Stats: Record 49 Million Americans to Travel This July 4th

Graphic by AAA

July 4th travel is projected to be another record-setter, according to AAA. According to the organization's annual 4th of July travel forecast, nearly 49 million Americans are expected to travel over the long weekend this year, the most since AAA began tracking in 2000.

Overall travel volume for the holiday is expected to rise 4.1 percent over last year, with an additional 1.9 million people planning road trips and other vacations to celebrate America’s birthday. For the record-high 41.4 million Americans who will travel by automobile this Independence Day, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts drivers could face delays as much as four times a normal commute, with Wednesday, July 3 the worst day on the roads.

In addition to lower gas prices compared with last summer, broader economic fundamentals remain strong, AAA said. Low unemployment, robust consumer spending, and rising disposable incomes are all encouraging more consumers to invest their hard-earned money in travel this summer.

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Independence Day holiday travel, by mode:

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of travelers – 41.4 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 4.3 percent more than last year.
  • Planes: 3.96 million people will take to the skies, the highest number on record and 5.3 percent more than last year.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 0.6 percent to 3.55 million passengers.

For the 41.4 million Americans traveling by automobile this Independence Day, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Wednesday, July 3 as commuters mix with holiday travelers. In major metros, drivers could face delays as much as four times a normal commute. Nationwide, delays are expected to increase by approximately 9 percent.

With today’s national average of $2.66, gas prices are 19 cents less year-over-year and expected to drop even lower into the summer. This is motivating record numbers of travelers to take road trips for the holiday weekend, according to AAA.

“Gas prices are, on average, 17 cents cheaper than Memorial Day weekend,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano in a written statement. “More so, summer gas prices are poised to continue dropping even lower in coming weeks.”

Some of the savings travelers are enjoying from lower gas prices will go toward other travel costs this holiday, which are trending higher. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares on average are 10 percent more expensive compared with last Independence Day, while average car rental rates are 5% higher than last year, at $69 daily. Meanwhile, midrange accommodations are expected to cost travelers between $153 for AAA Two Diamond and $189 for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels.

Top July 4th Travel Destinations

Fun-in-the-sun locales like Orlando and Honolulu lead the top 10 the list of popular destinations for American travelers this Independence Day, based on advance AAA Travel bookings:

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii
  3. Seattle, Washington
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Anaheim, California
  6. New York, New York
  7. Boston, Massachusetts
  8. Maui, Hawaii
  9. Anchorage, Alaska
  10. Chicago, Illinois

For those travelers planning an international vacation, Europe is the destination of choice. Rome, London, Dublin and Paris are the most popular spots for international vacations this Independence Day, with Vancouver, Canada -- a top departure port for Alaskan cruises -- rounding out the top five.

According to Hertz, a 40-year AAA partner, the busiest airport pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Independence Day are expected to be Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS) and San Francisco (SFO). The busiest day for rental pick-ups is expected to be Wednesday, July 3.

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