This holiday weekend is will be the busiest of the year so far when it comes to travel with an estimated 47.7 million Americans set to hit the road and rails or take to the skies as part of the Fourth of July break.
Analysis from the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations – with road trips making up 91% of all holiday weekend travel.
The AAA says that figure is five per cent higher than the previous car journey record, set in July 2019. A further 3.5 million people are set to fly – 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and a gigantic 164% jump on 2020 passenger numbers, when fear of COVID and quarantine rules left most Americans unwilling to board a plane.
AAA figures say another 620,000 Americans will travel by train and bus over the weekend, or board a cruise ship.
The overall numbers of those traveling are set to be just shy of pre-pandemic 2019 levels when 48.9 million travelled, a record.
But the figure is still 40 per cent greater than this time last year when just 34.2 million people left home – most of them by road – with pandemic restrictions at their peak and in place across most states.
The July 4th holiday had long been mooted to be busy after May’s Memorial Day saw the busiest weekend for travel since the start of the pandemic.
More than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roads and skies this Independence Day
‘Memorial Day was very busy,’ Economist Adit Damodaran told Yahoo Money. ‘But July 4th will then blow it out of the water,’ he said.
‘Domestic travel is still reigning supreme,’ Damodaran noted with 91% of those traveling heading to their destinations by car.
The worst times for traveling, perhaps predictably, will be Friday afternoon together with Monday afternoon and evening, according to data from AAA.
‘With travelers eager to hit the road this summer, we’re expecting nationwide traffic volumes to increase about 15% over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delays,’ said Bob Pishue from Inrix, a data company.
43.6 million Americans are preparing to hit the road for the July 4th holiday weekend (file pic)
‘The advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon, along with Monday mid-day,’ Pishue said.
“What we’re seeing nationally will be the second-highest travel volume for the Fourth of July since we’ve been keeping records, which is more than two or three decades,” says John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic told the Washington Post.
But it won’t be cheap to get behind the wheel.
The average price for a gallon of gasoline rose 2 1/2 cents from last week to $3.09 per gallon this week according to the travel and fuel price tracking app GasBuddy.
The national average is now almost 5 cents higher than a month ago and 92 cents higher than this time last year.
GasBuddy petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan says Americans should expect to pay even more at the pump heading into July 4th, a popular road trip holiday.
With the U.S. economy rapidly recovering from the 15-month-long coronavirus pandemic, demand for fuel is rising and pushing prices to levels not seen since 2014. And hurricane season always carries the prospect of higher prices if a storm impacts oil drilling and refining on the Gulf Coast.
The average price for a gallon of gasoline rose 2 1/2 cents from last week to $3.09 per gallon this week according to the travel and fuel price tracking app GasBuddy
Gas prices have spiked in parts of the country as demand surges
‘Motorists should prepare to dig deeper for the second half of the summer, unfortunately,’ De Haan said.
The most common gas price motorists in the U.S. were likely to see was $2.89 per gallon, the same as last week, GasBuddy said.
States closest to the large Gulf Coast refinery hub had the lowest average prices per gallon, led by Mississippi at $2.71 and Louisiana at $2.72. The states with the highest prices per gallon were California at $4.27 and Hawaii at $3.96.
Those needing to rent cars may also face difficulties with shortages when it comes to the fleet at rental car companies.
The pandemic led to a supply and demand imbalance in the country’s rental car fleet with some selling off vehicles in order to raise capital.
Those needing to rent cars may also face difficulties with shortages when it comes to the fleet at rental car companies. The pandemic led to a supply and demand imbalance in the country’s rental car fleet with some selling off vehicles in order to raise capital (file photo)
Las Vegas is still the joint number one spot for American’s to travel to this holiday weekend
The airports are set to be buzzing with the largest number of people passing through since March 2020.
‘For July 4, we’re expecting about 2-2.1 million people so that’s up about 250,000 each day from Memorial Day weekend,’ Damodaran said.
Average costs for a plane ticket this holiday weekend is just over $300, similar to levels before the pandemic, while international tickets are said to be down $77 on average compared with 2019.
The top American destinations are those with entertainment on offer including Las Vegas and theme park capital Orlando.
Anaheim, California where Disneyland is based ranks second on AAA’s list.
Other popular cities according to AAA include Chicago, Seattle, Denver, and Atlanta.
The top vacation rental spots are San Diego, Portland, Oregon and Anchorage.
For vacation rentals on VRBO, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona, Joshua Tree, California, and Naples, Florida, are the most-booked spots according to data from the planning app TripIt.
The top American destinations are those with entertainment on offer including Las Vegas and theme park capital Orlando. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is pictured