Independence Day will kick off the summer travel season with a bang. According to AAA’s latest projections, a record 49 million Americans are expected to travel for a 4th of July celebration this year, with 263,000 Idahoans among them. High consumer confidence and low unemployment have generated additional spending money and more opportunities to travel.
This year, the Independence Day holiday period is defined as the five days from Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.
Gas prices are also lending a helping hand. Today, the national average is $2.66, which is 19 cents less than a month ago, and the same as a year ago. In Idaho, the average price for regular unleaded is $3.06, which is 15 cents less than a month ago, and 12 cents less than a year ago.
“Recently, crude oil has been less expensive due to global concerns about oversupply, and refineries have been able to keep up with demand, including a record high of nearly ten million barrels per day just a couple of weeks ago,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed, but barring unforeseen circumstances, gas prices should remain below 2018 levels for the holiday.” Experts describe current gasoline stocks in the Rockies region as “extremely healthy” at 7.6 million barrels, and regional refineries are near a 100 percent utilization rate.
Today, the West Texas Intermediate for crude oil is $57/bbl, which is nine dollars below where the market topped out earlier this year. Although AAA and others believe that OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) will extend its current production cuts, and despite tensions between the United States and Iran, oil prices are expected to remain stable for the holiday.
Auto and airline travel hit new heights, other modes of travel also increase
Nearly two million more Americans will celebrate the nation’s birthday by taking a trip this year, with 1.7 million of them hitting the road (for a total of 41.4 million overall). That’s the most since AAA began tracking the data, and the sixth straight year of growth for this transportation mode.
In collaboration with INRIX, AAA says that July 3 will be the busiest travel day, with possible delays of up to four times the normal in major metro areas as commuters and holiday travelers share the highways and byways. The early to mid-afternoon will be the worst time to travel on that day.
Meanwhile, airline travel volume will climb for the tenth straight year, setting a new record just below the four million mark. Although the average price of a plane ticket is ten percent higher than last year, a growing number of travelers prefer the speed and efficiency of taking to the sky.
july 4 travel projections…aaa…222
Other modes of travel (including rail, cruise ship, and bus) are also expected to increase, but not to reach record levels. Roughly 3.5 million people will use these modes of transportation.
Hotel and rental car prices – AAA Leisure Travel Index
Based on a review of the top 20 travel destinations, AAA predicts that car rental fees will increase by five percent this year. The average price of a Two Diamond-rated hotel is $153, and the average price of a Three Diamond-rated hotel is $189.
Where are they going?
This year, travelers are likely to seek out fun in the sun by taking a trip to Orlando or Honolulu. Many Idahoans will gather with family and friends, but some will visit popular regional destinations including Anaheim, Seattle, Las Vegas, and nearby national parks. For international travel, the top vacation spots are Rome, London, Dublin and Paris. Vancouver, B.C. rounds out the top five.
“Wherever you’re heading, don’t forget to pack your patience,” Conde said. “Airports will experience above-average waits at security checkpoints, and the roads will be more congested than usual. It’s best to plan ahead by bringing plenty of food and water for everyone.”
For longer road trips, AAA encourages motorists to build in rest breaks every two hours or 100 miles to avoid drowsy driving. Drivers should also appoint a designated messenger to read and respond to texts and emails so that they can keep their hands, eyes, and attention on the road.
AAA to the rescue
Nationwide, AAA plans to rescue nearly 367,000 people at the roadside over the Independence Day weekend, and nearly 900 Idahoans. Flat tires, dead batteries, and lockouts are the most common problems, but many of them can be avoided.
“A pre-trip inspection of your battery, engine fluids, and tires may prevent a bigger issue later,” Conde said. “Extreme heat can drain a battery and corrode the terminals just as much as winter conditions. If your battery is more than three years old, a trusted mechanic should complete a quick inspection of your electrical system before you hit the road. You should also have your tires and brakes checked to make sure they are in good working order.”
As part of your roadside assistance plan, it’s important to have a good emergency kit in your vehicle. Make sure first aid kits and flashlight batteries are ready to go, and that you have flares or reflectors that can be used to alert other drivers.
“This holiday weekend, we’re asking drivers, boaters, and people lighting fireworks to drink responsibly so that everyone can have a safe and happy 4th,” Conde said.