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06/22/2021

Independence Day Travel to Increase 40% Compared to Last Year

Travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.

NATIONAL REPORT More than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation's roadways and skies this Independence Day (July 1-5), as travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.

In fact, this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019. Overall, just 2.5 percent fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to Independence Day in 2019. This represents an increase of nearly 40 percent compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million, according to the latest report from AAA.

"Travel is in full swing this summer as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they've deferred for the last year-and-a-half," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel. "We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow."

Modes of Transportation

While all modes of travel will see increased demand this Independence Day, road trips continue to dominate this summer. Despite the highest gas prices in seven years, more than 91 percent 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 percent 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 percent of pre-pandemic levels and increase 164 percent compared to last year.

An additional 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes this Independence Day, an increase of more than 72 percent compared to last year, but 83 percent lower than in 2019. This includes travel by bus and train, and also the return of cruising. Cruise lines have announced limited sailings resuming from U.S. ports beginning in late June.

Higher Gas Prices

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."

Driving Delays

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 vs. typical drive times, with motorists 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 percent over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delay," said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for 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."

According to INRIX, these are the best and worst times to travel:

  • Thursday, July 1: The worst time is 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The best time is after 7 p.m.
  • Friday, July 2: The worst time is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The best time is before noon.
  • Saturday, July 3: The worst time is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The best time is after 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 4: Free flow is expected.
  • Monday, July 5: The worst time is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The best time is before 1 p.m.

Top Destinations

Theme parks in Orlando, Fla., and southern California, as well destinations including Denver, Las Vegas and Seattle are topping the list of Independence Day destinations this year.

The top Independence Day travel destinations are:

  1. Orlando
  2. Anaheim, Calif.
  3. Denver
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Seattle
  6. Chicago
  7. New York
  8. Atlanta
  9. Boston
  10. Kahului, Maui, Hawaii