ORLANDO, Fla. – The majority of Independence Day weekend travelers will take a road trip, with more than eight in 10 (34.8 million) choosing to travel by automobile. Overall, AAA Travel projects 41 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home during the July 2-6 travel period -- a 1.9-percent increase from the 40.3 million who traveled last year, and a nearly 14-percent increase from the 2014 Memorial Day holiday weekend.
"With school out for summer, the Fourth of July holiday is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, with 5 million more Americans traveling compared to Memorial Day weekend," stated AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall L. Doney. "In line with tradition, most travelers are celebrating their newfound summer freedom with an all-American road trip."
Highlights from the AAA 2014 Independence Day Travel Forecast include:
- Willingness to take on credit card debt, not an increase in income, is the reason for the increase in consumer spending.
- Nearly 5 million more Americans are expected to travel for Independence Day compared to Memorial Day.
- Travel volume for Independence Day has grown four out of the past five years and is expected to be more than 6 percent higher than the average of the past 10 years.
- Holiday air travel is expected to increase 1 percent to 3.1 million travelers from 3.07 million last year.
- Airfares are expected to be 5 percent lower than last year and car rental costs will remain consistent compared to last year at $58.
- Hotel rates at AAA Two Diamond hotels will be 15 percent higher than last year and Three Diamond hotels will be 9 percent more.
"Steady improvement in the economy has spurred increased consumer confidence and spending," Doney added. "Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year, dusting off their credit cards to pay for a much-needed Independence Day getaway."
Still, AAA expects that the majority of U.S. drivers will pay the highest Independence Day gas prices since 2008. Today's national average gas price is about 20 cents per gallon more expensive than the average on July 4, 2013, which was $3.48 per gallon. Gas prices have declined in the weeks leading up to Independence Day in recent years, but that has not occurred this year due to higher crude oil prices as fighting intensifies in Iraq.
AAA does not believe that high gas prices will have a significant impact on the number of people traveling, but it could cause some consumers to cut back on dining, shopping or other trip activities.