Gas prices make record July Fourth car, air travel costly

Summer travel isn’t showing any signs of slowing down with Independence Day weekend projected to be the second busiest it’s been since 2000, according to AAA. 

Over 47 million consumers are estimated to travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend, which spans from June 30 to July 4, according to AAA. That’s a 3.7% increase from 2021. 

Car travel, in particular, is projected to “set a new record” even with surging gasoline prices, according to AAA. The organization expects 42 million people to hit the road over the weekend, up from the 41.8 million people who opted to drive in 2021. 

Gas prices are displayed at a gas station in Long Beach, Calif.  (AP Photo/Ashley Landis / AP Newsroom)

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On Monday, AAA reported that the national average retail price for regular gasoline was $4.98 per gallon. However, the national average surpassed $5 per gallon last week. 

Interestingly enough, over half of Americans surveyed by AAA in March reported that they would make changes to their driving habits or lifestyle if gas prices rose to $4 per gallon. If prices reached $5, three-quarters of those surveyed said they would need to adjust their habits. 

“Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancelations and delays” could be driving the increase in car travel, AAA reported. “In fact, the share of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011.” 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 12.94 +0.78 +6.41%
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 30.28 +0.69 +2.33%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 36.28 +1.50 +4.31%
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 8.54 +0.43 +5.30%

About 3.55 million people are expected to fly over the weekend and another 2.42 million people are expected to take a train, bus or hop on a cruise, according to AAA data. 

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“Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase, and it’s not tapering off,” AAA Travel Senior Vice President Paula Twidale said.  

Denver International Airport

Main terminal of Denver International Airport on Aug. 24, 2021, in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski / AP Newsroom)

To date, AAA data shows that bookings for air travel, car rentals, cruises, hotels and tours for the most popular domestic destinations over the holiday weekend are already up 60% over 2021. 

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Projected costs for travel over Independence Day weekend

The lowest airfare for the holiday weekend is $201 on average per ticket. That is already 14% higher than 2021, according to AAA data.

Meanwhile, the rates for mid-range hotels increased by about 23%. The average lowest nightly rates for AAA Approved Hotels over the weekend cost $244 per night.  

The average daily rate for car rentals has also continued to climb. 

“With more people traveling, these prices remain on the rise due to continued supply chain issues coupled with growing demand,” AAA reported. 

Even though rates are 34% lower than last year, the average lowest rate is still $110 per day, which is $40 more per day on average than in 2019, according to AAA. 

Best and worst travel times 

With so many people hitting the road, INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue projected that travel times nationwide could increase 50% compared to normal times. He also noted that drivers around major metro areas should “be prepared for significantly more delays.”  

In fact, AAA said drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to normal times. 

AAA said motorists may face the longest travel delays during the afternoons on June 30 and July 1 due to a combination of commuters leaving work early and holiday travelers. 

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“Low congestion” is expected throughout the day on Sunday and Monday, according to AAA. 

Worst times to travel from Thursday through Saturday 

Thursday: 2 to 8 p.m. EST

Friday: Noon to 9 p.m. EST

Saturday: 2 to 4 p.m. EST

Best times to travel from Thursday through Saturday 

Thursday: Before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. EST

Friday: Before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m. EST

Saturday: Before noon and after 7 p.m. EST

Meanwhile, AAA booking data showed that July 1 is projected to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend and July 4 is projected to be the lightest. 

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