NATIONAL: AAA predicts record-breaking travel volumes for July 4 holiday weekend

From AAA – The Auto Club Group of the Carolinas:
North Carolinians will travel in record numbers for Independence Day. AAA forecasts nearly 1.5 million North Carolinians will take at least one trip of 50 miles or more, between Friday and July 4. That’s 60,000 more holiday travelers than the previous record high, set last year.Nationally, travel figures are also expected to set new records. An estimated 50.7 million Americans are forecast to travel for the holiday weekend. That’s nearly 2.1 million more travelers than last year’s holiday and almost 1.8 million more than the previous high, set back in 2019.

“Independence Day weekend appears to be the continuation of what has already been a very strong summer travel season,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Although airfares and hotel rates are more expensive than last year, North Carolinians are still eager to travel. So, expect to see congested roads, busy hotels, and long lines at airports and attractions.”

National Independence Day Travel Figures
  Total Auto Air Other
2023 (Forecast) 50.7 million 43.2 million 4.2 million 3.4 million
2022 48.7 million 42.2 million 3.7 million 2.7 million
2019 49 million 41.5 million 3.5 million 3.5 million

 

North Carolina Independence Day Travel Volumes
  Total Auto Air Other
2023 (Forecast) 1,493,895 1,305,281 118,339 70,275
2022 1,434,236 1,269,935 107,051 57,250
2019 1,391,213 1,277,590 94,574 19,049

Road Trips Remain the Preferred Mode of Transportation

Nearly 85% of all travelers will take a road trip. AAA predicts 43.2 million Americans will drive to their destinations. That’s a little over 1 million more people on the road than last year. In North Carolina, more than 1.3 million are forecast to take a holiday road trip. That’s 35,000 more than last year.

Gas Prices to Remain Lower than Last Year’s Holiday

While it’s still too early to know exactly what drivers will pay at the pump this Independence Day, it’s likely to be well below what drivers paid during last year’s holiday period. The North Carolina average was $4.53 per gallon on July 4th, 2022. So far this summer, gas prices have been somewhat erratic, but the state average has remained below $3.35 per gallon, thanks to the lower cost of oil.

419,000 more Americans will board a flight

A record-setting 4.17 million Americans will fly to their destinations this Independence Day weekend. That surpasses the previous July 4th weekend air travel record of 3.91 million travelers, which was set in 2019. The share of air travelers in the overall holiday forecast this year is an impressive 8.2% – the highest percentage in nearly 20 years. An estimated 118,339 North Carolinians are forecast to fly this year. That’s over 11,000 more than the previous high, which was set last year.

Other modes of transportation are also on the rise this year. AAA expects 3.36 million people will travel by bus, cruise, or train over the long weekend, an increase of 24% over last year. This national figure is not expected to surpass 2019 levels. The estimated 70,275 North Carolinians does not surpass the over 75,000 travelers from 2019.

Best/Worst Times to Travel and Peak Congestion by Metro  

Friday is expected to be the busiest day on the roads during the Independence Day holiday weekend, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights. The worst travel times vary by day but are generally in the afternoon and early evening.

Average travel times are estimated to be 30% longer than normal, particularly in major metro areas, near beaches and attractions. To avoid the heaviest congestion, INRIX recommends drivers leave in the morning or after 6 p.m.

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car

Date

Worst Travel Time

Best Travel Time

Thu, June 29

4:00 – 6:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Fri, June 30

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Before 10:00 AM, After 6:00 PM

Sat, July 1

1:00 PM

Before 12:00 PM

Sun, July 2

Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Mon, July 3

Minimal Traffic Impact Expected

Tue, July 4

12:00 – 3:00 PM

Before 11:00 AM, After 6:00 PM

Wed, July 5

3:00 – 6:00 PM

Before 2:00 PM

 

Peak Congestion by Metro

Metro

Route

Peak Congestion Period

Est. Travel Time

Compared to Typical

Atlanta

Savannah to Atlanta via

I-16 W

Tue, 6PM

6 hrs 18 mins

67%

Boston

Boston to Nantucket via Pilgrim Hwy S

Fri, 11AM

2 hrs 24 mins

63%

Chicago

Chicago to Indianapolis via I-65 S

Wed, 5PM

5 hrs 30 mins

33%

Washington DC

Rehoboth Beach to Washington via US-50 W

Tue, 5PM

4 hrs

82%

Denver

Fort Collins to Denver via

I-25 S

Fri, 1PM

2 hrs 24 mins

60%

Detroit

Cleveland to Detroit via

I-90 W

Fri, 10AM

4 hrs 36 mins

73%

Houston

Houston to Galveston via

I-45 S

Sat, 11AM

1 hr 18 mins

52%

Los Angeles

Los Angeles to Las Vegas via I-15 N

Sun, 6PM

6 hrs 12 mins

60%

Minneapolis

Minneapolis to Eau Claire via I-94 E

Wed, 6PM

2 hrs 36 mins

30%

New York

New York to Jersey Shore via GSP S

Fri, 5PM

2 hrs 48 mins

64%

Portland

Portland to Cannon Beach via US-26 W

Sat, 1PM

2 hrs 18 mins

35%

San Diego

Palm Springs to San Diego via I-15 S

Wed, 7AM

3 hrs 30 mins

17%

San Francisco

San Francisco to Sacramento via I-80 E

Fri, 12PM

2 hrs 18 mins

48%

Seattle

Seattle to Ellensburg via

I-90 E

Fri, 3PM

2 hrs 36 mins

43%

Tampa

Tampa to Orlando via I-4 E

Tue, 11AM

2 hrs 24 mins

69%

Summer Travel Trends and Tips

Travel demand has steadily increased since 2020, and this summer is poised to be one for the record books. Here are some trends and tips from AAA Travel.

  • Air travel is seeing the biggest spike in demand despite higher ticket prices. Passengers are paying 40% – 50% more for flights compared to last year, yet AAA data shows bookings remain strong. Many airlines are responding to surging demand by hiring more staff and taking smaller regional planes out of service and replacing them with larger ones to increase capacity. However, there are still challenges, including a shortage of air traffic controllers that has led to reduced service in and out of New York City area airports.
    • AAA Travel Tip: Apply for TSA Precheck to avoid long security lines at packed airports. You can enroll at participating AAA branches during TSA PreCheck by IDEMIA pop-up events, which are posted