A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: Record-breaking 48.9 million Americans expected to travel this Fourth of July

Nearly 49 million Americans will celebrate the red, white and blue with an Independence Day getaway this year — more than ever recorded since AAA began tracking holiday travel data 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, drivers could face delays as much as four times a normal commute, according to global mobility analytics company INRIX, in collaboration with AAA. This Wednesday, July 3, is expected to be the worst day on the roads.

In addition to lower gas prices compared to last summer, broader economic indicators remain strong. Low unemployment, robust consumer spending and rising disposable incomes in many areas of the country are all spurring more consumers to invest their hard-earned money in travel this summer.

“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 Lori Weaver Hawkins, the public and government affairs manager at AAA Blue Grass. “This holiday builds on Memorial Day’s strong travel demand, and with school now out, Kentucky families are eager to travel.”

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.

Record numbers equal record delays

For the 41.4 million Americans traveling by automobile this Independence Day, motorists are expected to experience the greatest amount of congestion on July 3, according to INRIX. The problems are expected to escalate 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 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.”

Millions of road trippers enjoying lower gas prices than 2018

After weeks of steady declines at the pump, gas prices have started to inch upward across the country. But while the national average has climbed 6 cents in the past week, it still remains about 13 cents less than Independence Day 2018. Today’s national average rests at $2.72, but lower prices seen in the past few weeks likely motivated record numbers of travelers to plan road trips for the upcoming holiday weekend.

“Kentucky gas prices have been mirroring what we are seeing across the country, with prices in the Commonwealth averaging about 17 cents less than they were this time last year. That’s welcome news for motorists hitting the road to celebrate the July 4 holiday,” said Weaver Hawkins. “While traverlers are finding gas prices cheaper than they did during Memorial Day travel, prices have inched higher than what we saw in the past few weeks. Rising crude oil prices, strong demand, holiday travel and the announced closure of the largest refinery on the East Coast are all coming into play.”

Travelers paying more for July 4 car rentals and airfares

Some of the savings travelers are enjoying from lower gas prices will likely have to go toward other travel expenses, such as car rentals and hotel stays, 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 percent 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 Independence Day travel destinations

Fun-in-the-sun locales like Orlando and Honolulu lead the top 10 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 July 3.

AAA to rescue nearly 367,000 motorists

AAA expects to rescue nearly 367,000 motorists at the roadside this Independence Day holiday across the country. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. Last year, AAA took nearly 1,970 calls for assistance in just the Blue Grass area alone.

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.

Safe Ride Kentucky offering rides over the holiday

For those planning to celebrate the red, white and blue closer to home, Safe Ride Kentucky will be offering July 4 celebrants here in the Commonwealth a safe ride home.

Those wanting to schedule a ride should download the Lyft app before heading out to Fourth of July celebrations. Then, they simply input the special discount code SAFERIDEKY4TH19 and schedule the ride. The discount is good for a free ride up to $10 and is valid from July 3 at 5 p.m. until July 5 at 5 a.m. anywhere in Kentucky that Lyft operates. AAA Blue Grass is a sponsoring partner of Safe Ride Kentucky, created to provide safe rides during high-traffic holidays and reduce the dangers of driving intoxicated.

Ready to plan that summer vacation?

AAA reminds travelers that it’s not too late to plan an Independence Day trip or summer getaway. Visit AAA.com/Travel to get started.

From AAA Blue Grass

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