More Vacationers Hitting the Road for 4th of July
by Doug Desjardins
The rebound in summer travel is expected to pick up steam this Fourth of July as more people travel for the long weekend.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting that nearly 35 million people will travel 50 or more miles from home on the Fourth of July weekend, a 17-percent increase over last year. AAA said the forecast reflects a “positive change in the country’s economic landscape” and what appears to be the end of the recession-induced trend of stay-at-home vacations.
“It’s encouraging to see such growth in summer travel as Americans take to the road to visit family, friends and great vacation destinations,” said Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services. “AAA agents continue to report double-digit increases in the percentage of travelers making advanced reservations for cruises, vacation packages and online hotel bookings, all of which are positive signs pointing to an increase in the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July.”
The AAA also expects 90 percent of travelers to drive to their destination over the weekend, an 18-percent increase over last year. The increase in Fourth of July travel comes on the heels of a 5% increase in travel over the Memorial Day weekend.
And more people will be hitting the road in spite of higher prices at the pump. The national average price for a gallon of gas is currently $2.76, 12 percent higher than at this time last year.
Airline traffic is also expected to increase slightly over the Fourth of July weekend and for the rest of the summer. The Air Transport Association of America is projecting a 1-percent increase in airline ticket purchases for the three-month period that ends Aug. 31.
That increase will also come with higher prices on airfare. Travel Web site Bing Travel estimates the average airfare is 24% higher than at this time last year, an increase attributed to higher fuel prices, increased demand and fewer flights.
Changes in the airline industry are also changing the way consumers shop for the best prices on flights. According to data analyzed by travel Web site Expedia dating back to 2007, the best time to look for low prices on travel for the July 4 weekend was one to two weeks before the holiday. That changes for the Labor Day weekend, with statistical trends showing that the best time to buy is three to four weeks before the Labor Day weekend.
The trends indicate that while it’s best to book well in advance for major travel holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas – when most flights are guaranteed to be full - it’s better to gamble on getting a deal on undersold flights for second-tier travel holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day.