Welcome to the 24th edition of the PlaceIQ Social Distance Tracker. 

 It’s fair to say we could all use a change of scenery right now. Over the last few weeks, we keep hearing about the mundane vacation. Friends and colleagues have been renting or borrowing houses for a week or two if only to answer email and video conference from a different couch, cook from a different kitchen, visit a different grocery store, and hike a new trail. These places are relatively close by – only a road trip away.

 Our data shows that this is the new normal for travel. Vacations happen closer to home and look like home. We do the same things, just somewhere else. Today we’ll be diving deeper into vacations, following our initial exploration last week.

We’ve also finally christened this new phase of reemergence we find ourselves in. When you name something, you acknowledge it exists — hence our hesitancy to formalize what we’re now calling the unfortunate Summer Stumble:

CHART: Reemergence Index, Foot Traffic Year-Over-Year

As you can see, trends are largely flat (though if you’d like details, see this edition). Everything is trending within +/- 3%, besides airports (down ~12%) and nature and outdoors (up 10%).

 Next week, we’ll be doing a deep dive on dining. We’ve been taking a long look at the category and emerged with three key insights for our socially distant era. If you know of anyone navigating the restaurant vertical these days, we’d appreciate it if you’d share this edition and encourage them to subscribe.

We are gratified to see our analyses being included in various reports, since it is our goal to contribute to the #dataforgood effort. If you choose to re-use one of our analysis, all we ask is that you attribute the analysis or content to PlaceIQ. Thank you!

Vacations Happen Closer to Home, and Look Like it Too…

As we wrapped up our analysis on July 4th travel, we arrived at a simple maxim: vacations are happening closer to home and look like home. People are traveling less for their summer breaks, usually by car and rarely by air. When they get to their destination, their routines are similar to their behaviors at home. They eat out less, shop to dine in, avoid popular events, and spend time outdoors. It’s truly a home away from home, unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Last week we covered the activities people engage in during their socially distant vacations. They’re seeking out nature and outdoor activities (like they do at home) and largely abstaining from event venues, theme parks, and other destination fare. We wanted to dive into behavior on vacation further, so we looked at the visitation patterns of devices that traveled and stayed away from home over the holiday weekend:


Venue Categories Visited by Travelers

CHART: Venue Categories Visited by Travelers

When we analyze vacation activities outside of entertainment, two main insights emerge. 

 First, dining out has been traded for dining in. Vacationers are visiting big box and grocery retail at markedly increased rates while avoiding casual restaurants. Fast food is up, year over year, but this convenient dinner is not the celebratory feast out on the town. We expect these shifts to lessen for weekends not on July 4th, but so far the trend has been consistent this summer. Like at home, eating in is now the norm on vacation.

 Second, we are able to confirm that road trips are clearly the preference this summer. Last week, we noted that the distance traveled to venues increased over the last few weeks while at the same time airport visitation is relatively flat. This week, when we look at devices traveling and analyze their behavior, we can see that gas station visitation while on vacation is significantly up. Meanwhile airport visitation is severely down, nearly as much as the general population.

 If road trips really are the new normal, we’d expect people to stick closer to home when choosing their destinations. And, the numbers bear this out: 

CHART: Distance Traveled for Vacations, Fourth of July Weekend

Over 20% more devices stayed within 50 miles of their main residence, suggesting the weekend jaunt was more likely to a relative’s home or local cabin than a special destination. Long haul trips beyond 500 miles away were down more than 30%, among devices which traveled.

 These figures are at the national level, but zooming down to the state level we can verify the trend stays true there as well. For example, Florida tourists were more likely to be pulled from states in the same region this year. States further away were significantly less likely to make the trip:

CHART: Florida Case Study visitors from far
CHART: Florida Case Study visitors from nearby

Clearly, current context is putting a damper on all travel to Florida, but those that steadfastly choose to visit do it from nearby.

 Vacations this summer, and likely beyond, will be close to home and look like home. While this shift certainly lessens the amount of money in play, people’s desire for a change of scenery remains persistent. Companies looking to capture summer travelers should target locally, think family-, pet-, small group-friendly, and focus on offering the safe (albeit mundane) comforts of a home away from home.

 As always, thanks for joining us. Please reach out with any questions.

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