AAA: 1.6 million Tennesseans will travel during the July 4th week

Published 9:04 am Thursday, June 20, 2024

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AAA projects Independence Day travelers will set new records both nationwide and in Tennessee. More than 70.9 million people around the U.S. are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home. Nearly 1.6 million of those will be Tennesseans.

“The summer travel season is off to a hot start and we expect to set new travel records on the road and in the sky during the week of Independence Day,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “There will be 3.5 million more travelers than last year.  That means even more people at airports and popular attractions like beaches, lakes, and theme parks.”

AAA’s Independence Day travel forecast measures domestic trips of 50 miles or more during a 9-day period from Saturday, June 29 to Sunday, July 7.

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Economic trends influencing the travel forecast

Despite concerns about inflation, total travel is increasing on growth in consumer confidence, wages, and continued strength in consumer spending.

– Consumers are expected to increase spending by 5.5% compared to a year ago.

– Real GDP growth will remain modest, rising by 2.5% from last year.

– After falling steadily since January, consumer confidence moved up in May.

– Gas prices for May averaged $3.62, seven cents higher than a year ago.

AAA projects a record 60.6 million people will travel by car over Independence Day week – that’s an additional 2.8 million travelers compared to last year. This year’s number also surpasses 2019 when 55.3 million people traveled by car over July 4th week.

Meanwhile, road travel in Tennessee will set a record for the second consecutive year. More than 1.4 million Tennesseans are expected to take a road trip. That’s 63,500 more than last year.

“Road travelers should prepare for congestion in the afternoon and evening hours, particularly near larger metro areas, theme parks and popular attractions,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “With so many people on the road it’s important to be patient, minimize distractions while driving, and move over for people on the roadside.”

Tennessee drivers are currently paying less on gasoline than they did last Independence Day, when the state average was $3.06. Gas prices have been moving lower as of late. However, that downward trend could reverse course if oil prices rise because of geopolitical tensions or a hurricane that threatens oil rigs and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

 The number of domestic air travelers is also expected to set a record. Nationally, AAA projects 5.74 million people will fly to their July 4th destinations. That’s an increase of nearly 7% compared to last year and a 12% increase over 2019.

AAA booking data shows domestic airfare is 2% cheaper this Independence Day week compared to last year, and the average price for a domestic roundtrip ticket is $800. Airports will be packed throughout the week. AAA recommends arriving 2 hours early, reserving parking ahead of time, and traveling with carry-on luggage versus checked bags to save time and money.

 More than 4.6 million people are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises, and trains. This category is seeing an increase of 9% compared to last year, but this year’s number is shy of 2019’s figure of 4.79 million.

“Cruising continues experiencing remarkable growth,” Haas said. “This time of year, Alaska cruises are in high demand, making Seattle and Anchorage top domestic destinations. Cruise travelers are also finding deals this summer. With new ships coming onto the market – and going for a premium – working with a Travel Advisor is a great way to ensure you’re getting the best value for your vacation. Travel Advisors are also able to help you choose a travel insurance policy that protects you and your investment for the impact of unexpected events before and during your trip.”

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, says the worst times to travel by car before and on July 4th are between 2pm and 7pm. Drivers should hit the road in the morning, and travelers returning on Monday, July 8th should avoid rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoon.

“Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3rd, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7th, as they return,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal. Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations, and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road conditions.”