2014’s Best and Worst States for Summer Road Trips
For many Americans, summer is the time to hit the open road. School’s out, the weather’s warm and the possibilities are endless. The only dilemma is deciding on a destination. Not everyone has the soul of a brave hippie who can hitch rides from friendly folks and hop from one strange place to another. For the financially conscious, their budgets will make the call.
During hotter months, traveling and gas prices tend to climb and peak in August. But that hasn’t stopped Americans from enjoying their road trips. Domestic and international travelers spent $621.4 billion on leisure travel in 2013. And in the previous year, nearly eight in 10, or 79 percent, of all domestic leisure trips were by car. Now, they’re at it again: 40 percent more Americans plan to take several summer vacations this year compared with 2013, and many of them will be on the road.
As consumers prepare for their journeys this summer season, WalletHub compared the 50 U.S. states to determine the Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips. Using 21 key metrics, we identified which wallet-friendly states offer maximum fun as well as the ones that will have you heading back to base faster than you can say dollar. We examined not only the attractions, traffic conditions and weather in each state, but we also took into account gas prices and lodging costs to help you plan your budget. Check out the Methodology section below for more detailed information on how we ranked each state.
Driving & Accommodation Costs Rank
Traffic Conditions & Safety Rank
Weather Conditions Rank
Fun & Scenic Attractions Rank
With summer being peak driving season and gas prices approaching $4 per gallon, WalletHub took 21 key metrics to determine the Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips. In each of the 50 states, we considered various conditions that can affect travelers on the road, including driving costs, lodging prices, traffic safety, weather and, of course, fun activities for everyone. For certain metrics for which data at the state level was not available, we instead used the data for the three largest cities in that state, calculated the average and extrapolated the results at the state level. By doing so, road-trip vacationers can budget accordingly and experience quality destinations without breaking the bank.
You can check out the metrics as well as the corresponding weights we used to construct our overall rankings below. The four categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings.
Driving & Accommodation Costs
- Average Gas Prices: 1
- Maximum Toll Costs: 1
- Average Cost of Car Repairs: 0.5
- Lowest Price of 3-Star Hotel: 1
- Lowest Price of Camping: 1
- Number of Lodging Units per Capita (campgrounds, hostels, condominiums, villa, lodge): 1
Traffic Conditions & Safety
- Vehicle Miles Traveled per Capita: 1
- Population Density (Overcrowded Degree): 1
- Driving Laws Rating: 1
- Quality of Roads: 1
- Quality of Bridges: 0.25
- Fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel: 2.5
- Car Thefts per Capita: 1
- Violent Crime Rate per 100,000 Population: 1
- Difference Between the Historical Average Temperature for July 1st – August 31st & Ideal Temperature (75°): 1
- Historical Average Precipitations for July 1st – August 31st: 1
- Monthly Sunshine for July 1st – August 31st (percent*): 1
Note: The total time that sunshine reaches the surface of the earth is expressed as the percentage of the maximum amount possible from sunrise to sunset with clear sky conditions.
Fun & Scenic Attractions
- National Park Units per Square Mile: 1
- Number of Attractions: 2
- Number of Nightlife Options per Capita: 1
- Number of Scenic Byways: 2.5
Source: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Park Service, the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, the National Conference of State Legislatures, GasBuddy.com, the American Scenic Byways, CarMD, Kayak.com, Koa.com, Tripadvisor, BetterBridges, TRIP, NOAA National Climatic Data Center and the Weather Underground.