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AAA predicts Independence Day travel will break record

Staff Report • Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 5:28 PM

NASHVILLE — A record-breaking 46.9 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday, a 5 percent increase from last year and the most travelers for the holiday since AAA began tracking 18 years ago.

The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as July 3-8. For the 39.7 million Americans planning a Fourth of July road trip, July 3 will be the busiest day, according to AAA.

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. could be twice as long as normal.

“We are already seeing a busy summer travel season and Independence Day will be no exception,” said Vicky Evans, assistant vice president for travel sales development at AAA, in a press release. “Consumers remain confident in the economy and have additional disposable income to put toward a summer getaway.”

In addition to strong economic variables, the expected increase in travelers this year is aided by Independence Day’s landing on a Wednesday, giving travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday.

“The increase in the number of Tennesseans traveling this Independence Day holiday will outpace the increase seen at the national level,” said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee public affairs director for AAA, in a press release. “The vast majority, almost 90 percent, of Tennesseans traveling for the holiday will hit the road, although air travel has increased by 5.7 percent over last year, thanks in part to the lowest average airfare prices for the holiday in five years.”

By the numbers

Total travelers: In the U.S., nearly 47 million Americans will travel for Independence Day, 5.3 percent more than last year. In Tennessee, more than 927,000 people will travel during the holiday weekend; the 5.4 percent increase represents 47,000 more travelers than last year.

Automobiles: In the U.S., 39.7 million will hit the road this Independence Day, which is 5.1 percent more than last year. In Tennessee, more than 831,000 people, or 89 percent of total travelers, will take a road trip, an increase of 42,000 over last year.

Planes: In the U.S., a record-breaking 3.8 million people will travel by air, a 7.9 percent increase and the ninth year of consecutive air travel volume increases. In Tennessee, 40,000 people will fly to their destinations, an increase of 5.7 percent over last year.

Trains, buses and cruise ships: In the U.S., travel across these sectors will increase by 5.8 percent to 3.5 million passengers. In Tennessee, 55,000 people will travel via train, bus and/or cruise, representing a 5 percent increase over last year.

Gas prices

Motorists will find the most expensive Independence Day gas prices in three to four years, according to AAA.

During last year’s holiday, the average price was $2.23 nationwide. The year before, gas prices averaged $2.77 nationwide, and during the 2014 holiday, a gallon of regular averaged $3.66 nationwide.

On Wednesday, prices at the pump averaged $2.62 in Tennessee and $2.87 nationwide. Fortunately, fuel prices are falling. Since peaking at $2.97 Memorial Day weekend, the national average declined 8 cents.

Less for airfare, more for rentals

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers taking to the skies will pay an average $171 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. That is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years and 9 percent less than last year.

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 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.

Popular destinations

This Independence Day, travelers will flock to theme parks in Orlando and southern California, while many others are heading West, AAA reported. 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.

To the rescue

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. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.