Despite record gas prices in the United States, AAA is predicting that 47.9 million people will travel at least 50 miles from their home for the Fourth of July Weekend, including a record 42 million expected to travel by car.
Overall, travel for the holiday weekend is projected to be up 3.7% more than in 2021 (46.2 million travelers), and is close to the 49 million that traveled in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of June 21, the national average for regular gas is just under $5 at $4.968 per gallon, according to AAA. Prices have actually dropped over the last week, as the national average hit a record high of $5.016 on June 14.
With thousands of flights getting delayed or cancelled over the last month, it appears that people are more willing to pay for gas than deal with air travel.
"The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear," Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said.
"Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it’s not tapering off. People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much needed vacation."
Prior to the pandemic in 2019, AAA reported that 41.5 million people traveled by car for the Fourth of July and another 3.91 million traveled by plane.
AAA predicts that only 3.55 million will elect to fly away for their Fourth of July plans this year. Another 2.42 million will travel by bus, train, or take a cruise trip, compared to only 900,000 people in 2021 when there were much more pandemic restrictions and guidelines required.
"Traveling by car does provide a level of comfort and flexibility that people may be looking for given the recent challenges with flying," Twidale added.
"But not all destinations are within driving distance, which doesn’t mean you have to abandon your vacation plans. The best advice we can give travelers is to consider working with a travel agent who can help plan for the unexpected – like a flight cancelation. They are your best advocate."
AAA went on to mention that Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1 are expected to be the busiest days for car travel, as the worst times to travel on those days are from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday and 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday. Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst at INRIX, suggested that travelers avoid the Thursday and Friday traffic.
"Even with gas hitting record prices, travelers are still eager to hit the road this summer," Pishue said. "We expect nationwide travel times to increase about 50% compared to normal. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delays. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon."
AAA added in their Fourth of July travel predictions that Orlando, FL; Seattle, WA; New York, NY; Anaheim, CA; and Anchorage, AK are the top five destinations for travelers this holiday weekend.