AAA projects 2.1 million Illinoisans will be on the road traveling for the Fourth of July holiday, a 4.9 percent increase over last year, according to an AAA press release. The good news is motorists will find gas prices across the state are lower than last year, an average of $3.72 compared to $3.93 in 2011.
Across the country, 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 AAA reports.
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. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
“AAA’s projection for a decade high number of Independence Day travelers is being fed by Americans’ appetite for travel, a mid-week holiday and lower gas prices,” said Brad Roeber, Regional President AAA Chicago. “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.”
Since July 4 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.
The price of gasoline is another factor expected to play a role in spurring intentions to travel this Independence Day holiday period. In April, motorists experienced a year-to-date peak average price of $3.94 per gallon for regular gasoline. The current national average price of regular gasoline is $3.51 per gallon, 43 cents lower than the April peak and 21 cents less than this time last year.
In Huntley, the lowest gas price as of Wednesday afternoon was $3.59 a gallon at the Mobile on Illinois 47 and Oak Creek Parkway, according to gasbuddy.com.
Other interesting Fourth of July travel facts:
- Travelers to experience increases in hotel rates, decreases in car rental rates
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. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay 9 percent more at an average cost of $120 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $40, a 9 percent decrease from one year ago.
- 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 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. 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. Lower spend activities like visiting family and friends and sightseeing are expected to increase up to four percent, while shopping and entertainment will decrease by as much as nine percent.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm 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.