Summer travel shows no signs of slowing down, with Independence Day weekend expected to be the second busiest since 2000, according to AAA.
More than 47 million consumers are estimated to travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, which runs from June 30 to July 4, according to AAA. This is an increase of 3.7% compared to 2021.
Car travel, in particular, is expected to “set a new record” even with soaring gasoline prices, according to AAA. The organization expects 42 million people to hit the road this weekend, compared to 41.8 million people who chose to drive in 2021.
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On Monday, AAA reported that the national average retail price for regular gasoline was $4.98 per gallon. However, the national average topped $5 a gallon last week.
Interestingly, more than half of Americans polled by AAA in March said they would change their driving habits or lifestyle if gas prices rose to $4 a gallon. If prices hit $5, three-quarters of respondents said they would have to adjust their habits.
“Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns about cancellations and delays” could be behind the increase in car travel, AAA reported. “In fact, the share of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011.”
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About 3.55 million people are expected to fly over the weekend and another 2.42 million people are expected to take a train, bus or cruise, according to AAA data.
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“Earlier this year, we started to see travel demand increase, and it’s not going down,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.
To date, AAA data shows that bookings for air travel, car rentals, cruises, hotels and tours to the most popular domestic destinations over the holiday weekend have already increased. 60% compared to 2021.
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Expected Costs for Travel Over the Independence Day Weekend
The lowest holiday weekend airfare averages $201 per ticket. This is already 14% more than in 2021, according to AAA data.
At the same time, midscale hotel rates increased by around 23%. The lowest average nightly rates for AAA-rated hotels over the weekend are $244 per night.
The average daily rate for car rentals also continued to climb.
“With more people traveling, these prices continue to rise due to ongoing supply chain issues coupled with growing demand,” AAA reported.
Even though rates are 34% lower than last year, the lowest average rate is still $110 per day, or $40 more per day on average than in 2019, according to AAA.
The best and worst travel times
With so many people hitting the road, INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue predicted that nationwide commute times could increase by 50% from normal times. He also noted that drivers in major metropolitan areas should “be prepared for much greater delays.”
In fact, AAA said drivers in major U.S. subways could experience double commute times compared to normal times.
AAA said motorists may face the longest travel delays on the afternoons of June 30 and July 1 due to a combination of commuters leaving work early and vacationers.
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“Light congestion” is expected throughout the day Sunday and Monday, according to AAA.
The worst times to travel from Thursday to Saturday
Thursday: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST
Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST
Saturday: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST
Best times to travel Thursday to Saturday
Thursday: before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. EST
Friday: before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m. EST
Saturday: before noon and after 7 p.m. EST
Meanwhile, AAA booking data showed July 1 is expected to be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend and July 4 is expected to be the lightest.