2020: The Summer of the Great American Road Trip

June 1, 2020

Whether you love the mountains, want to drive through vineyards, or cruise out to the coast, there's a landscape or a vista in Sonoma County waiting for you.

We all know that the excitement of having an upcoming trip on the calendar gives us something to look forward to and anticipate. But according to National Geographic (and based on research from Cornell University), planning your next trip can actually make you happier. And who doesn’t want or need a reason to be happy right now, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic? In fact, the Cornell University study found that planning and anticipating a trip can be almost as enjoyable as going on the trip itself. How that plays out in a post-pandemic world is still not exactly clear, but experts agree that developing a vague itinerary such as where to go and a list of what to do –without getting attached to taking a specific trip at a specific time – is a good start.

And by now we’ve all heard that Americans – at least those who travel this summer – will be increasingly traveling by car, sticking relatively close to home, taking shorter trips, and waiting until the last minute to make their travel plans. Conceivably, this gives travelers the greatest flexibility and control over their travels, including the ability to choose a destination they feel is safe, get there and back on their own terms, and to pull stakes and return home if for some reason they decide that they’re not ready to spend a few nights away from home just yet.


Despite the fact that the national U.S. average for a gallon of gas sat at $1.87 last week, AAA is reporting that online travel bookings have been rising modestly since mid-April, and online travel agency TravelPass Group reports an increase in hotel reservations – mostly for people staying within their own state, there is plenty of evidence that road trips won’t be the same this summer. That does not mean they won’t exist; they just might look different than in previous years. To that end, many Americans are considering road trips as a minimal-contact vacation option as opposed to the close quarters of traveling by plane. Those who do make summer travel driving plans may encounter checkpoints at state lines, quarantine orders, closed welcome centers and rest areas, and fewer open hotels and restaurants.

Summer road trippers visiting Santa Rosa will need to do more planning and preparation than they would have before the Covid-19 pandemic. Hotel reservations should be made in advance, directly with our local area hotels. Visitors should also check ahead to see which welcome centers may be closed (case in point, our very own California Welcome Center in Santa Rosa).

The Covid-19 virus can stop our travel plans, but it cannot stop our travel dreams. Planning for travel—thinking about it, talking about it, imagining it—may in fact be the best thing you can do to stay optimistic and, when this is all behind us, be ready to embark on the trip you’ve been dreaming about.

When it’s safe to travel again, 2020 may turn out to be a quieter and gentler year in Santa Rosa. A time of nostalgia, small crowds, and big memories in the happening hub of Sonoma County. It may be like it was 25 years ago, when people would come to Santa Rosa just to enjoy the vineyards, the outdoors, and riding or hiking the trails in our beautiful parks. In a different way, the density of the crowd likely won’t be here.

Santa Rosa Avenue Exit Sign Highway 101

Regardless, visitors to our amazing corner of the world will still have a wonderful time and create lasting memories.

The post-pandemic future of travel is still unmapped, but in short, while planning a trip can be as enjoyable as the actual trip, it’s the trip itself that travelers ultimately covet.

Visit Santa Rosa Visitor's Guide Cover'