Summer travel is already in full swing and Independence Day will be no exception as AAA predicts 47.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4). This is an increase of 3.7% over 2021, bringing travel volumes just shy of those seen in 2019. The biggest surprise – car travel – will set a new record despite historically high gas prices with 42 million people hitting the road. Almost 1.37 million from Massachusetts will travel, more than 1.2 million by car, both higher than a year ago.
“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Northeast. “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.”
Car travel volume, even with national average gas prices going over the $5 mark, will break previous records as 42 million opt to drive this Independence Day. Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancelations and delays may be driving this increase. In fact, the share of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011.
In Massachusetts, the busiest travel times are expected to occur on Thursday, June 30th on Interstates 93, 95 and the Massachusetts Turnpike. The largest increase over typical traffic will occur on I-93 south from exits 20 to 4, where traffic is expected to be 103 percent higher than average. Elsewhere, the increase will range from 22 to 88 percent. The worst time to travel will be Thursday and Friday afternoons when travelers heading to their destinations mix with commuters heading home for the weekend.
“Traveling by car does provide a level of comfort and flexibility that people may be looking for given the recent challenges with flying,” continued Ms. Maguire. “But not all destinations are within driving distance, which doesn’t mean you have to abandon your vacation plans. The best advice we can give travelers is to consider working with a travel agent who can help plan for the unexpected – like a flight cancelation. They are your best advocate.”
Independence Day will be the second busiest since 2000, as travel volumes continue to trend upwards with no sign of slowing down. It is important travelers are prepared and flexible to minimize stress and enjoy the holiday. AAA offers the following advice:
-Have a plan A, B and C. Flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand and availability may be limited, which will impact pricing. Finding last-minute deals is unlikely so it’s recommended to look for discounts and rewards, usually available through a membership like AAA. This is also another time when travel agents are a great resource since they may know of a deal that may not be readily available to the public.
-Air—AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 14% more than last year coming in at $201/ticket.
-Hotels—Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 23%, with the average lowest nightly rates coming in at $244/night for AAA Approved Hotels.
-Car Rentals— Since last year, the average daily rate for car rentals have continued to increase. With more people traveling, these prices remain on the rise due to continued supply chain issues coupled with growing demand. While daily car rental rates have decreased 34% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $110/day, rates are $40 more/day on average than in 2019.
-B-E-T on a breakdown-free trip. AAA expects to respond to over 446,000 calls for roadside assistance over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Make sure to get a full vehicle inspection ahead of any long trip but especially for components like a vehicle’s battery, engine and tires. Even a vehicle in top shape can run into an issue so it’s a good idea to pack a well-stocked emergency kit and have roadside assistance just in case.
-Beat the rush. Travel on off-peak times or days or pick a hidden gem closer to home. Based on AAA booking data, Friday, July 1 is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4) with Monday, July 4 being the lightest. For those hitting the road, the Thursday and Friday before the holiday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.