% in trips of 250 miles or more this past weekend versus the prior ones, according to the Daily Travel Index.
Where precisely they went is something the index doesn’t track, but having an extra day off appears to have encouraged more distant ventures. Trips from 100 to 250 miles were also up sharply in Colorado this past weekend, a sign that many Front Range residents probably headed up into the mountains, Clement said.
The amount of traffic in that range by Colorado drivers in the state approximated a Valentine’s Day weekend in the state. Shorter trips of 50 to 100 miles were still only half of the average February weekend.
Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Arizona also saw some large increases in long trips. Clement can’t say for sure, but he thinks a fair share of those travelers made it to Colorado.
The low point in road trips in Colorado came on March 27, and for weeks, people in the state largely hunkered down. But gradually they have been venturing out. Overall, road trips of 50 miles or more by residents of the state are up 144% from the bottom.
Nationally, May 22-23 saw a 48.5% increase in road travel compared to the weekend of May 15-16. It marked the biggest weekend-over-weekend increase in road trips this year.
In a few spots, like the Jersey Shore and Lake of the Ozarks, visits were actually up compared to the holiday weekend last year. Mount Rushmore, Lake Tahoe, Lake Norman, Half Moon Bay, Lake Powell and Grand Tetons National Park ran at 80% to 100% of their 2019 level of holiday activity.
But on the whole, traffic is down. Memorial Day weekend trips were only 68.2% of the trips made on the MLK Day weekend and 56.1% of the levels seen on Labor Day weekend last year, according to Arrivalist.
Clement notes that Americans used to consider 300 miles the cutoff where flying made more senes than driving. That number has since moved up to 500 miles, which means the state may see more visitors drive rather than fly in this summer.
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