The AAA predicts more than 47 million of us will be on the road and in the air over the 4th of July holiday weekend, which matches pre-Pandemic levels. In other words, expect crowded roads, airports and trains, and delays wherever you are going. Also expect higher prices for gas, hotels, car rentals and airfare.
While all modes of travel will be up significantly over 2020, road trips continue to dominate this summer. Despite the highest gas prices in seven years, the AAA predicts more than 91% of holiday travel will be by car.
An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019. With 3.5 million people planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and increase 164% compared to last year.
Another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including air travel and cruises, which have resumed. That’s an an increase of more than 72% compared to last year, but 83% lower than in 2019.
This includes travel by bus and train, and also the return of cruising.
- If you are traveling by air or ship, be sure you know cancellation and change policies along with travel insurance options, to help protect your health and travel investment before and during your vacation.
- When booking a hotel, look for AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge for peace of mind. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests.
AAA 4th of July Travel Statistics
(Bus, Train, Cruise)
|Change (2019 to 2021)||−2.5%||+5.1%||−10.3%||−82.5%|
|Change (2020 to 2021)||+39.6%||+34.1%||+163.8%||+72.7%|
Theme parks in Orlando and southern California, as well destinations including Denver, Las Vegas and Seattle are topping the list of Independence Day destinations this year, according to AAA Travel advance air and tour bookings.
- Orlando, FL
- Anaheim, CA
- Denver, CO
- Las Vegas, NV
- Seattle, WA
- Chicago, IL
- New York, NY
- Atlanta, GA
- Boston, MA
- Kahului, Maui, HI
Long Delays Expected for Drivers
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trip on Monday mid-day.
Major metro areas across the U.S. could see nearly double the delays verses typical drive times, with drivers in Boston and San Francisco likely to experience nearly three-times the delays.
“With travelers eager to hit the road this summer, we’re expecting nationwide traffic volumes to increase about 15% over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delay,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, INRIX.
“Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon, along with Monday mid-day.”
Worst Corridors and Times to Travel
|Metro Area||Corridor||Peak Congestion||% over Normal|
|Atlanta||I-75 N, Jodeco Road to Jenkinsburg Road||Friday, 1:00–3:00PM||50%|
|Boston||I-95 S, MA-10 to Sanford Road||Monday, 3:00–5:00PM||330%|
|Chicago||I-90 E, W Roosevelt Road to I-294||Friday, 4:00–6:00PM||50%|
|Detroit||I-75 N, 12 Mile Road to Oakland St||Friday, 3:00–6:00PM||50%|
|Houston||I-10 W, Bernardo Road to Pin Oak Road||Saturday, 8:00–10:00AM||50%|
|Los Angeles||I-405 N, I-5 to Jefferson Blvd||Friday, 3:00–5:00PM||10%|
|New York||I-278 E, Bronx River to Williamsburg St||Thursday, 3:00–5:00PM||30%|
|San Francisco||CA-17 N, Lark Ave to Mt Hermon Road||Monday, 6:00–8:00PM||340%|
|Seattle||I-5 S, Capitol Blvd (Olympia) to JBLM||Friday, 1:00–3:00PM||20%|
|Washington DC||I-95 S, Route 3 to Dumfries Road||Thursday, 2:00–4:00PM||30%|
Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel
|Date||Worst Time||Best Time|
|Thursday||3:00 – 5:00PM||After 7:00PM|
|Friday||4:00 – 5:00PM||Before 12:00PM|
|Saturday||11:00AM – 1:00PM||After 2:00PM|
|Sunday||Free flow expected|
|Monday||4:00 – 5:00PM||Before 1:00PM|
While AAA found average airfares have declined 2% compared to last Independence Day, travelers can expect to find higher prices for hotels and car rentals as demand climbs.
Mid-range hotel rates have increased between 32% and 35%, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.
Daily car rental rates have increased 86% compared to last Independence Day, topping out at $166. Consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers. This production delay has presented a domino effect as rental car companies work to increase their inventory of new vehicles in time to meet the increased demand for domestic road travel.
The 43.6 million Americans expected to travel by car this Independence Day can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average likely to remain above $3 per gallon.
“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said Jeanette C. McGee, AAA spokesperson. “Though prices will remain above $3 a gallon, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”
AAA members can save on gas by joining the Fuel Rewards at Shell program. Save 30 cents per gallon on your first fill-up at Shell when you join between July 1 and August 31, 2021. Join now at AAA.com/Shell.
More Tips for Travelers
While many aspects of daily life start to return closer to a pre-pandemic normal, AAA cautions that the travel landscape has changed. Remember to exercise caution while traveling, and consider working with a travel agent to plan your trip. They can help if you need to make any last-minute changes to travel plans, explore travel insurance options and help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort-level this summer.
Although the CDC advises that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, it’s important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place.
For travelers who are not vaccinated but choose to travel, CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested for COVID-19 before and after travel.
Regardless of your vaccination status, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
AAA provides more than 62 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 30 motor clubs and more than 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. INRIX’s partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.
About IHS Markit:
Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions.