Will Fourth of July travel come all the way back? Almost

Fourth of July holiday travel is expected to be close to pre-pandemic levels, according to a AAA forecast, trailing only 2019.

AAA is predicting 47.7 million Americans will travel during the holiday (July 1-5), just 2.5% fewer than the number of Fourth of July travelers in 2019. Compared to 2020, when the holiday fell in the middle of a lockdown for many people, 40% more Americans are expected to travel.

2019 was a record year for travel over the Fourth of July holiday.

Compared to last year, the number of Americans planning to travel via automobile; air; or bus, train or cruise increased across the board. AAA predicts 43.6 million will travel by car, up 34.1% compared to 2020; 3.5 million will travel by air, up 163.8%; and 620,000 will travel by bus, train or cruise, up 72.7%.

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Compared to 2019, 5.1% more will travel by car, but air travel is down 10.3% and bus, train or cruise travel is down 82.5%.

According to AAA, average airfares are down 2% compared to last year. Hotels and car rental prices, however, have increased. Rates for mid-range hotels are up 32% to 35%, AAA said. Two and Three Diamond-rated properties have average daily rates of $156 and $398, respectively, while car rental rates are up 86% compared to last year at $166 per day.

Gas prices are the highest they have been since 2014. AAA said automobile travelers can expect national averages above $3 per gallon.

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Theme park travel appears to dominate. The top two destinations for Fourth of July travel this year, based on AAA Travel bookings, are Orlando in the No. 1 spot followed by Anaheim, Calif.

The remainder of the top destinations are, in order, Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Boston, and Kahului, Maui.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kickoff of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

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