Americans to Go Forth on Fourth in Record Numbers

AAA forecasts busiest holiday weekend ever

ORLANDO, Fla. -- More Americans will travel this Fourth of July holiday than have ever traveled for a holiday weekend, according to AAA's holiday travel forecast. AAA estimates that 40.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 2.8% increase from the 39.2 million who traveled last year.

Approximately 33.9 million travelers (84% of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 2.6% increase from the 33.1 million who drove a year ago. Another 4.6 million (11% of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, up 4.2% [image-nocss] from the 4.4 million that flew last Fourth of July. A projected 1.8 million vacationers (5%) will go by train, bus or other mode of transportation, up from about 1.7 million a year ago.

This will not only be the most heavily traveled Fourth of July ever, but this long weekend will actually put more American vacationers on the road than even the granddaddy of holiday travel weekendsThanksgiving, said AAA Travel Vice President Sandra Hughes. Higher prices for gasoline and increased competition for hotel rooms this holiday will do little to reduce Americans' desire to travel. Look for busy beaches, packed parks and crowded campgrounds.

Holiday auto travelers will find gasoline prices nationwide currently averaging $2.16 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasolineup three cents from a month ago and about 21 cents higher than a year ago.

AAA's Leisure Travel Index shows other vacation costs up somewhat from Fourth of July 2004. Hotel rates are up slightly, averaging 0.7% higher for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels for the 20 top destinations used in the comparison. Airfares are down negligibly, by 0.4%. The one marked increase is in car rental rates, which are up 12.8%.

Travelers will see that hotel rooms are more expensive and in short supply this holiday weekend. Last-minute deals might be hard to come by. If you wait too long, there might not even be rooms left in some destinations, said Hughes.

The greatest number of Fourth of July auto travelers will originate in the Southeast with 8.6 million, followed by the West with 8.4 million; Midwest, 6.5 million; Northeast, 5.7 million; and Great Lakes, 4.7 million. The West is expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 1.7 million, followed by the Midwest and Southeast at 800,000 each; Northeast, 700,000; and Great Lakes, 600,000.

Cities tied with towns/rural areas atop the list of preferred destinations this holiday with 23% of travel volume for each. Watery fun came in next, with ocean/beach at 18% and lake areas at 14%. Mountain areas, 7% came next, followed by theme/amusement parks, 5%, and state/national parks, 4%. Another 4% responded with other, and 3% said they did not know.

Some 37% of the total July Fourth travelers expect to stay at a hotel/motel and 31% of travelers expect to stay with friends or relatives; camper/trailer/RV/tent, 14%, placed next, followed by own cabin/condo, 9%, and rented cabin/condo 7%. Another 2% responded with other; no overnight stay, 1%; and did not know, 2%.