By: Wayne Allen
July 2, 2013
AAA Travel projects 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year. The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominantly due to a shorter holiday period. With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.
“Although national travel is expected to be down slightly, we are still seeing an overall upward trend from the decade low of 29.8 million July 4th travelers in 2009, according to Jim Lehman, President, AAA East Central. “It’s not unusual to experience a slight decrease in travelers during years that have a shorter celebratory period,” he added.
Highlights from 2013 AAA National Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast include:
Independence Day holiday travelers to total 40.8 million, a decrease of 0.8 percent from the 41.1 million who traveled last year
Eighty-four percent of travelers (34.4 million) to travel by automobile, a decrease of 0.7 percent from 34.7 million last year
Holiday air travel expected to increase slightly to 3.07 million from 3.06 million in 2012
Independence Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 13-year average of 38.9 million for this holiday
The largest share of travelers (32 percent) will depart on Wednesday, July 3
Sunday, July 7, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips with 38 percent planning to return that day
The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 613 miles and spend $747
In the East North Central Region*:
Holiday travelers to total 7.11 million, a decrease of .9 percent from the 7.18 million that traveled last year
6.19 million will travel by automobile, down .8 percent from 2012
320,000 will fly to their destination, the same number as last year
*East North Central region includes Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan
“The Fourth of July is typically a family-oriented holiday,” Lehman explained. “It is the perfect time to make vacation memories and enjoy a recess from the responsibilities of work and school. Beach, cruise and Disney continue to be very popular choices for families this time of year.”
July 3 and 7 busiest travel days
This year 46 percent of intending travelers plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the holiday travel period (July 3-7), compared to 65 percent last year. The largest share of travelers (32 percent) on a single day will depart on July 3 and the largest share will return on July 7 (38 percent).
Automobile travel declines, remains dominant mode of transportation
Approximately 34.4 million people (84 percent) plan to drive to their destination, a decrease of 0.7 percent from the 34.7 million who drove last year.
Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday. As of mid-June, prices were on average up two percent compared to the same time in 2012. Despite the slight increase compared to last year, prices remain below their highs of earlier this year. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.541, 14 cents higher than last year.
Air travel to increase slightly
More than 3.07 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year’s 3.06 million air travelers. The remaining eight percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Average travel distance decreases, spending relatively unchanged
According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 613 miles, which is 110 miles less than last year’s average of 723 miles. The decline is likely reflective of the shorter holiday period.
Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $747, compared to $749 last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 29 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 20 percent on food and beverage and 22 percent on lodging.
During the holiday weekend the most popular activities will be visiting with friends/family (57 percent), dining (49 percent) and shopping (44 percent). Other popular activities include going to the beach and sightseeing (36 percent) and 28 percent will celebrate the nation by visiting a national park or historic sites (21 percent).
Car rental and hotel rates and airfares rise
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase two percent with an average cost of $119 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, 29 percent more than last year’s average of $45. Airfares increased six percent.
AAA offers digital travel planning resources
AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, Android and iPad uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn about the AAA Mobile app and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.
On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight Independence Day 2013 Forecast can be found here.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit organization with 82 local offices in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, servicing 2.7 million members.