July 4th travel to hit all-time record, AAA predicts

A record number of Americans are planning to take a trip for the 4th of July holiday, according to AAA.

The travel group’s annual forecast predicts that 46.9 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home for Independence Day, a 5% increase compared to last year and the highest number since AAA’s first report 18 years ago.

A strong U.S. economy will contribute to the expected rise in travel, according to AAA. The increase also comes as Independence Day falls on a Wednesday, allowing travelers to plan a weekend getaway before and after the holiday. The 4th of July holiday period is defined as Tuesday, July 3, through Sunday, July 8.

“Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season,” Bill Sutherland, senior vice president of AAA Travel and Publishing, said in a statement.

The majority of Independence Day travelers will hit the road, with 39.7 million Americans planning to travel by car. That’s an increase of 5.1%, even as consumers face higher prices at the gas pump.

AAA noted that prices are poised to stabilize heading into the holiday. The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.87 on Thursday, nearly 59 cents higher than the same day in 2017.

Transportation analytics company INRIX estimates that drivers in the most congested cities could see their travel times double compared to a normal trip. The day before July 4 will be the busiest day on the road.

Scott Sedlik, general manager and public sector vice president at INRIX, advised motorists to “avoid peak commuting hours altogether or consider alternative routes.”

A record 3.8 million people will travel by air, up 7.9% year-over-year and the ninth consecutive year of higher passenger volumes. A combined total of 3.5 million people will travel on trains, buses and cruise ships, a 5.8% gain.

*This article was originally published on June 21.