AAA prediction: US to set road trip record for July 4 holiday

(CNN) — Americans are feeling the heat at the gas pump, but it won’t keep them in the park, AAA predicts.

The auto and travel planning group’s annual forecast for the July 4 holiday weekend indicates that 42 million Americans – more than ever – will take a road trip of 50 miles or more.

That’s despite gasoline prices hitting a record high earlier this month. The national average per gallon on Monday was $4.98, pennies from the high of $5.02 hit a week earlier.

A combination of holidaymakers and commuters could cause travel times to double the normal duration at peak points on Thursday and Friday evenings, traffic experts at Inrix said.

He warned that some of the busiest roads would then include freeways around Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

According to Inrix, the best time to travel Thursday through Friday is early or late in the day. He said congestion on Sunday and Monday should be less. The 4th of July falls on Monday this year.

Tips for saving gas

Heavy traffic causes a slowdown in Providence, Rhode Island on June 16, 2022. It will likely be a familiar site to many 4th of July drivers this year.

Kris Craig/The Providence Journal/USA Today Network

People determined to hit the road still have ways to at least mitigate the sting of gas prices. Here are some strategies:

• Bypass stations just off major highways: “It’s generally best not to use stations along the freeway,” advised Ellen Edmonds, AAA public relations manager, in a recent interview with CNN Travel. Instead, “drive a few miles down the road. Look for residential areas or remote rural areas.”

• Be stingy at expensive gas stations: If you’re low on gas and stuck in an area where prices are rising, stop to refuel. Do not fill up completely. Pump enough gas to get you safely to a place where stations generally charge less.

• Consider “nearcation”: There are options between settling for another vacation and an epic cross-country road trip that will blow your budget. It is “proximity”. Think of places closer to home but far enough away to feel like a real trip.

In the skies

A Boeing 737-932ER operated by Delta takes off from JFK International Airport.  AAA says only about 7% of people traveling for the July 4 holiday will fly.

A Boeing 737-932ER operated by Delta takes off from JFK International Airport. AAA says only about 7% of people traveling for the July 4 holiday will fly.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/File

As the roads will be crowded, fewer Americans will be flying for vacation, AAA expects.

He said the 3.55 million people expected to take flight on Independence Day represent just 7% of travellers. That’s the lowest share since 2011, when the economy was still rebuilding after the Great Recession.

AAA says plane tickets are around 14% more expensive than in 2021.

Hopper fare watchers say fares paid this month are down about $20 from the May average, but blame that on travelers buying cheaper fall flights. The rate for an average hotel room is 23% higher than last year, AAA said.

Overall, AAA said travel demand “is not declining” despite rising spending.

“People are ready for a break and despite the higher costs, they are finding ways to continue taking that much-needed vacation,” said Paula Twidale of AAA Travel.

Flight Cancellation Notice

CNN Travel asked Kathleen Bangs, former commercial airline pilot and FlightAware spokesperson, what travelers can do to prepare for cancellations and delays this summer.

She offered this advice based on a conversation she had with an employee of a major US airline on Monday:

• Allow cushion time: Do not travel on the day of an important event. Plan to arrive at least a day in advance.

• Applications are your friends: If your flight is cancelled, reschedule your trip on the airline’s app. You’ll likely be able to rebook faster, and you’ll have access to seats that will likely fill up while you’ve been waiting on the phone.

• Use hand luggage for essentials: Pack everything you will need within a day or two in your carry-on. Don’t check for prescription drugs or other essentials.

• Stay considerate: Don’t blame your frustration on customer service employees. They do not make operational decisions.

Top image: A motorist fills up with gas in Houston. (Aaron M. Sprecher/AP)

CNN’s Forrest Brown and Marnie Hunter contributed to this article.

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