A record-breaking 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday, an increase of more than 5 percent compared with last year and the highest number since AAA started tracking 18 years ago. For the 39.7 million Americans planning a Fourth of July road trip, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be twice as long than the normal trip, with Tuesday being the busiest day.
“This Independence Day will be one for the record books, as more Americans take to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways than ever before,” said Bill Sutherland, senior vice president, AAA Travel and Publishing, in a written statement. “Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season.”
In addition to strong economic variables, the expected increase in travelers this year is helped by Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, giving travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday. The Independence Day holiday period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
By the Numbers: 2018 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast
- Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 39.7 million – will hit the road this Independence Day, 5.1 percent more than last year.
- Planes: A record-breaking 3.8 million people will travel by air, a 7.9 percent increase and the ninth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
- Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 5.8 percent to a total of 3.5 million passengers.
Drivers Beware: Terrible Tuesday
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion over the holiday week on Tuesday, July 3 in the late afternoon – as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Travel times could increase two-fold in the major metros across the U.S., with drivers in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. experiencing the most significant delays.
“With a record-level number of travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around major metros,” said Scott Sedlik, general manager and vice president - public sector, INRIX. “Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, Tuesday afternoon will hands down be the worst time to be on the road. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commuting hours altogether or consider alternative routes.”
Gas Prices Starting to Stabilize Heading into Independence Day
Gas prices have slowly but steadily started to fall since the 2018 high of $2.97 set over Memorial Day weekend. Since then, the national gas price has dropped five cents to $2.92 (as of June 12), which is 57 cents more than one year ago. However, the higher prices are having little effect on travelers this Independence Day, with record number of travelers still planning to hit the road this year.
Travelers Paying Less for Airfare, More for Car Rentals and Hotels
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay an average $171 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. That is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years, and 9 percent less than last year.
However, travelers can expect to pay more to rent a car and stay at mid-range hotels this Independence Day. At $66, the average daily cost of a car rental is a slight increase of 2 percent over last year. The average nightly rate at AAA Two Diamond hotels is $147, 11 percent more than last year, while AAA Three Diamond hotels will average $187, a 2 percent year-over-year increase.
Theme Parks and Europe are Major Draws this Independence Day
This Independence Day, travelers will flock to theme parks in Orlando and southern California, while many others are heading west. Alaska cruises departing from Seattle, Anchorage and Vancouver round out the top five U.S. travel destinations for the holiday. For those venturing overseas, Europe is a major draw, with Rome, London, Dublin and Paris all making the list of top international travel destinations for Independence Day.
Top Domestic Travel Destinations
- Orlando, Florida
- Anaheim, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Honolulu, Hawaii
Top International Travel Destinations
- Rome, Italy
- London, England
- Dublin, Ireland
- Vancouver, Canada
- Paris, France