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Judging from Google search data, many people who live in smaller states really would agree that they need to get out more — on vacation or for business trips.

The most popular Google search terms people use when researching travel likely aren’t mysteries to most travel brands. But things start getting interesting when it turns out that these terms are often more popular within rural states relative to other search terms than in states that are population powerhouses.

Based on Google Trends data for the 12 months through December 8, 2014, the residents of states such as North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska have some of the greatest propensity to use travel-related keywords relative to other searches within their states.

By travel-related search terms, we mean queries associated with traveling.

Google analyzes a portion of web searches to compute how many searches have been done for specific terms, relative to the total number of all searches done on Google over time. This search popularity is then represented in values on a 0 to 100 scale, with 100 indicating the highest search popularity.

If Montana, for example, has a value of 100 for the term “trip” and California has a value of 85, this doesn’t imply there are more searches for this term in rural Montana than densely populated California. It means “trip” is a more popular search term in Montana compared to all other terms people search for on Google in the state compared with the popularity of the term within California.


The term “travel” has the highest search popularity in Hawaii, relative to all Google search terms in that state, with a score of 100, followed by Alaska (93), Washington, D.C. (92), Wyoming (88) and South Dakota (84).

Oregon and Mississippi are among the states with the lowest popularity for the search term “travel,” at 49 and 51, respectively.

Half of the top 10 metro areas with the highest popularity for “travel” were in less-populated states, such as Rapid City, South Dakota (97), Casper-Riverton, Wyoming (97) and Butte-Bozeman, Montana (91).


For “vacation,” Ohio has the highest relative popularity (100), and Florida, Massachusetts and New Hampshire all broke 90.

The sparsely populated states didn’t win this time, but Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota all demonstrated more popularity, ranging from 75 to 78, than the population epicenter of California, for example, at 72. Columbus, Ohio, New York City and Portland, Oregon are the cities where “vacation” is most popular at 100, 99 and 99, respectively.

The top vacation-related search query — meaning queries with the word “vacation” in it –nationwide was “vacation rentals.”


The term “flights” once again brings rural states and their metro areas to the fore. Florida and Montana were tied for the highest relative popularity of the term at 100, followed by North Dakota (93) and Wyoming (92). Billings, Montana (100) is the metro where “flights” is most popular travel-related term in the city, and rural metro areas clearly dominate the top 10 list. Two are in Montana, two in Idaho, one in North Dakota, one in Wyoming and one in Alaska. All of these score more than 70, and most metro areas in the country fall below 60 for “flights.”

Cities, including New York City, Denver and Boston, show “flights” as having the highest popularity for travel-related search terms in their respective locations at 100, 92 and 91, respectively.

The top flight-related search query nationwide was “cheap flights.”


Wyoming (100) clenches the top spot for “hotels” followed by Florida (98) and North Dakota and South Carolina (94 each). Wyoming and North Dakota beat out states like California and Georgia (89 each), and Texas (85).

‘Alliegiant Air’

Considering rural states seem to fancy certain travel-related search term searches, it’s also worth looking at the term “Allegiant Air” because the low cost carrier specializes in transporting travelers from small cities to large leisure destinations.

No surprises here: Rural states almost exclusively dominate this term relative to other queries they fellow statewide residents make. South Dakota’s index value was 100, Montana (50), North Dakota (44), Wyoming (41) and Idaho and Utah (both 33). Arizona joins Montana at 50, and Florida (32) was also higher for “Allegiant Air” compared with most states.

Throughout all search terms mentioned, Oregon, Kansas, and Virginia consistently have some of the lowest, if not the lowest, popularity for these travel-related search terms relative to other things people are searching for within those states.

Photo Credit: A hiker at the Grand Canyon. Moyan Brenn / Flickr