AAA estimates that 39.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this holiday, up 3.4 percent from the 38.2 million who traveled last year.
Approximately 34.4 million travelers (87 percent) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 3 percent increase from the 33.3 million who drove a year ago. Another 4.6 million (12 percent) plan to travel by airplane, up 4.5 percent from the 4.4 million that flew last July 4 holiday. The remaining 400,000 projected vacationers (1 percent) will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation, about even with a year ago.
"Americans' strong desire to travel will overcome the highest-ever July 4 gas prices and increased airfares, producing potentially record travel this holiday weekend," said Karen Lefler, director of Travel Services, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. "The recent dip in gas prices -- the national average is down about 10 cents from the record it hit over the Memorial Day holiday -- will help keep gasoline a relatively small part of most vacation costs."
"The July 4 period traditionally is the heaviest travel period of the summer, with trips ranging from weekend getaways to extended road trips," added Wendy Weigel, vice president of Travel Services, AAA Minneapolis. "Americans are more confident with their travel plans, with tour packages and cruise sales stronger than they were this time last year."
The greatest number of July 4 auto travelers will originate in the Southeast with 8.7 million, followed by the West, 8.5 million; Midwest, 6.7 million; Northeast, 5.6 million; and Great Lakes, 4.9 million.
The West is expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 1.7 million, followed by the Midwest with 900,000; Southeast, 800,000; Northeast, 600,000; and Great Lakes, 600,000.
Oceans and beaches top the list of preferred destinations this holiday with 24 percent of travel volume. Cities tied with towns/rural areas with 22 percent each, followed by lakes, 12 percent; mountains, 8 percent; theme/amusement parks, 3 percent; and state/national parks, 2 percent. Another 5 percent responded with other, and 2 percent said they didn't know.
Staying with friends and family will be the accommodation of choice for 35 percent of July 4 travelers, followed by 33 percent staying at a hotel or motel. Other lodging choices include camper/trailer/RV/tent, 11 percent; a rented cabin/condo, 9 percent; an owned cabin/condo at 5 percent; and a bed and breakfast for 1 percent. Another 2 percent had no overnight stay planned, 2 percent said other, and 2 percent said they didn't know.
Research for July 4 holiday travel is based on a national telephone survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association of America, which conducts special research for AAA.
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