AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend, a 4.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year.
The number of Oklahomans expected to travel is up 4.7 percent over July 4th last year, to 543,500, AAA reports. (See below for a breakdown of these numbers by mode of transportation.)
The expected national 2012 Independence Day holiday travel volume will tie the past decade’s previous high mark set in 2007 and represents a near 42 percent increase from 2009. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
Since July 4 falls on a Wednesday, the calendar will play a role in driving holiday travel volume as the mid-week holiday provides the option of including a weekend and two week days on either side of the actual holiday.
When asked about day of departure, 54 percent of people intending to travel this holiday said they plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the work-week that includes July 4.
Response percentages by trip departure day are:
· 25 percent -- Friday, June 29
· 16 percent -- Saturday, June 30
· 13 percent -- Sunday, July 1
· 11 percent -- Monday, July 2
· 19 percent -- Tuesday, July 3
· 16 percent -- Wednesday, July 4
“AAA’s projection for a decade high number of Independence Day travelers is being fed by Americans’ appetite for travel, a mid-week holiday and lower gas prices,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma.
“This is the second holiday this year when travelers have indicated a determination to travel while economizing on other aspects of their trip.”
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
The price of gasoline is major factor in spurring intentions to travel this Independence Day holiday period. On April 6, motorists in Oklahoma experienced a year-to-date peak average price of $3.74 per gallon for regular self-serve gasoline.
The national average also hit a 2012 peak of $3.94 that same day. The current Oklahoma average price for regular gasoline is $3.40 per gallon, 12 cents below the price recorded on June 19, 2011, while today’s national average price, $3.50 per gallon, is 15 cents less than at this same time last year.
Automobile travel up 4 percent, highest auto travel volume in past decade
Approximately 35.5 million people plan to travel by automobile across the country, setting the high-water mark for the decade. Eighty-four percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers will be getting there by car, pickup or RV.
This is a 4 percent increase over the 34.1 million people who traveled on the highway last year.
AAA predicts 468,000 Oklahomans will be getting to holiday destinations by motor vehicle this year, which represents 86 percent of all travelers and 3.8 percent more than last July 4th.
Number of air travelers expected to increase by 9 percent, airfares unchanged
Slightly more than 3.2 million leisure travelers (8 percent of all holiday travelers) will fly sometime over the Independence Day holiday period, a 9 percent increase over the 2.9 million who flew in 2011.
This year’s increase is the third consecutive year of rising July 4th air travel volume, following the decade low 1.4 million air travelers in 2009.
Air travel by Oklahomans is also expected to increase this Independence Day holiday to 9,700 fliers compared with last year’s 8,000, a 9.7 percent increase.
Airfares are flat year over year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $200 for the top 40 U.S. air routes in both 2011 and 2012, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
The remaining 8 percent of holiday travelers are expected to use other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship, accounting for 3.6 million travelers nationwide, a 10 percent increase over last year and the second highest volume in the past 10 years.
Only 2 percent of Oklahomans will be getting there by other modes.
Travelers to experience increases in hotel rates, decreases in car rental rates
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Independence Day holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase four percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $164 per night compared to $157 last year.
Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay 9 percent more at an average cost of $120 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $40, a 9 percent decrease from one year ago.
Average travel distance increases
According to a survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 723 miles, up 150 miles from last year’s average 573 miles.
The increase in expected air travel is a factor in lifting the average travel distance as air trips typically span a longer distance than automobile trips.
The survey found that the share of holiday trips in excess of 1,500 miles increased to 18 percent from last year’s 10 percent share, while the share of trips shorter than 250 miles decreased to 28 percent from 35 percent a year ago.
Median spending down seven percent, travelers continue to economize
Median spending is expected to be $749, a 7 percent decrease compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($807) in 2011.
Lower spend activities like visiting family and friends and sightseeing are expected to increase up to 4 percent, while shopping and entertainment will decrease by as much as 9 percent.
AAA offers mobile travel planning resources
AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like Orlando, New York and the award-winning Las Vegas, as well as National Parks.
Free AAA apps for iPhone and Android devices use GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, locate nearby member discounts and find current gas prices. Travelers can learn about AAA apps and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.
Travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA’s digital travel planning tools or online at AAA.com/Travel. Every AAA Approved establishment offers the assurance of acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality, and ratings of One to Five Diamonds help travelers find the right match for amenities and services.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays.
AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2012 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.