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Traveling for the Fourth of July holiday? Plan ahead to avoid headaches, setbacks

More than 70 million people expected to travel this week for Fourth of July holiday
More than 70 million people expected to travel this week for Fourth of July holiday 02:01

MIAMI - The Fourth of July falls on a Thursday this year, with many looking at an extended holiday weekend. That's why it's no surprise that AAA, the vehicle club group, is forecasting record travel in Florida and across the nation for the holiday period.

Nearly 4.5 million Floridians are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home. Nationwide, nearly 71 million will hit the road or catch a flight.

"The summer travel season is off to a hot start and we expect to set new travel records on the road and in the sky during the week of Independence Day," said Debbie Haas, vice president of Travel for AAA. "There will be 3.5 million more travelers than last year. That means even more people at airports and popular attractions like beaches, lakes, and theme parks."

For their Independence Day travel forecast, AAA uses trips of 50 miles or longer during the nine day period from Saturday, June 29 to Sunday, July 7.

Hitting the road for the Fourth of July holiday

More than 3.9 million Floridians are expected to take a road trip during the forecast travel period, that's 183,000 more than last year. AAA said road travel in the state will set a record for the second consecutive year.

Nationwide, AAA projects a record 60.6 million people will take a road trip, an additional 2.8 million travelers compared to last year. This year's number also surpasses 2019 when 55.3 million people traveled by car over the July 4th week.

The worst times to travel by car before and on July 4th are between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Drivers should hit the road in the morning, and travelers returning on Monday, July 8th should avoid rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoon, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights.

"Road travelers should prepare for congestion in the afternoon and evening hours, particularly near larger metro areas, theme parks, and popular attractions," said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.

Gas prices recently sank to multi-month lows, but have rebounded in the past couple of days. Sunday's state average was $3.38 per gallon. That's 12 cents per gallon more than what holiday travelers paid on Independence Day in 2023.

Catching a flight for Independence Day celebrations

Nationwide, AAA forecasts that 5.74 million people will fly to their July 4th destinations, up nearly 7% compared to last year, and 12% more than in 2019.

"AAA booking data shows domestic airfare is 2% cheaper this Independence Day week compared to last year, and the average price for a domestic roundtrip ticket is $800. Airports will be packed throughout the week. AAA recommends arriving 2 hours early, reserving parking ahead of time, and traveling with carry-on luggage versus checked bags to save time and money," according to the auto club.

Besides travel by car and plane, more than 4.6 million people are expected to travel by bus or train, or take a cruise.

"This category is seeing an increase of 9% compared to last year, but this year's number is shy of 2019's figure of 4.79 million," AAA said.

So where is everybody going for the holiday?

"Travelers are cooling off in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska - and by the ocean," according to AAA.

The travel group said Seattle, Vancouver, and Anchorage are top destinations because of the popularity of Alaska cruises this time of year.

Beaches in South Florida, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale, are also hot destinations along with Honolulu, Punta Cana, and Barcelona. Other popular destinations are Orlando (theme parks anyone), New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Calgary, AB and Vancouver, BC in Canada.

Historical sites in European cities like London, Rome, Dublin, Paris, and Athens are also popular, according to AAA. 

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