Fourth of July travel expected to break records this year, AAA says

More Americans are traveling for Fourth of July getaways this year than ever before, according to AAA.

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The group estimated that about 49 million people are traveling for Independence Day this year. That’s up 4.1 percent — 1.9 million people — compared to last year. This will mark the sixth consecutive year of travel growth for the holiday.

“As Independence Day approaches, it’s time for the much loved family road trip and this year will be one for the record books, with more Americans than ever planning vacations,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel. “This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel.”

More than 41 million of those travelers are expected to drive, likely thanks in part to lower gas prices. As of late June, the national average gas price was down 19 cents year-over-year and expected to drop even lower, according to AAA.

“Gas prices are, on average, 17 cents cheaper than Memorial Day weekend, which is welcome news for motorists hitting the road to celebrate the July Fourth weekend,” AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano said. “Moreso, summer gas prices are poised to continue dropping even lower in coming weeks.”

The large number of people driving for holiday getaways could mean big delays on the road. Global mobility analytics company INRIX predicted drivers could face delays of as much as four times their normal commute around the holiday.

Overall, INRIX predicted that July 3 would be the worst day on the roads. But in some areas, the worst times to travel are expected on July 5. Friday morning in Boston, Friday afternoon in Chicago and Friday evening in Atlanta are expected to see some of the worst delays.

“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around our major metros,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst for INRIX. “Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road.”

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AAA said it expects to rescue nearly 367,000 motorists over the holiday.

The group recommended drivers get any needed maintenance done before heading out. Also, they said it’s a good idea to bring items like a phone and car charger, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, basic toolkit, drinking water and snacks in case of an emergency.