Share the road: More people will travel for July 4 holiday

What’s more classic than a road trip for the July 4 holiday? This year, you can expect to have a lot more company.

You’ll be sharing the road — and air space and rails and waterways — with a record number of travelers this year.

AAA July 4, 2017, infographic
AAA July 4, 2017, travel forecast infographic

Over 44 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home around the coming holiday, up 3 percent from last year, according to AAA.

Bill Sutherland, AAA’s senior vice president of travel and publishing, said strong employment combined with rising incomes “bode well” for summer travel, especially the July 4 holiday. And some travel costs, such as gas prices and airfares, are down from a year ago, adding incentive to travel.

Of people traveling for the holiday, 85 percent will drive to their destination, about 8 percent will fly and 7 percent will take other transportation modes, such as trains, buses and cruises.

Here are some reasons why are more people traveling:

Economy: The economy is growing at a good enough clip for the Federal Reserve last week to raise a key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.25 percent.

Employment: People are working and feel more stable. While U.S. employment growth has slowed slightly in May, nearly 4.6 million jobs have been added over the last 12 months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in May.

Income: Salaries are starting to rise. The average full-time worker earned $22 an hour in May, up 2.4 percent from $21.48 a year earlier, according to BLS data.

Gas: The average gas price nationwide costs $2.28, 4 cents less than a year ago. Drivers, however, may see prices increase closer to the holiday weekend.

Airfare: AAA’s Leisure Travel Index shows that average airfares for the top 40 U.S. flights are 10 percent lower this year, with an average round trip ticket costing $186.

Car rental: The average daily car rental rate is $65, 14 percent less than last year.

Where are most people going? Orlando, Fla., remains the No. 1 destination for summer travel AAA says. That’s followed by (in order): Vancouver, Canada; Cancun, Mexico; Seattle; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

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Holiday crush: AAA forecasts a record holiday travel season

The crowds will shift from malls to roads and airports, as AAA expects a record number of Americans to travel this holiday season.

More than 103 million people are expected to travel from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, up 1.5 percent, or 1.5 million people, from last year. It’s the eighth straight annual increase in holiday travel, according to AAA.

“Rising incomes and continued low gas prices should make for a joyous holiday travel season,” AAA CEO Marshall Doney said in a statement. Overall, improvements in the economy are driving travel.

Consumer spending is expected to rise 4.1 percent this year vs. 2015, according to AAA’s holiday travel forecast report. The nation’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in November. Personal income will rise 3.3 percent as an improved job market drives up wages. The stock market is at a record high.

How people travel aaa-pie

Most holiday travelers (an estimated 93.6 million people) are hitting the road again, with road trips expected to rise 1.5 percent from last year.

That’s largely due to low gas prices, even though today’s average national price of $2.24 a gallon is higher than the of $2 a year ago. AAA estimates that U.S. drivers have saved over $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared with last year.

In addition, average car rental rates are slightly lower than last year at $66 a day, according to the forecast.

Air travel will increase by 2.5 percent, with more than 6 million Americans flying. Other types of travel, such as by trains, buses and boat, will decline slightly.

AAA projects holiday airfares will average $204 for a round-trip flight on the top 40 U.S. routes. Lodging rates are to increase 7 percent, with travelers spending an average of $144 a night.

Where people go

While many people visit relatives for the holidays, others take time off for a winter vacation. Warm-weather destinations top the list, with the exception of New York, based on AAA.com bookings. Here are the top five destinations:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Orlando, Fla.
  3. New York City
  4. San Diego
  5. Anaheim, Calif.

AAA’s travel projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit.