Number of Americans traveling by car and air over the holiday projected to be highest on record
AAA projects 50.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Independence Day weekend*, setting a new record for the holiday. Domestic travel over the long weekend will increase by 2.1 million people compared to 2022. This year’s projection surpasses the previous July 4th weekend record set in 2019 of 49 million travelers.
“We’ve never projected travel numbers this high for Independence Day weekend,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “What this tells us is that despite inventory being limited and some prices 50% higher, consumers are not cutting back on travel this summer. Many of them heeded our advice and booked early, another sign of strong travel demand.”
This July 4th weekend is expected to set a new record for the number of Americans traveling by car for the holiday. AAA expects 43.2 million people will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4% over 2022 and 4% higher than 2019. This summer, gas prices are well below what they were one year ago. The national average for a gallon of regular was $4.80 on July 4th, 2022. Gas prices have remained steady the past couple of months, with the national average hovering around $3.50 to $3.60 a gallon, thanks to the lower cost of oil.
Air travel is also expected to set a new record. AAA projects 4.17 million Americans will fly to their destinations Independence Day weekend, an increase of 11.2% over 2022 and 6.6% over 2019. The previous July 4th weekend air travel record of 3.91 million travelers was set in 2019. The share of air travelers in the overall holiday forecast this year is an impressive 8.2% – the highest percentage in nearly 20 years.
Other modes of transportation are also on the rise this year. AAA expects 3.36 million people will travel by bus, cruise, or train over the long weekend, an increase of 24% over last year. While more travelers are turning to these modes this year, the number is not expected to surpass 2019’s total of 3.54 million.
Best/Worst Times to Travel and Peak Congestion by Metro
INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects Friday, June 30 to be the busiest day on the roads during the Independence Day holiday weekend, with average travel times up nearly 30% over normal. Major metros like Boston, Seattle, and Washington, DC are expected to see the worst traffic. INRIX recommends leaving in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday congestion.
“With record-breaking travelers expected on the road this holiday weekend, drivers should prepare for above-average delays to their favorite destinations,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Using traffic apps, local DOT notifications, and 511 services are key to minimizing holiday travel traffic frustrations this Independence Day.”
Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car
Summer Travel Trends and Tips
|Worst Travel Time
|Best Travel Time
|Thu, June 29
|4:00 – 6:00 PM
|Before 12:00 PM
|Fri, June 30
|10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
|Before 10:00 AM, After 6:00 PM
|Sat, July 1
|Before 12:00 PM
|Sun, July 2
|Minimal Traffic Impact Expected
|Mon, July 3
|Minimal Traffic Impact Expected
|Tue, July 4
|12:00 – 3:00 PM
|Before 11:00 AM, After 6:00 PM
|Wed, July 5
|3:00 – 6:00 PM
|Before 2:00 PM
Travel demand has been steadily increasing since 2020, and this summer is poised to be one for the record books. Here are some trends and tips from AAA Travel.
- Air travel is seeing the biggest spike despite high ticket prices. Passengers are paying 40% – 50% more for flights compared to last year, but AAA data shows bookings aren’t slowing down. Many airlines are responding to demand by hiring more staff and taking smaller regional planes out of service and replacing them with larger ones to increase capacity. However, there are still challenges, including a shortage of air traffic controllers that has led to reduced service in and out of New York City area airports.
- AAA Travel Tip: Avoid checking luggage to save time and money. Instead, travel with a carry-on bag to skip baggage claim and give yourself flexibility if your flight is delayed or canceled.
- Hotel prices are up slightly over 2022, but not by much. While the number of domestic hotel bookings is about the same as last year, AAA data shows international hotel bookings are up 80% compared to 2022. International travel demand is booming and so are passport applications. The U.S. State Department says it’s processing half a million applications a week. Routine service is averaging 10-13 weeks.
- AAA Travel Tip: Need a passport fast? RushMyPassport provides expedited services and discounts for AAA members. This past May, they handled more than 1,100 applications from AAA members, compared to just 73 applications in May of last year.
- Car rental shortages seen during the pandemic have improved. Inventory has been increasing steadily since last year, with newer models and electric vehicles added to fleets. AAA data shows rental prices are down slightly from last year. Demand for international rental cars is up more than 80% compared to 2022.
- AAA Travel Tip: If you’re planning to drive abroad, keep in mind some countries require International Driving Permits. AAA is one of only two private entities in the U.S. authorized by the State Department to issue IDPs. This year, AAA reports demand for IDPs is double what it was in 2022.
- Cruising is back to pre-pandemic numbers, with sold-out ships and advance bookings. Prices are about the same as 2022, with certain cruises a bit higher this year due to demand. Alaska cruises are particularly popular this time of year. AAA booking data also shows Caribbean cruises and European river cruises are top vacations in 2023.
- AAA Travel Tip: Protect your investment with travel insurance. AAA data shows demand for travel insurance is up more than 100% over last year, as more travelers now see the need to prepare for the unexpected.
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