AAA: Nearly 71M to travel

AAA projects 70.9 million travelers will head 50 miles or more from home over the Independence Day holiday travel period. For the first time, AAA looked at the entire week of Fourth of July, plus the Saturday before and the Sunday after the holiday. This year’s projected number of travelers for that period is a 5% increase compared to 2023 and an 8% increase over 2019.

“Americans are embracing the opportunity to travel over the Independence Day holiday in record-breaking numbers,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central. “Whether by car, plane, or train, we are seeing more people planning extended trips over the holiday to celebrate with family and friends.”

South Atlantic Region — which includes Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia — Independence Day forecast highlights:

  • By car, 11.9 million people, an increase of 5.4%
  • Air travel, 971,000 people, an increase of 6.3%
  • Other (bus, train, ship, etc.), 631,000 people, an increase of 8.6%
  • Region Total, 13.6 million people, an increase of 5.6%

AAA projects a record 60.6 million people will travel by car over Independence Day week — that’s an additional 2.8 million travelers compared to last year.

This year’s number also surpasses 2019 when 55.3 million people traveled by car over July Fourth week.

AAA car rental partner Hertz says Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the cities displaying the highest rental demand during the holiday week. The busiest pick-up days are projected to be Friday, Saturday and July 3.

Gas prices are lower than last year when the national average was $3.53. It is important to remember that it is hurricane season, which could affect gas prices should a storm negatively impact Gulf Coast oil production and refining centers.

The number of air travelers is also expected to set a record. AAA projects 5.74 million people will fly to their July Fourth destinations. That’s an increase of nearly 7% compared to last year and a 12% increase over 2019. AAA booking data shows domestic airfare is 2% cheaper this Independence Day week compared to last year, and the average price for a domestic roundtrip ticket is $800. Airports will be packed throughout the week. AAA recommends arriving two hours early, reserving parking ahead of time, and traveling with carry-on luggage versus checked bags to save time and money.

More than 4.6 million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises and trains. This category is seeing an increase of 9% compared to last year, but this year’s number is shy of 2019’s figure of 4.79 million. Cruising continues its remarkable post-pandemic comeback.

This time of year, Alaska cruises are in high demand, making Seattle and Anchorage top domestic destinations. Cruise travelers are also finding deals this summer. With new ships coming onto the market — and going for a premium — some cruise lines have been offering targeted discounts to fill older inventory for remaining cabins.

Best/worst times to drive

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says the worst times to travel by car before and on July 4 are 2-7 p.m. Drivers should hit the road in the morning, and travelers returning on July 8 should avoid rush-hour traffic in the morning and afternoon.

“Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7, as they return,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal. Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations, and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road condition.”