The 4th of July weekend is a welcome mid-year pause and a chance to enjoy a few days away with family and friends. But over the past two years, many have had their Independence Day travel plans cancelled by bans and lockdowns caused by the pandemic.
This year, the main concern is the historically high gas prices seen at the pumps, but it won’t stop people from getting away to celebrate, as numbers of those traveling this weekend by car are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.
In a consumer survey of 1,670 individuals conducted June 14-17 by Cars.com, 88% of respondents said they still plan to travel on the holiday weekend, but many are altering their plans by traveling shorter distances or getting passengers to help with the cost because of gas prices .
Sixty-two percent of those who participated in the Cars.com 2021 survey said they wanted to get “as far from the house as possible” during the Independence Day weekend. Those surveyed this year are no less enthusiastic, but 68% plan on sticking within 50 miles from home.
Additionally, 45% of the Fourth of July adventurers asked said they will bring passengers to help offset the cost of filling up along the way. For those between the ages of 18 and 34 and those with a household income of $50,000 or less, the number rises to over 50%.
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“Road tripping for the Fourth of July is an American tradition, and understandably, gas prices are at the forefront of any road tripper’s mind right now. Pent-up demand for travel is pushing vacationers to get creative with their road-trip strategies to curb costs rather than forgo their adventures completely,” said Jenni Newman, Cars.com editor-in-chief.
Although the Cars.com survey indicates many travelers will be making shorter journeys, AAA predicts 47.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes over the 4th of July weekend, including a record-breaking 42 million traveling by car. This is a 3.7% increase from last year, bringing travel volumes to those last seen in 2019.
“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it’s not tapering off. People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much needed vacation.”
While it will be all well and good to see more Americans out enjoying the Independence Day weekend this year, that means everyone should expect delays and the stress that goes with them.
“We expect nationwide travel times to increase about 50% compared to normal. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delays,” stated Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at 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,” AAA reported.
AAA noted that drivers can save time and gas money by traveling at off-peak times or days. The afternoons of Thursday, June 30, and Friday, July 1, are expected be the busiest times, with travel times predicted to double, as Pishue noted. Sunday and Monday will be calmer days.
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