Another record year of Independence Day travel?

By Kimberly Schwind - Special to the Inquirer

COLUMBUS — AAA expects Independence Day travel numbers to beat last year’s record, with 46.9 million Americans (2 million Ohioans) traveling at least 50 miles from home between Tuesday, July 3 and Sunday, July 8. This is an increase of more than 5 percent nationally (6 percent in Ohio) from last year.

Economy and Longer Holiday Period Boosting Travel:

“This Independence Day will be one for the record books, as more Americans take to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways than ever before,” said Bill Sutherland, senior vice president, AAA Travel and Publishing. “Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season.”

In addition to strong economic variables, the slightly longer holiday period is helping boost travel this year. The six-day holiday period only occurs when the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday. This gives travelers more flexibility to schedule a trip before or after the holiday.

Fourth of July is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, since school is out and many families take their big summer trip during this time.

Auto Travel

Nearly 84 percent of American travelers (39.7 million people) and about 88 percent of Ohio travelers (nearly 1.8 million people) will drive to their destinations this Independence Day.

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested U.S. cities could be twice as long as the normal trip. The worst congestion will take place Tuesday in the late afternoon, as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.

During the six-day holiday period, AAA expects to assist more than 362,000 motorists with dead batteries, flat tires, lockouts and more. To avoid a breakdown this holiday, motorists should make sure their car is road trip ready. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.

Gas Prices Stabilizing

Gas prices have slowly, but steadily, started to fall since the 2018 high of $2.97 set over the Memorial Day weekend. Although AAA expects the national gas price average to range between $2.85 and $3.05 through Labor Day, the prices seem to have little effect on holiday travelers.

According to a recent AAA survey, just 18 percent of travelers say they would consider adjusting their summer travel plans to travel closer to home with gas prices at $2.75, while 33 percent said they would adjust their plans at $3 a gallon.

Air Travel

A record-breaking 3.8 million Americans will travel by air, a 7.9 percent increase and the ninth consecutive year of air travel growth. In Ohio, nearly 88,000 people plan to fly, a 5 percent increase and the fifth consecutive year of air travel growth.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will cost 9 percent less this Independence Day, with a round trip ticket averaging $171.

Other Travel Expenses

Travelers can expect to pay more to rent a car and stay at mid-range hotels this Independence Day. Daily car rental rates have risen 2 percent to an average $66 per day. The average nightly rate at AAA Two Diamond hotels is up 11 percent to $147, while AAA Three Diamond hotel rates are up 2 percent to an average of $187 per night.

By Kimberly Schwind

Special to the Inquirer

Kimberly Schwind is senior public relations manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club.

Kimberly Schwind is senior public relations manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club.