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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The timing of this year's Independence Day holiday will lead to a slight decline in travel, according to the AAA Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast.
With the Fourth of July taking place on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to a standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday, the organization noted.
"This year, nearly 41 million Americans plan to celebrate the nation's birthday with a getaway, a slight decline [0.8 percent] from last year," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "This projection is due to the calendar effect of one fewer day in the holiday period, and economic growth that is not robust enough to offset the impact of the sequester and the effect of the end of the payroll tax cut on American families."
Darbelnet also pointed out that Independence Day is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season, with 6 million more Americans traveling than Memorial Day, especially since schools are out of session.
Other highlights from AAA's forecast include:
- Eighty-four percent of travelers (34.4 million) plan to travel by automobile, a 0.7-percent decrease from 34.7 million last year.
- Holiday air travel is 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 on Wednesday, July 3.
- Sunday, July 7, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips, with 38 percent planning to return that day.
- The average traveler is expected to travel a roundtrip distance of 613 miles and spend $747.
Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday, AAA reported. Mid-June prices were up 2 percent, on average, compared to the same time in 2012. This is a slight increase compared to last year, but prices remain below their highs of earlier this year. The current national average price per gallon of regular gas is $3.60, 10 cents higher than this time last year.
Using a recently developed consumer index, AAA also determined that 62 percent of Americans are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyles.
The survey of intending travelers found that the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 613 miles, which is 110 miles less than last year's average of 723 miles -- most likely due to the shorter holiday period.
Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $747, compared to $749 last year, with transportation consuming approximately 29 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 20 percent on food and beverages and 22 percent on lodging.
To read AAA's full report, click here.