AAA projects record volume for Independence Day holiday travel

Online Staff Report

HELENA, Mont. — AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the 2012 Independence Day holiday travel period, a 4.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year.

The expected holiday travel volume will tie the past decade’s previous high mark set in 2007 and represents a nearly 42 percent increase from 2009. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday-Sunday, July 3-8.

The Fourth of July is the first major holiday of the summer after school gets out, making it an appealing time to travel,” said AAA Spokesman Kaelyn Kelly. “AAA forecasts a record setting number of people will take advantage of the midweek placement of the holiday this year and possibly extend their trip using either the weekend before the holiday or the weekend after the holiday, or even bookending their trip with both. In fact, 54 percent of people who say they’ll be traveling for the holiday plan to depart the weekend preceding Independence Day.”

Economic factors

Economic growth is another factor impacting Independence Day travel. In the third quarter of 2012, personal income is forecast to increase 4 percent, while real disposable income is set to rise 1.4 percent. However, these signs of economic progress may not lead to increased consumer spending.

Intending travelers say they’re looking for ways to economize their Fourth of July travel,” said Kelly. “AAA projects lower spending activities like visiting family and friends and sightseeing will likely increase, while shopping and entertainment activities that cost more will decrease. In total, AAA expects to see a decrease in median spending by about 7 percent to $749, down from $807 in 2011.”

Gas prices and travel plans

Another factor impacting the holiday travel climate is the price of gasoline. April 6, motorists experienced a year-to-date peak average price of $3.94 per gallon for regular gasoline. The current national average price of regular gasoline is $3.37 per gallon, 57 cents lower than the April peak and 18 cents fewer than this time last year.

Highest auto travel volume in past decade expected

Approximately 35.5 million people plan to travel by automobile, setting the high-water mark for the decade, as 84 percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers choose this traditionally dominant mode of transportation. This is a 4 percent increase over the 34.1 million people who traveled by auto last year.

Air travel volume increase projected, airfares unchanged

Slightly more than 3.2 million leisure travelers will fly during the Independence Day holiday period, a 9 percent increase from 2011. This marks the third consecutive year of rising Independence Day holiday air travel volume, following the decade low of 1.4 million air travelers in 2009. A longer holiday period and stable airfares are spurring this increase. AAA’s Leisure Travel Index cites the average lowest round-trip rate as $200 for the top 40 U.S. air routes in both 2011 and 2012.

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2012 Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at

Posted July 3, 2012

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