AAA says it expects 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a slight 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.4 million who traveled a year ago.
Overall, the 2013 projection represents a 5 percent increase above the 13-year historical average of 38.9 million travelers and is on par with the most recent four-year period.
“This year’s slight decline from a year ago is more a function of when the holiday falls during the week and less to do with the economy,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson. “With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday.”
AAA said this holiday is typically the busiest of the summer travel season with 6 million more Americans traveling than on Memorial Day, AAA said. The holiday period is defined as Wednesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 7.
Stronger economic signals in the Mountain Region mean the decline in the total person-trips in this region will be slightly lower than for the nation as whole, AAA said. In fact, AAA said 13.5 percent of the population in Idaho and states in this region will travel during the holiday, compared to 12.9 percent for the U.S.
“We expect more than 172,000 Idahoans will drive 50 miles or more from home during this holiday period,” Carlson said.
Highlights from the 2013 July 4 Travel Forecast are:
- 40.8 million: Number of travelers nationwide, down from 41.1 million a year ago.
- 84 percent: Portion of all travelers going by motor vehicle.
- 613 miles: Expected average round-trip, down from 723 miles a year ago. Likely reflective of the shorter holiday season booked midway between two weekends last year.
- $747: Median spending intended by holiday travelers, a negligible decrease from a year ago, when the number was $749.
- 29 percent: Portion of a typical family travel budget allocated for transportation. Fuel and gas expenses account for 17 percent of the travel holiday budget for Idahoans who will drive. That works out to about $101, for each traveling Idaho family.
- 22 percent, 20 percent: Approximate portions of a typical July Fourth travel budget allotted to accommodations and food and beverages, respectively.
- 172,340: Number of Idahoans expected to be on the road for the holiday.
Auto travel is dominant travel mode
Approximately 34.4 million people, or 84 percent of total travelers, plan to drive to their destination, a decrease of 0.7 percent from the 34.7 million who drove last year.
Although U.S. gas prices are about a dime higher than a year ago, AAA says it does not expect higher prices will be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday. The U.S. average price is $3.60, which is some 20 cents lower than it was in late February.
Idaho’s current average price of $3.78 is 3 cents higher than a year ago and 18 cents higher than the national average.
“Our nationwide survey of potential travelers indicates gas prices are not a deal breaker when it comes to the decision to travel during this holiday,” Carlson’s AAA said. “Then again, AAA’s new consumer gas price index shows that half of U.S. adults consider prices to be ‘too high’ when they reach $3.44 per gallon. That indicates that Americans are mindful of the influence gas prices can and do have on our everyday lives.”
Air travel to increase slightly
More than 3.07 million leisure travelers (8 percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year’s 3.06 million air travelers. The remaining 8 percent of travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Car rental and hotel rates and airfares rise
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over 4 percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year. Two Diamond hotel rates are expected to increase two percent with an average cost of $119 per night.
Weekend daily car rental rates will average $48, which is 29 percent more than last year’s average of $45.
Airfares increased 6 percent with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 air routes compared to $215 last year.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Colorado-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.