Travelers at Portland International Airport in Oregon at the start of the Thanksgiving holiday week, Monday, Nov. 19, 2007. (AP)
From Release (WIBW) -- AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend, a 4.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year. The expected 2012 Independence Day holiday travel volume will tie the past decade’s previous high mark set in 2007 and represents a near 42 percent increase from 2009.
Locally, AAA is seeing heavy traffic volume as customers speak to travel agents; get last minute TripTiks, travel brochures and attraction tickets. Since July 4th falls on a Wednesday, the calendar will play a role in driving holiday travel volume as the mid-week holiday expands the traditional five-day travel period to six days and provides the option of including a weekend and two week days on either side of the actual holiday.
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
The price of gasoline is another factor expected to play a role in spurring intentions to travel this Independence Day holiday period. Today, Kansas motorists are paying an average of 3.34 for a gallon of regular unleaded, compared to 3.44 last year. The average for Topeka is 3.25 compared to 3.36 last year.
Automobile travel up four percent, highest auto travel volume in past decade
Approximately 35.5 million people plan to travel by automobile setting the high-water mark for the decade, as 84 percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers choose this traditionally dominate mode of transportation. This is a four percent increase over the 34.1 million people who traveled by auto last year.
Number of air travelers expected to increase by nine percent, airfares unchanged
Slightly more than 3.2 million leisure travelers (eight percent of holiday travelers) will fly during the Independence Day holiday period, a nine percent increase over the 2.9 million air travelers in 2011. This year’s increase is the third consecutive year of rising Independence Day holiday air travel volume, following the decade low 1.4 million air travelers in 2009.
Airfares are flat year over year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $200 for the top 40 U.S. air routes in both 2011 and 2012, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. A longer holiday period and stable airfares are spurring this increase.
Average travel distance increases
According to a survey of intended travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 723 miles, up 150 miles from than last year’s average 573 miles. The increase in expected air travel is a factor in lifting the average travel distance as air trips typically span a longer distance than automobile trips. The survey found that the share of holiday trips in excess of 1,500 miles increased to 18 percent from last year’s 10 percent share, while the share of trips shorter than 250 miles decreased to 28 percent from 35 percent a year ago.
Median spending down seven percent, travelers continue to economize
Median spending is expected to be $749, a seven percent decrease compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($807) in 2011.
AAA offers mobile travel planning resources
AAA’s digital tools for travel planning ‘on the go’ include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, free to members at AAA.com/ebooks. Choose from city titles, like Orlando, New York and the award-winning Las Vegas, as well as National Parks.
Free AAA apps for iPhone and Android devices use GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, locate nearby member discounts and find current gas prices. Travelers can learn about AAA apps and AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.
AAA provides travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services to 53 million members nationwide. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for motorists and consumers. For more information about AAA, members and non-members can visit AAA offices in Topeka, Wichita, Manhattan or Lawrence, go online to AAA.com or call 800-365-5222.