AAA: More than 40 million Americans to travel for Independence Day

Online Staff Report

AAA Travel projects 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year.

The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominantly the result of a shorter holiday period. With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday.

Decade-high travel volume occurred in 2007, when 42.3 million Americans traveled and the holiday also fell on a Wednesday. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 7.

Highlights from 2013 AAA Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast include the following:

• Independence Day holiday travelers to total 40.8 million, a decrease of 0.8 percent from the 41.1 million who traveled last year;

• Eighty-four percent of travelers (34.4 million) to travel by automobile, a decrease of 0.7 percent from 34.7 million last year;

• Holiday air travel expected to increase slightly to 3.07 million from 3.06 million in 2012;

• Independence Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 13-year average of 38.9 million for this holiday;

• The largest share of travelers (32 percent) will depart Wednesday, July 3;

• Sunday, July 7, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips with 38 percent planning to return that day; and

• The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 613 miles and spend $747.

Independence Day is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season with 6 million more Americans traveling than Memorial Day,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “The Fourth of July benefits from the fact that all schools across the nation are out of session, making it truly a time for family fun.”

July 3 and 7 busiest travel days

This year, 46 percent of intending travelers plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the holiday travel period (July 3-7), compared to 65 percent last year.

The largest share of travelers (32 percent) on a single day will depart July 3, and the largest share will return July 7 (38 percent). Thirty-four percent intend to stretch their holiday vacation into the following week.

Automobile travel declines, remains dominant mode of transportation

Approximately 34.4 million people (84 percent) plan to drive to their destination, a decrease of 0.7 percent from last year.

Nationally, gas prices are averaging $3.60 per gallon — 10 cents more than last year.

This spring’s near-record high prices in the Midwest were caused by continued low supplies and transportation challenges for wholesale gasoline in the Midwest, particularly because of extended maintenance at two large Chicago-area refineries. The return of these refineries to normal production levels should mean continued price relief.

However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, according to a new consumer index developed by AAA. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4 per gallon. Sixty-two percent of Americans are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.

Air travel to increase slightly

More than 3 million leisure travelers (8 percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year. The remaining percentage of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes.

Average travel distance decreases, spending relatively unchanged

According to the survey, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 613 miles, which is 110 miles fewer than last year’s average of 723 miles. The decline is likely reflective of the shorter holiday period.

Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $747, compared to $749 last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 29 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 20 percent on food and beverage and 22 percent on lodging.

During the holiday weekend, the most popular activities will be visiting with friends/family (57 percent), dining (49 percent) and shopping (44 percent). Other popular activities include going to the beach and sightseeing (36 percent) and visiting a national park (28 percent) or historic sites (21 percent).

Car rental and hotel rates and airfares rise

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over 4 percent from one year ago, with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year.

The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase 2 percent, with an average cost of $119 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, 29 percent more than last year’s average of $45.

Airfares increased 6 percent, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, compared to $215 last year.

Posted June 27, 2013

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