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Looming July 4th Holiday Week Expected to Set New Record for Drivers

by | June 20, 2024

The coming Independence Day holiday week is expected to see a record number of travelers hit the road for trips longer than 50 miles to spend time with family and friends. The association predicts more than 60 million will drive during the period.

The long holiday means millions of people will be on the road. Preparation is critical to a good trip.

For this forecast, the Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as the nine-day period from Saturday, June 29 to Sunday, July 7. Historically, the Independence Day holiday period included only one weekend.

This year’s projected number of travelers for holiday period represents a 5% increase compared to 2023 and an 8% increase over 2019.

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “We anticipate this July 4th week will be the busiest ever with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”  

More drivers, lower prices

AAA says if the country hits the predicted 60.6 million people on America’s roads they may face unwanted delays. It’s 2.8 million more folks than last year’s holidays. Some of that traffic will be focused on or around airports, which are also expected to see record numbers this year.

Getting gas

Gas prices are lower this year than last and are expected to keep dropping slowly heading into the holiday week.

However, there is a silver lining as gas prices are expected to be lower than the $3.53 per gallon paid last year. Current prices are averaging about $3.45 per gallon. AAA expects prices will go down heading into the holiday. They expect it will level off and hold steady until the Labor Day holiday weekend that marks the end of summer.

One caveat: hurricanes. AAA reminds the country is in the midst of hurricane season. If storm comes ashore it could have a massive impact on the country’s refining capability, raising prices across the board.

When and how to go

If you live in a large metro area, the worst times to get in your vehicle and head out before and on July 4 are between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. According to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, drivers should hit the road in the morning, and travelers returning on Monday, July 8 should avoid rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoon.2024 July 4 travel graphic from AAA

“Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3rd, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7th, as they return,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal. Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations, and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road conditions.”

If you plan to be part of the 60.6 million estimated road warriors, AAA offered a few suggestions to ensure your trip will be safe and perhaps in fun — and that starts with who is in the vehicle. If you have a child or children who must ride in a car seat now is the best time ensure you’re child is in the correct size car seat and that seat is installed properly.

One check to perform is the “inch test,” AAA notes. Simply grab the seat at the car seat belt path and pull side to side and front to back. If it moves more than one inch in any direction, uninstall and start over until a secure fit is achieved.

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Making the trip easier

In addition to checking the child seat, check your vehicle — or have it check it you don’t feel confident in your ability to do so. Ensuring you oil level and tire pressure are correct will help ensure your vehicle performs efficiently and for the entirety of the trip.

AAA recommends cleaning your vehicle, including securing any loose items. Those things can become projectiles sometimes in emergency maneuvers and simply irritants at other times. While cleaning, ensure your vehicle has an emergency first aid kit, water, snacks, blankets, jumper cables and flares. Also make sure you have a phone charger available to ensure your phone is ready in any situation.

Also, make sure you have enough stuff to keep passengers entertained. Not only does this mean, toys for kids but various forms of fun to keep everyone from uttering those dreaded four words … are we there yet?


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