Record-High Independence Day Travel Numbers

Meredith Terpstra

The weather is finally starting to feel like summer, and the Fourth of July is just around the corner. Are you making packing lists and finishing last minute to-do’s before heading out for a long holiday weekend?

If you plan on hitting the road for an Independence Day getaway this year, you aren’t alone. Over 48.9 million Americans are traveling for the holiday, which is the highest recorded number AAA has since it started tracking holiday travel in 2000.

“As Independence Day approaches, it’s time for the much-loved family road trip and this year will be one for the record books, with more Americans than ever planning vacations,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel.”

Travel Volume Up

The overall travel volume for the holiday is expected to rise 4.1% over last year, which means nearly 2 million additional people are planning road trips and other vacations to celebrate America’s birthday this year. With a record-high 41.4 million of the 48.9 million Americans planning on traveling by automobile this Independence Day, travelers could face delays as much as four times the normal commute with Wednesday, July 3 being the worst day for travel according to INRIX, the global mobility analytics company that AAA partners with.

“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around our major metros,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road.”

Gas Prices Down

The good news is that as of June 25, the national average for gas was $2.68, which is 21 cents less year-over-year. “Gas prices are, on average,16-cents cheaper than Memorial Day weekend, which is welcome news for motorists hitting the road to celebrate the July Fourth holiday,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano. “More so, summer gas prices are poised to continue dropping even lower in coming weeks.”

With so many people on the road, AAA expects to rescue nearly 76,000 motorists nation-wide on the road this Independence Day holiday. Dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA Members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. Additionally, before hitting the road, motorists need to be prepared for emergencies by taking along a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.

Car Rental, Hotel and Airfare Costs

While the low gas prices promote automobile travel, if you aren’t traveling with your own vehicle or you plan on staying in a hotel, you may have noticed that other travel costs this holiday are trending higher. According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares on average are 10% more expensive compared to 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.

The hotel costs will affect everyone from those visiting family in small towns to those heading for fun-in-the-sun locales like Orlando and Honolulu—the top two destinations for American travelers this Independence Day. 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.

Whether you are taking a road trip, flying for vacation, or just traveling down the street to watch the local firework show, remember to watch for other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. AAA wishes you a happy and stress-free Independence Day!