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AAA: Nearly 47 million Americans expected to travel this Fourth of July holiday

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MILWAUKEE — AAA projects nearly 47 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday, a five percent increase from last year and the most travelers for the holiday since AAA began tracking 18 years ago.

According to AAA, the Independence Day holiday period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8. For the 39.7 million Americans planning a Fourth of July road trip, Tuesday will be the busiest day.

“We are already seeing a busy summer travel season and Independence Day will be no exception,” said Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Consumers remain confident in the economy and have additional disposable income to put toward a summer getaway.”

By the Numbers: 2018 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast from AAA

  • Total Travelers:
    • U.S. – nearly 47 million Americans will travel for Independence Day, 5.3 percent more than last year.
    • Wisconsin – Over 1 million Wisconsinites will travel for during the holiday weekend. The 6 percent increase represents nearly 58,000 more travelers than last year.
  • Automobiles:
    • U.S. – 39.7 million will hit the road this Independence Day, 5.1 percent more than last year.
    • Wisconsin – Nearly 900,000 will take a road trip.  51,000 more Wisconsinites will be on the road than last year; an increase of 6 percent.
  • Planes:
    • U.S. – A record-breaking 3.8 million people will travel by air, a 7.9 percent increase and the ninth year of consecutive air travel volume increases.
    • Wisconsin – Nearly 47,000 Wisconsinites will fly to their destination(s), a 5.3 percent increase over last year.
  • Trains, Buses and Cruise Ships:
    • U.S. – Travel across these sectors will increase by 5.8 percent to a total of 3.5 million passengers.
    • Wisconsin – Over 76,000 Wisconsinites will travel via train, bus, and/or cruise. The 6.4 percent increase represents a growth of over 4,500 more passengers than last year.

Gas Prices Moving Lower into Independence Day
Motorists will find the most expensive Independence Day gas prices in 3-4 years. Last year’s holiday, the average price was $2.21 in Wisconsin and $2.23 nationwide. On July 4, 2015, gas prices averaged $2.77 both in Wisconsin and nationwide. During the 2014 holiday, a gallon of regular averaged $3.69 in Wisconsin and $3.66 nationwide.

On Wednesday, prices at the pump averaged $2.84 in Wisconsin and $2.87 nationwide.  Fortunately, fuel prices are falling. Since peaking at $2.97 Memorial Day weekend, the national average declined 10 cents.

“The outcome of tomorrow’s OPEC meeting will steer gas prices heading into Independence Day,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Prices have slipped lower under the belief that OPEC will agree to increase crude output. Raising production rates would suppress crude oil prices and encourage cheaper prices at the pump.”

Drivers Beware: Terrible Tuesday

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion over the holiday week on Tuesday, July 3 in the late afternoon – as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Travel times could increase two-fold in the major metros across the U.S., with drivers in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. experiencing the most significant delays.

“With a record-level number of travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around major metros,” says Scott Sedlik, general manager and vice president – public sector, INRIX. “Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, Tuesday afternoon will hands down be the worst time to be on the road. Our advice to drivers is to avoid peak commuting hours altogether or consider alternative routes.”