Independence Day: Georgia residents expected to reach record-high auto travel

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From AAA Media Services

ATLANTA – Independence Day will be the second busiest since 2000, as travel volumes continue to trend upwards with no sign of slowing down. AAA predicts 1.5 million Georgians will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4). That’s 3.3% more than last year’s holiday, and a little over 4% since 2019.

“The volume of travelers expected over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it’s not tapering off. People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much needed vacation.”

While all modes of transportation are forecast to be stronger than last year, the biggest surprise is auto travel. Despite record high gas prices, AAA forecasts over 1.3 million Georgians will take a holiday road trip – the most on record, dating back to 2001.

Road Trips are King this Independence Day

Drivers should expect the longest travel delays heading into the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1 as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

“Even with gas hitting record prices, travelers are still eager to hit the road this summer. We expect nationwide travel times to increase about 50% compared to normal. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delays,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon.”

The daily worst and best times to travel this Independence Day weekend are listed below.

Thursday, June 30 – Worst: 2-8 p.m. • Best: Before 7 a.m., after 8 p.m.

Friday, July 1 – Worst: Noon-9 p.m. • Best: Before 10 a.m., after 9 p.m.

Saturday, July 2 – Worst: 2-4 p.m. • Best: Before Noon, after 7 p.m.

Sunday, July 3 – Low congestion expected all day

Monday, July 4 – Low congestion expected all day

Although air travel is forecast to be 1.5% stronger than last year, domestic traveler volumes are expected to remain well below pre-pandemic levels. Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancelations and delays are likely the catalyst.

“Traveling by car does provide a level of comfort and flexibility that people may be looking for given the recent challenges with flying,” continued Haas. “But not all destinations are within driving distance, which doesn’t mean you have to abandon your vacation plans. The best advice we can give travelers is to consider working with a travel agent who can help plan for the unexpected – like a flight cancelation. They are your best advocate.”

Nationwide, travel volumes follow similar trends. AAA forecasts 47.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend. This is an increase of 4% over 2021, bringing travel volumes just shy of those seen in 2019. Nationally, auto travel is also forecast to set new records.

Travel Prices are Higher than Last Year

  • Air—AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 14% more than last year coming in at $201/ticket.
  • Hotels—Mid-range hotel rates are about 23% more than last year, with the average lowest nightly rates coming in at $244/night for AAA Approved Hotels.
  • Gas Prices—Independence Day gas prices are forecast to be the most expensive for the holiday in history. Pump prices are 52% more expensive than a year ago. On Monday, the state average was $4.47. During recent years, the state average on July 4th was $2.91 (2021) and $2.58 (2019).
  • Car Rentals— Since last year, the average daily rate for car rentals have continued to increase. With more people traveling, these prices remain on the rise due to continued supply chain issues coupled with growing demand. While daily car rental rates have decreased 34% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $110/day, rates are $40 more/day on average than in 2019.

This Summer, Travel Stress-Free

With crowded roads and busy airports, AAA wants to help prepare travelers so they can have a stress-free July 4th celebration. It is important travelers are prepared and flexible to minimize stress and enjoy the holiday. AAA offers the following advice:

  • Have a plan A, B and C. Flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand and availability may be limited, which will impact pricing. Finding last-minute deals is unlikely so it’s recommended to look for discounts and rewards, usually available through a membership like AAA. This is also another time when travel agents are a great resource since they may know of a deal that may not be readily available to the public.
  • B-E-T on a breakdown-free trip. AAA expects to respond to over 446,000 calls for roadside assistance over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Make sure to get a full vehicle inspection ahead of any long trip but especially for components like a vehicle’s battery, engine and tires. Heat drains car batteries, so summer is a time of unexpected dead batteries. AAA will bring a battery to members in need, and provide discounts on the purchase price. Even a vehicle in top shape can run into an issue so it’s a good idea to pack a well-stocked emergency kit and have roadside assistance just in case.
  • Avoid the rush. Travel on off-peak times or days or pick a hidden gem closer to home. Based on AAA booking data, Friday, July 1 is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4) with Monday, July 4 being the lightest. For those hitting the road, the Thursday and Friday before the holiday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.  If you’re flying, plan to arrive several hours early at the airport.

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