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Load Up the Coolers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- More Americans will travel this Fourth of July holiday than have ever traveled for a holiday weekend, according to the American Automobile Association's holiday travel forecast. AAA estimates that 40.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 2.8 percent increase from the 39.2 million who traveled last year.

Approximately 33.9 million travelers (84 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 2.6 percent increase from the 33.1 million who drove a year ago.

"This will not only be the most heavily-traveled Fourth of July ever, but this long weekend will actually put more American vacationers on the road than even the granddaddy of holiday travel weekends -- Thanksgiving," said AAA Travel vice president Sandra Hughes. "Higher prices for gasoline and increased competition for hotel rooms this holiday will do little to reduce Americans' desire to travel. Look for busy beaches, packed parks and crowded campgrounds."

Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.17 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline -- up four cents from a month ago and about 24 cents higher than a year ago.

The greatest number of Fourth of July auto travelers will originate in the Southeast with 8.6 million, followed by the West with 8.4 million; Midwest, 6.5 million; Northeast, 5.7 million; and Great Lakes, 4.7 million.

Cities tied with towns/rural areas atop the list of preferred destinations this holiday with 23 percent of travel volume for each. Watery fun came in next, with ocean/beach at 18 percent and lake areas at 14 percent. Mountain areas, 7 percent came next, followed by theme/amusement parks, 5 percent, and state/national parks, 4 percent. Another 4 percent responded with other, and 3 percent said they didn't know.

A recent CSNews online poll showed that 61 percent of respondents had 10 stores or fewer in summer vacation hot spots; 12 percent had 10 to 25 stores; 9 percent had 26 to 50 stores; and 18 percent had more than 50 stores.
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