Fourth of July Holiday Travelers Expected to Increase 17.1 Percent, AAA says

Jun 23, 2010, 07:00 ET from AAA

Travel by automobile continues to be dominant mode of transportation as AAA expects more emergency roadside assistance calls than any other summer holiday

ORLANDO, Fla., June 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July holiday weekend will increase 17.1 percent from 2009, with approximately 34.9 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, 29.8 million Americans traveled during the same period. The 2010 Fourth of July holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, July 1 to Monday, July 5.

"While financial markets continue to have volatility related to the European debt crisis, the landscape of the U.S. economy is in a much different place than it was one year ago," said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services.  "It is encouraging to see such growth this summer as Americans take to the road to visit family, friends and great vacation destinations."

MacDonell added, "AAA travel agents continue to report double-digit increases in the percentage of travelers making advanced reservations for cruises, and vacation packages and online hotel bookings via AAA.com are up over last year -- all of which are positive signs pointing to an increase in the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July holiday."

As the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues, the situation is changing rapidly and the impact on tourism in the Gulf Coast region is still unknown. However, currently most beaches remain open and while AAA offices have reported member inquiries regarding travel to the Gulf Coast, they have not experienced widespread cancellations. Additionally, travelers visit these communities for reasons other than boating and swimming including visiting family and friends, state and national parks, golfing, shopping, dining and nightlife. Therefore, AAA is projecting an increase in travel in states in the Gulf Coast region as well.

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 2010 Fourth of July holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.

Air and car trips to increase

Trips by automobile are expected to increase in popularity with 90 percent of travelers, or 31.4 million people, reaching their destination by driving.  This is an increase of 17.7 percent from last Fourth of July when 26.7 million travelers went by motor vehicle.  AAA expects the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline to be between $2.70-$2.80 per gallon during this Fourth of July holiday weekend. Leisure air travel also is expected to grow slightly with 1.56 million holiday flyers expected.  This would be an increase of 8.2 percent from one year ago when 1.44 million flew.  Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by six percent of all travelers.

AAA also cautions that the Fourth of July marks the busiest travel holiday for emergency roadside services calls. As temperatures rise, vehicles are put to the test. Without preventive maintenance the summer heat increases the likelihood of a motorist experiencing a vehicle failure, leaving them unexpectedly – and dangerously – stranded on the side of the road. AAA expects it will come to the aid of 520,000 stranded motorists during the holiday weekend. Batteries can be especially affected by heat and AAA anticipates it will replace 30,000 auto batteries on the roadside and jump start an additional 60,000 during the holiday weekend. The nation's largest motor club also will aid 85,000 motorists locked out of their vehicles and change 75,000 flat tires.  

To decrease the likelihood of break down, AAA recommends motorists have their vehicle serviced regularly based on the manufacturer's recommended schedule and identify a quality repair shop. AAA offers a free public service to help consumers find quality auto repair facilities that meet and maintain high professional standards for training, equipment, cleanliness and customer service. Motorists can either look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at local auto repair facilities, or search for a nearby AAA Approved shop online at AAA.com/repair.

AAA also helps motorists prepare for the heavy toll summer heat can have on a vehicle batteries with its Mobile Battery Service. In many areas, AAA Mobile Battery technicians will travel to members to test their vehicle's battery and ascertain if it's near the end of its life, in need of replacement and susceptible to failure in the summer heat.

Median spending down; average distance traveled will be 617 miles

The average distance traveled by Americans this Fourth of July holiday weekend (617 miles) is forecast to be approximately the same as one year ago (614 miles). Median spending is estimated to be $644 this Fourth of July, nearly $50 less than last year when median spending was estimated at $693. Fifty-eight percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday.  

Airfares, hotel and rental car rates increase over holiday compared to last year

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Fourth of July holiday weekend are expected to increase 13 percent from last year as air passengers will pay a lowest average round-trip fare of $192 per ticket. However, it is important to note that fares for the prior year dropped 16 percent and, in spite of the increase in 2010, fares are still below the average from two years ago. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase four percent to an average of $54. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are also expected to increase four percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $137 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels will pay only one percent more at an average cost of $102 per night.

AAA offers a variety of travel planning tools including free TourBook travel guides and maps for members and the TripTik® Travel Planner, available free to all travelers at AAA.com. Three iPhone apps offer access to AAA products and services on the go. The AAA TripTik Mobile app provides gas prices and information on hotels, restaurants and attractions. The AAA Discounts app, which has been downloaded more than 800,000 times, uses GPS technology to acquire a user's location and displays nearby AAA Show Your Card & Save® locations. With AAA Roadside, AAA members requiring emergency service can quickly send their location, vehicle description and specific breakdown details directly to AAA. The free apps are available for download at the iTunes Store.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides nearly 52 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.

AAA news releases, high resolution images, broadcast-quality video, fact sheets and podcasts are available on the AAA NewsRoom at AAA.com/news.

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SOURCE AAA