AAA forecast: US will set travel record for 4th of July holiday

(CNN) — Americans are feeling the heat at the gas pump, but that won’t keep them in the parking lot, predicts the AAA.

The automotive and travel planning group’s annual forecast for the July 4th holiday says 42 million Americans – more than ever before – will take a trip of 50 miles or more.

That’s despite gas prices hitting a record earlier this month. The national average per gallon on Monday was $4.98, just a few cents from the $5.02 high it reached a week earlier.

A combination of tourists and passengers could cause travel time to double the normal duration at peak points on Thursday and Friday nights, Inrix transit experts said.

He warned that some of the most congested routes will include highways around Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

The best time to travel from Thursday to Friday is early or late in the day, Inrix designed. He said the congestion on Sunday and Monday should be less. 4th of July arrives on Monday of this year.

gas saving tips

Heavy traffic causes slowdowns in Providence, Rhode Island on June 16, 2022. This will likely be a familiar spot for many 4th of July drivers this year.

Kris Craig/The Providence Journal/USA Today Network

People determined to hit the road still have ways to at least ease the pressure on gas prices. Some strategies include:

• Diversion stations close to the main highways: “It’s generally best not to use stations along the interstate,” advised Ellen Edmonds, AAA’s public relations manager, in a recent interview with CNN Travel. Instead, “drive a few miles down the road. Look for residential areas or remote rural areas.”

• Be stingy at expensive gas stations: If you’re low on gas and stuck in an area with high prices, stop to refuel. Just don’t fill it all the way. Pump enough gasoline to safely get to a location where stations generally charge less.

• Consider “nearcation”: There are choices between settling for one more stay and an epic cross-country trip that would blow your budget. It is the “approach”. Think of places closer to home but far enough away to feel like a genuine trip.

in the skies

A Boeing 737-932ER operated by Delta takes off from JFK International Airport.  AAA says that only about 7% of people traveling for the 4th of July will be flying.

A Boeing 737-932ER operated by Delta takes off from JFK International Airport. AAA says that only about 7% of people traveling for the 4th of July will be flying.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/Arquivo

While the roads will be crowded, fewer Americans will be flying in for the holiday, AAA hopes.

He said the 3.55 million people projected to take to the skies on Independence Day are just 7% of travelers. That’s the lowest share since 2011, when the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession.

AAA says airfare is about 14% more expensive than in 2021.

Fare watchers at Hopper say prices paid this month are down about $20 from the May average, but attribute that to travelers buying cheaper flights in the fall. The rate for an average hotel room is 23% higher than last year, the AAA said.

All in all, the AAA said demand for travel “is not decreasing” despite higher expenses.

“People are ready for a break, and even though things cost more, they’re finding ways to still take that much-needed vacation,” said Paula Twidale of AAA Travel.

Flight cancellation notice

CNN Travel asked Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and spokeswoman for FlightAware, what travelers can do to prepare for cancellations and delays this summer.

She provided these tips based on a conversation she had on Monday with an employee of a major US airline:

• Leave pillow time: Do not travel on the day of an important event. Plan to arrive at least a day in advance.

• Apps are your friends: If your flight is cancelled, please reschedule your trip in the airline app. You’re likely to be able to rebook faster, and you’ll have access to seats that would likely fill while you’re waiting on the phone.

• Use a carry-on bag for essentials: Pack everything you’ll need within a day or two in your carry-on bag. Do not check prescription drugs or other essentials.

• Stay considerate: Don’t take your frustration out on customer service employees. They are not making the operational decisions.

Top image: A motorist fills up with gas in Houston. (Aarão M. Sprecher/AP)

Forrest Brown and Marnie Hunter of CNN contributed to this article.

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