AAA Projects a 4.9 Percent Increase in Independence Day Travel

Mid-week holiday adds extra day to travel period, contributing to volume increase


BUFFALO, N.Y. June 19, 2012 — AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 4.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year. The expected 2012 Independence Day holiday travel volume has the potential to tie the past decade’s previous high mark set in 2007 and represents a near 42 percent increase from 2009. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.

Since July 4 falls on a Wednesday, the calendar will play a role in driving holiday travel volume. The mid-week holiday expands the traditional 5-day travel period to 6 days and provides the option of including a weekend and 2 week days on either side of the actual holiday.

“AAA’s projection of more than 42 million Independence Day travelers is being fed by Americans’ appetite for travel and receding gas prices,” said Wally Smith, Vice President, AAA Western and Central New York. “This is the second holiday this year where travelers indicated a determination to travel while economizing by actively seeking value-added travel options and activities.”

Impact of Gasoline Prices on Travel Plans

The decreasing price of gasoline may play a role in spurring intentions to travel this Independence Day holiday period. On April 17, motorists in Buffalo experienced a year-to-date peak average price of $4.12 per gallon for regular gasoline. The current average in Buffalo is $3.74 per gallon, 38 cents lower than the April peak and 15 cents less than this time last year. In Rochester and the Finger Lakes, the year-to-date peak for gasoline came on April 17 at $4.09 per gallon. Today, motorists in Rochester are paying $3.66 per gallon; 43 cents lower than the April peak and 21 cents less than 2011. On April 15, motorists in Syracuse experienced a year-to-date peak average price of $4.09 per gallon for regular gasoline. Drivers in Syracuse are paying $3.59 per gallon today, which is 50 cents below April’s peak and 28 cents less than last year.

The national average for a gallon of gasoline is currently $3.49, while the New York State average sits at $3.70.

Automobile Travel Up 4%, Air Travel Up 9%

Approximately 35.5 million people (84 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by automobile—a four percent increase over the 34.1 million people last year. Slightly more than 3.2 million leisure travelers (8 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.

The remaining 8 percent of holiday travelers are expected to use other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship, accounting for 3.6 million travelers, a 10 percent increase over last year.

Hotel Rates Increase, Car Rental Rates Decrease, Airfares Unchanged

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Independence Day holiday hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 4 percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $164 per night compared to $157 last year. AAA Two Diamond lodgings are expected to average $120 per night, an increase of 9 percent. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $40, a 9 percent decrease from a year ago. 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.

Average Travel Distance Increases

The average distance for intended travelers 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.

Median Spending Down 7%, Travelers Continue to Economize

Median spending is expected to be $749, a 7 percent decrease compared to the expected median spending of intended holiday travelers ($807) in 2011.

The Independence Day holiday traditionally involves spending time with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors and participating in celebrations highlighted by fireworks. This year’s survey of intended travelers found that the economizing travel consumer behavior reported in AAA’s Memorial Day travel forecast will continue over the Independence Day holiday period. Activities like visiting family and friends and sightseeing are expected to increase up to 4 percent, while shopping and entertainment will decrease by as much as 9 percent.

As Upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 880,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

AAA news releases are available in the AAA Newsroom at www.AAA.com/Media.