ORLANDO, Fla., June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AAA Travel projects 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year. The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominantly due to a shorter holiday period. With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday. Decade-high travel volume occurred in 2007 when 42.3 million Americans traveled and the holiday also fell on a Wednesday. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7.
"This year nearly 41 million Americans plan to celebrate the nation's birthday with a getaway, a slight decline from last year," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "This projection is due to the calendar effect of one fewer day in the holiday period and economic growth that is not robust enough to offset the impact of the sequester and the effect of the end of the payroll tax cut on American families."
Highlights from 2013 AAA Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast include:
- Independence Day holiday travelers to total 40.8 million, a decrease of 0.8 percent from the 41.1 million who traveled last year
- Eighty-four percent of travelers (34.4 million) to travel by automobile, a decrease of 0.7 percent from 34.7 million last year
- Holiday air travel expected to increase slightly to 3.07 million from 3.06 million in 2012
- Independence Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 13-year average of 38.9 million for this holiday
- The largest share of travelers (32 percent) will depart on Wednesday, July 3
- Sunday, July 7, is the most popular date of return for holiday trips with 38 percent planning to return that day
- The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 613 miles and spend $747
"Independence Day is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season with six million more Americans traveling than Memorial Day just two months ago. The Fourth of July benefits from the fact that all schools across the nation are out of session, making it truly a time for family fun," continued Darbelnet.
July 3 and 7 busiest travel days
This year 46 percent of intending travelers plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the holiday travel period (July 3-7), compared to 65 percent last year. The largest share of travelers (32 percent) on a single day will depart on July 3 and the largest share will return on July 7 (38 percent). Thirty-four percent intend to stretch their holiday vacation into the following week returning on or after Monday, July 8.
Automobile travel declines, remains dominant mode of transportation
Approximately 34.4 million people (84 percent) plan to drive to their destination, a decrease of 0.7 percent from the 34.7 million who drove last year.
"AAA also reminds drivers as they head out for the holiday that it is important to keep their mind on the task of driving," said Darbelnet. "Mental distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don't see potential hazards right in front of them. It is not sufficient to have our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, we also need our minds on driving."
Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday. As of mid-June, prices were on average up two percent compared to the same time in 2012. Despite the slight increase compared to last year, prices remain below their highs of earlier this year. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.60, 10 cents higher than last year.
However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be "too high" when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, according to a new consumer index developed by AAA. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.00 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4.00 per gallon. Sixty-two percent of Americans are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.
Air travel to increase slightly
More than 3.07 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year's 3.06 million air travelers. The remaining eight percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Average travel distance decreases, spending relatively unchanged
According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 613 miles, which is 110 miles less than last year's average of 723 miles. The decline is likely reflective of the shorter holiday period.
Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $747, compared to $749 last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 29 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 20 percent on food and beverage and 22 percent on lodging.
During the holiday weekend the most popular activities will be visiting with friends/family (57 percent), dining (49 percent) and shopping (44 percent). Other popular activities include going to the beach and sightseeing (36 percent) and 28 percent will celebrate the nation by visiting a national park or historic sites (21 percent).
Car rental and hotel rates and airfares rise
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase two percent with an average cost of $119 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, 29 percent more than last year's average of $45. Airfares increased six percent with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $215 last year.
AAA offers digital travel planning resources
AAA's digital tools for travel planning 'on the go' include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, Android and iPad uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Travelers can learn about the AAA Mobile app and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.
On AAA.com, travelers can find thousands of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants using AAA's TripTik Travel Planner or the searchable Travel Guides 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 Colorado-based business information provider 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 Independence Day 2013 Forecast can be found here.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.
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