MADISON, Wis. (AAA NEWS RELEASE) - 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. Decade-high travel volume occurred in 2007 when 42.3 million Americans traveled and the holiday also fell on a Wednesday. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.
In Wisconsin, nearly 867,000 people are expected to travel for Independence Day, a 1.3 percent decrease compared to last year, according to the AAA forecast. Of those, nearly 755,000 people plan to travel by auto while about 39,000 will travel by air. The remaining 73,000 travelers will go by rail, bus or ship.
Highlights from 2013 AAA 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
“Independence Day is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season with six million more Americans traveling than Memorial Day,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “The Fourth of July benefits from the fact that all schools across the nation are out of session, making it truly a time for family fun.”
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). Thirty-four percent intend to stretch their holiday vacation into the following week.
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 last year.
Nationally, gas prices are averaging $3.60 per gallon – 10 cents more than last year. However, Wisconsin gas prices are higher, today averaging $3.80 – down from $4.00 a week ago and 12 cents less than a month ago, but still 22 cents higher than last year.
This spring’s near-record high prices in Wisconsin and surrounding states were caused by continued low supplies and transportation challenges for wholesale gasoline in the Midwest, particularly due to extended maintenance at two large Chicago-area refineries. The return of these refineries to normal production levels should mean continued price relief for Wisconsin drivers.
However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, according to a new consumer index developed by AAA. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.00 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4.00 per gallon. Sixty-two percent of Americans are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.
Air travel to increase slightly
More than 3 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year. The remaining eight percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes.
Average travel distance decreases, spending relatively unchanged
According to the survey, 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 visiting a national park (28 percent) 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 with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $215 last year.
AAA offers digital travel planning resources
On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner or searchable Travel Guides. 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.
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.
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. AAA’s survey of intended travelers was conducted May 28-30. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight Independence Day 2013 Forecast can be found here.