Where (and Where Not) to Road Trip This Summer

Driving costs, lodging prices, and traffic safety were all factors in a new study

With the summer season rolling in, it is safe to say that every traveler feels a pull toward the next destination. Whether it’s the beach, the mountains, or a national park it doesn’t matter. What matters is quite literally hitting the road and going to the discovery of a new place.

According to a new study by WalletHub, a personal finance website, most Americans are looking forward to a road trip this summer with 75 percent of American adults planning to take some sort of road trip with around 33 percent planning to travel more than 250 miles from home.

Experts are pointing out that the reasons behind such an increased interest in summer road trips have to do with financial decisions and budgeting.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“All indications are there is a significant increase in those planning a road trip versus flying or going to a resort destination,” Dr. David C. Miles, Executive Professor at Northern Arizona State University, said in a statement. “High credit card debt along with high-interest rates on credit cards and 31 percent inflation over the last three years are forcing families to explore new and different ways to vacation this year. The road trip is a logical choice yet provides fun and value and multiple options.”

Deciding to take a trip is the easy part, though. Picking a destination and affording everything you want to pack into your itinerary is more difficult. Fuel prices are one thing to worry about for example. They’ve remained high this year with the national average price of gas at over $3.46 per gallon with diesel fuel currently averaging $3.80. On top of that you’ll need to consider accommodations, activities, and dining, all of which are affected by inflation.

For this reason, WalletHub analyzed all 50 states across the country and came up with an ultimate ranking of the best and worst states for a summer road trip. Researchers took into consideration 32 key metrics that could affect travelers on the road. Those include driving costs, lodging prices (including campgrounds), traffic safety, weather, and even fun activities, among others.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas rocks the road trip rankings

According to WalletHub’s latest ranking, the best state for a summer road trip is none other than the Great State of Texas! Summer is here, and it’s the perfect time to pack up the car or RV, grab some snacks, and hit the open road. Whether you’re looking for stunning scenery, affordable adventures, or safe travels, I’ll break it down for you. 

So, let’s dive into why Texas is the ultimate road trip destination and explore other top states that offer unforgettable summer adventures.

Texas: The road trip champion

Everything is bigger in Texas including its appeal as the top state for summer road trips. Texas offers a diverse range of landscapes and activities to suit every traveler’s taste. From the vibrant nightlife in Austin to the serene beaches of Padre Island, there’s something for everyone. The scenic Hill Country with its rolling hills and charming wineries makes for a picturesque drive while the historic Alamo in San Antonio offers a glimpse into the past.

Don’t forget to check out the quirky roadside attractions like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo and the mystical Marfa Lights. Texas also boasts some of the best BBQ joints and Tex-Mex cuisine in the country ensuring that your taste buds are just as satisfied as your sense of adventure.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Affordable adventures across the states

While Texas reigns supreme, other states also offer incredible road trip experiences without breaking the bank. New York and New Jersey stand out with their mix of urban excitement and natural beauty. In New York, you can explore the stunning Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes region while New Jersey offers beautiful coastal drives and charming small towns.

For budget-conscious travelers states like Virginia and North Carolina provide excellent value with affordable accommodations, low gas prices, and numerous free attractions. Virginia’s historic sites and North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Parkway are perfect for those looking to explore without overspending.

Safety first: Secure and scenic routes

Safety is a top priority for any road trip and WalletHub’s ranking also considers this crucial factor. New York and Delaware are among the safest states for summer road trips with well-maintained roads and low crime rates ensuring a worry-free journey.

Texas with its extensive highway system and friendly locals also scores high on safety. The state is known for its hospitality and you’ll find plenty of help and amenities along the way. Whether you’re driving through bustling cities or remote desert landscapes, Texas ensures a secure and enjoyable trip.

So there you have it, folks! Texas tops the charts as the ultimate state for summer road trips offering a perfect blend of adventure, affordability, and safety. Whether you’re exploring the expansive landscapes of Texas, discovering the historic charms of Virginia, or enjoying the coastal beauty of New Jersey, there’s a road trip destination waiting for you. So, get your playlist ready, pack your bags, and set out for an unforgettable summer journey. Happy travels!

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top 10 overall ranked states for summer road trips

  • Texas
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Idaho
  • Wisconsin
  • Florida
  • Wyoming
  • Minnesota
  • Virginia
St. Martinsville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In-depth analysis of the key metrics

Average gas prices

Lowest

1. Mississippi

2. Colorado

T-3. Louisiana

T-3. Oklahoma

5. Arkansas

Highest

46. Oregon

47. Nevada

48. Washington

49. Hawaii

50. California

Best state vs. worst state: 2x difference (Mississippi vs. California)

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Price of camping

Lowest

1. Mississippi

2. Wyoming

3. West Virginia

4. Arizona

5. Illinois

Highest

44. Maryland

45. Alaska

46. New Jersey

T-47. Washington

T-47. California

Best state vs. worst state: 3x difference (Mississippi vs. California)

Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic byways

Most

1. Oregon

2. California

3. Utah

4. North Carolina

5. Washington

Fewest

46. Wisconsin

47. Rhode Island

48. Hawaii

49. Delaware

50. Connecticut

Worth Pondering…

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

—Saint Augustine (354-430)