Shorter holiday travel period expected to result in 0.8 percent fewer American travelers this year
AAA Travel projects that 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the 41.1 million people who traveled last year. The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominantly due to a shorter holiday period.
With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 7, and is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season.
"This year, nearly 41 million Americans plan to celebrate the nation's birthday with a getaway, a slight decline from last year," said AAA Western and Central New York President and CEO Tony Spada."This projection is not representative of the improving economy, but rather due to the calendar effect of one fewer day in the holiday period."
Highlights from 2013 AAA Independence Day holiday travel forecast include:
July 3 and 7 busiest travel days
This year, 46 percent of intending travelers plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the holiday travel period, compared to 65 percent last year. The largest share of travelers (32 percent) on a single day will depart on July 3 and the largest share will return on July 7 (38 percent). Thirty-four percent intend to stretch their holiday vacation into the following week returning on or after Monday, July 8.
Automobile travel remains dominant mode of transportation
Approximately 34.4 million people (84 percent) plan to drive to their destination, a decrease of 0.7 percent from the 34.7 million who drove last year.
Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday. Despite the slight increases compared to last year, prices remain below their highs of earlier this year. The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.59 per gallon, 11 cents higher than last year. The average in New York is currently $3.75/gal. Buffalo is currently averaging $3.74 a gallon, only one cent higher than 2012.
Air travel to increase slightly
More than 3.07 million leisure travelers (8 percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase from last year's 3.06 million air travelers. The remaining 8 percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Average travel distance decreases, spending relatively unchanged
The average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 613 miles, which is 110 miles less than last year's average of 723 miles. The decline is likely reflective of the shorter holiday period.
Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $747, compared to $749 last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 29 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 20 percent on food and beverages and 22 percent on lodging.
During the holiday weekend, the most popular activities will be visiting with friends/family (57 percent), dining (49 percent) and shopping (44 percent). Other popular activities include going to the beach and sightseeing (36 percent), and 28 percent will celebrate the nation by visiting a national park or a historic site (21 percent).
Hotel, car rental rates and airfares rise
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 4 percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase 2 percent with an average cost of $119 per night.
Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, 29 percent more than last year's average of $45. Airfares increased 6 percent with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $215 last year.
Upstate New York's largest member services organization, AAA, provides nearly 860,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since it's founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.