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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — During the summer of 2016, vacation travelers are more likely to stop to use the bathroom than for any other activity, including buy gas, food or beverages, according to results of a nationwide consumer survey conducted by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
Nearly three quarters of American drivers (72 percent) said that they stop to use the bathroom when driving on a vacation, compared to 68 percent who buy gas and 66 percent who buy food or drinks. Women (77 percent) are also more likely than men (66 percent) to stop to use the bathroom.
Summer vacationers are also picky about which stores they visit, with 41 percent reporting that cleanliness and bathrooms influence their decision to visit a store, up from the 36 percent who said the same two years ago. Overall, the top two reasons that drivers use to decide where to stop are gas prices and the proximity to the area they want to stop (both at 48 percent). Quality food options and bathrooms tied for third place at 41 percent each.
Regarding their summer travel plans, 29 percent of Americans said that they will take more time on vacation trips this summer, and 86 percent of these vacationers plan to travel by car. They are also more likely to travel out of state (38 percent) than in state (26 percent).
The ability to spend time with family was the second most-mentioned reason to travel by car at 45 percent, but there was a significant split by gender. While 51 percent of women said that car travel allows them to spend more time with family, only 39 percent of men said the same.
Stopping by C-stores
Regardless of where they are going, millions of Americans will stop at and go inside convenience stores as part of their vacation. The top reasons cited for going inside a c-store are to use the bathroom (70 percent), buy a drink (63 percent), buy a snack (57 percent), or buy a sandwich or other meal (26 percent). Just 13 percent of drivers said that they will not stop at a c-store or gas station on their summer travels.
Overall, 17 percent of American drivers said they are driving more because of low gas prices, according to NACS. Younger consumers ages 18 to 34 are most likely to say that gas prices allow them to drive more (29 percent) and older drivers ages 50 and up are the least likely (6 percent) to say the same.
"The classic long summer drive is evolving from stopping to take care of the car to stopping to take care of the travelers, whether that means using the bathroom or picking up food and drinks," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "Americans are seeking out stores that are more appealing inside with fresh food and an emphasis on cleanliness, and convenience stores are delivering, serving 160 million customers every day — and even more over the summer months."
Nearly nine in 10 consumers (89 percent) say that low gas prices are good for the U.S. economy, marking a slight decrease from the 91 percent who indicated so in 2015.