For the 39.7 million Americans planning a Fourth of July road trip, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be twice as long than the normal trip, with Tuesday being the busiest day.
“More Americans are primed to take advantage of the strong economy by traveling to celebrate the holiday with family and friends,” said Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central. “Gas prices have not deterred a great summer travel season.”
In addition to strong economic variables, the expected increase in travelers this year is helped by Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, giving travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday. The Independence Day holiday period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
East North Central region* Independence Day Forecast Highlights:
• Independence Day travelers will total 8.28 million, an increase of 5.4 percent from 7.8 million in 2017.
• 7.28 million will travel by automobile, up 5.4 percent from 6.9 million in 2017.
• 375,000 people will fly to their destinations, up 4.8 percent from 358,000 in 2017.
• 617,000 people will use other modes (bus, train, boat, etc.), a 5.8-percent increase from 583,000 in 2017.
*The East North Central region includes Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Drivers beware of ‘Terrible Tuesday’
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion over the holiday week on Tuesday, July 3 in the late afternoon – as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.
Travel times could increase two-fold in the major metros across the U.S., with drivers in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. experiencing the most significant delays.
Gas prices starting to stabilize heading into Independence Day
Gas prices have slowly but steadily started to fall since the 2018 high of $2.97 set over Memorial Day weekend.
Since then, the national gas price has dropped five cents to $2.88 (as of June 20), which is 59 cents more than one year ago. However, the higher prices are having little effect on travelers this Independence Day, with record number of travelers still planning to hit the road this year.
Paying more for car rentals, hotels
Travelers can expect to pay more to rent a car and stay at mid-range hotels this Independence Day.
At $66, the average daily cost of a car rental is a slight increase of 2 percent over last year. The average nightly rate at AAA Two Diamond hotels is $147, 11 percent more than last year, while AAA Three Diamond hotels will average $187, a 2-percent year-over-year increase.
Theme parks, Europe major draws
Across the country this Independence Day, travelers will flock to theme parks in Orlando and southern California, while many others are heading west.
Alaska cruises departing from Seattle, Anchorage and Vancouver round out the top-five U.S. travel destinations for the holiday. For those venturing overseas, Europe is a major draw, with Rome, London, Dublin and Paris all making the list of top international travel destinations for Independence Day.
Top domestic travel destinations
Top international travel destinations
Source: AAA’s national advance travel bookings
AAA to rescue more 362,000+ motorists
Nationwide, AAA expects to rescue more than 362,000 motorists at the roadside around the Independence Day holiday.
Dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA recommends motorists take their vehicle to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out (AAA.com/AutoRepair). Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2018 Independence Day holiday travel forecast is available here.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.