AAA projects a record-breaking 46.9 million Americans (14.3 percent of the population) will travel 50 or more miles away from home this Independence Day holiday, the highest travel volume for the holiday since AAA started tracking 18 years ago and a 5.3 percent increase compared to last year. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
In the Pacific Region, (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), 7.2 million are expected to travel, up 5.4 percent compared to last year. In Oregon, roughly 555,000 people are expected to take a 4th of July getaway.
“The 4th of July is traditionally the busiest travel holiday of the summer. This is the fifth year in a row we’re seeing an increase in the number of travelers for the holiday,” says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds. “Confident consumers with additional disposable income will enjoy fireworks, family and fun, building on an already busy summer travel season.”
Car travel is most popular
The vast majority will drive to their holiday destinations. Nationally, 85 percent of holiday travelers (39.7 million) will drive to their holiday destinations, nearly two million more automobile travelers and an increase of 5.1 percent compared to 2017.
In the Pacific Region, 79 percent of travelers (5.7 million) plan to travel by car, an increase of 4.8 percent.
Gas prices stabilizing heading into Independence Day
Gas prices have slowly but steadily been falling since Memorial Day weekend but are about 60 cents a gallon more than a year ago.
The current national average for regular unleaded is $2.85, and Oregon’s average is $3.30.
The higher pump prices are having little effect on travelers this Independence Day, with a record number of people still planning to hit the road this year. Travelers who are concerned about the budget impact of higher gas prices are not cancelling trips but making cutbacks in other areas, such as dining out less or visiting more moderately priced restaurants, choosing moderately priced lodging, cutting back on entertainment, activities and shopping, etc.
Best, worst times to drive
The best times to leave are the early mornings. The busiest time on the roadways will be Tuesday afternoon, July 3 as commuters and holiday travelers hit the highways. Peak congestion is expected between about 3 and 6:30 p.m. AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predict travel times could be twice as long as the normal trip.
“With a record number of travelers, roadways will be crowded in the days leading up to and after July 4th,” says Dodds. “Give yourself extra time to reach your destination and know that you’ll have plenty of company. And put that emergency kit in your car, just in case!”
Record air travel, lowest fares in five years
A record-breaking 3.8 million people (8 percent of travelers) will travel by air, a 7.9 percent increase and the ninth year of consecutive air travel volume increases for the Independence Day holiday.
In the Pacific Region, 932,000 (12.9 percent of travelers) will fly to their destinations, an increase of 9.2 percent compared to 2017. The Pacific Region typically sees a higher share travel by air compared to other regions, and this is the case for this Independence Day. This area is more spread out geographically than other parts of the U.S. so flying can be more convenient for travelers here.
Average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes cost nine percent less this Independence Day with an average ticket of $171 compared to $187 last year, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. That is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years.
Travel by other modes of transportation including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 5.8 percent to 3.5 million.
Get to the Airport Early
Airports will be busy over the Independence Day travel period so security lines will likely be longer than usual. Plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your domestic flight and three hours before your international flight. Know what you can and cannot bring with you through security by visiting the TSA website. Consider enrolling in programs such as TSA PreCheck and Global Entry to expedite the security process.
Lodging costs, rental car rates rise
Hotels costs are more expensive this year. AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels will average $187 per night up from $183 last year, a two percent increase. AAA Two Diamond Rated hotels will average $147 nightly compared to $132 a year ago, an 11 percent increase.
Daily car rental rates will average $66 up from $65 last year, a two percent increase.
AAA to the rescue
AAA expects to help more than 362,000 motorists nationally and about 4,500 in Oregon over the Independence Day travel period, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, lockouts and flat tires.