70M set to ride trains, planes and automobiles over Fourth of July

TSA officer Jaime Bueno helps holiday travelers go through security at Salt Lake City International Airport on Dec. 18, 2023. Travel volumes are expected to easily surpass 2023 levels for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

TSA officer Jaime Bueno helps holiday travelers go through security at Salt Lake City International Airport on Dec. 18, 2023. Travel volumes are expected to easily surpass 2023 levels for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Travel volumes are expected to easily surpass 2023 levels for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, with AAA projecting nearly 71 million U.S. travelers will venture 50 miles or more from their homes to celebrate Independence Day this year.

While most of those revelers, about 85%, will be hitting the roads, airline travel is expected to be up big from pre-pandemic levels, with over 5.7 million taking to the skies for the holiday, a 12.3% boost over 2019. Industry watchers say the air travel increase reflects more vacationers planning longer trips this July 4, a dynamic boosted by the holiday coming on a Thursday this time around.

"Travelers are opting to take longer trips with Independence Day falling on a Thursday," Brian Ng, senior vice president of membership and travel marketing for AAA Utah, said in a press release. "This further fuels summer travel demand that is showing no signs of slowing down."

The cost of getaways always matters and thanks to an unusual summer ebb in gasoline prices — the national average for a gallon of regular was $3.46 on Thursday, about 13 cents cheaper than it was a month ago — along with domestic airfares that are running about 2% lower than this time last year, Independence Day trips will come with a little less overhead this summer.

AAA says it expects about 61 million people to do their holiday traveling by car this year, while more than 4.6 million people are expected to use other modes of transportation, including buses, cruises and trains. This category, according to AAA, is seeing an increase of 9% compared to last year, but this year's number is shy of 2019's figure of 4.79 million.

Fourth of July travel predictions come with an asterisk this year as AAA reports it is casting a wider travel period net and including the Saturday before the holiday, June 29, through the Sunday following, July 7, in its travel volume estimates. In previous years, the projections included just a single weekend in the holiday travel window.

Southbound traffic is pictured on Memorial Day weekend on I-15 in Salt Lake City on May 24. Travel volumes are expected to easily surpass 2023 levels for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, with AAA projecting nearly 71 million U.S. travelers will venture 50 miles or more from their homes.
Southbound traffic is pictured on Memorial Day weekend on I-15 in Salt Lake City on May 24. Travel volumes are expected to easily surpass 2023 levels for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, with AAA projecting nearly 71 million U.S. travelers will venture 50 miles or more from their homes. (Photo: Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

Using an analysis provided by INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, AAA reports the worst times to travel by car before and on July Fourth are between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Drivers should hit the road in the morning, and travelers returning on Monday, July 8, should avoid rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoon.

"Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7, as they return," said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. "Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal. Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road conditions."

Water-adjacent locales are poised to loom large on the destination lists of those traveling domestically for the holiday. Top U.S. travel destinations for the July 4 holiday, per AAA, include:

  • Seattle
  • Orlando
  • Anchorage
  • Honolulu
  • Miami

For those aiming to find their Independence Day bliss outside the country, here are the top international destinations for this year's July 4 travelers, according to AAA:

  • Vancouver, B.C.
  • London
  • Rome
  • Dublin
  • Paris

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