Fourth of July Travel: Red Hot This Year

More than 40 million Americans will get away for the holiday. 

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The Fiscal Times
July 1, 2014

Call it the great American holiday getaway.

This Fourth of July weekend, some 41 million Americans will take planes, trains, buses and cars to celebrate the red, white and blue – up 1.9 percent over the 40.3 million people who traveled for the holiday last year, according to auto club AAA.

“Travel volume for Independence Day has grown four out of the past five years and is expected to be more than 6 percent higher than the average of the past 10 years,” said AAA in a statement.

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CheapOair, a travel booking website, reports a 30-percent rise in domestic air bookings for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, with prices for nearly all of its top 10 domestic destinations showing no change or “drops of up to 23 percent in airfares, compared to the same period last year.”

Lower airfares are certainly one reason for the higher travel figures this holiday weekend, Patrick Fragale, chief content officer of CheapOair, told CNBC. Among the site’s most popular destinations within the U.S. are New Orleans, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta and San Diego. But it also says more Americans are traveling abroad for the Fourth this year, to such luxe locations as St. Thomas, Reykjavik and St. Maarten.

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Most Americans taking a trip this holiday will be driving rather than flying, though. AAA projects that more than 8 in 10 holiday travelers this Fourth, or 34.8 million people, will be taking a road trip. That’s the highest since 2007.

This is true even as gas prices over the weekend may be higher than they’ve been for the holiday in years. The national average price of gas right now is $3.67 a gallon – about 20 cents a gallon higher than on July 4 of last year.

“In recent years gas prices have declined in the weeks leading up to Independence Day, but this hasn’t occurred this summer due to higher crude oil costs as fighting intensifies in Iraq,” says AAA, which also says that people generally don’t cancel holiday trips due to high gas prices, though they may curtail their spending on dining, shopping or other activities.

Americans are increasingly pulling out the plastic to pay for all of this travel. “Steady improvement in the economy has spurred increased consumer confidence and spending,” said Marshall L. Doney, chief operating officer of AAA, in a statement. “Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year” through credit cards.  

This summer overall, 75 percent of us will travel at some point, according to the American Express Spending and Savings Tracker report (up from 69 percent in 2013). The average summer trip this year is expected to cost about $1,250, up from $1,145 last year.

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Managing Editor Maureen Mackey oversees scheduling and work flow and also writes and edits features and reports on a wide array of subjects. She spent more than 20 years as a senior book and features editor at Reader’s Digest.