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.

Office holiday parties may be a little merrier this year

If you’re company is throwing a holiday party this year, chances are it will be a memorable one.

More companies plan to spend more money on holiday parties this year, according to an annual survey by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Roughly one in five companies hosting a holiday party are budgeting more for the event, the survey found. That’s an increase over the last two years.

Data shows that corporate profits are back above $1.6 trillion after dipping in the last of half 2015, according to Challenger CEO John A. Challenger. Its survey “suggests that employers are ready to spend some of those profits on their workers,” he said.

Eighty percent of companies plan to host a holiday party this year. That’s down slightly from 82 percent in 2015 and 89 percent in 2014.

Here are some holiday party trends from Challenger’s survey of about 100 human resources executives in October:

  • More companies are letting their employees bring guests: 43 percent will invite spouses or other family members, up from 31 percent in 2015.

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