AAA advice for 4th of July travel and trips to Europe, Hawaii and National Parks

Alison Rombough
Travelers in Italy. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

See worst and best times to travel over upcoming holiday weekend, July 1st – 5th

From AAA

Travel continues to rebound after a year-long pandemic. AAA forecasts travel volumes for Independence Day will be the second-highest on record; nearing the highs set in 2019.

More than 47.7 million Americans will take at least one domestic trip this Independence Day (July 1–5). This represents an increase of nearly 40% from last year, yet just 2.5% fewer than the 2019 holiday weekend.

Florida travel figures are also rebounding from last year. Nearly 2.6 million Floridians are forecast to take a trip during the holiday weekend. That’s the second-most on record, and 36% more than the 2020 holiday period.

“Travel is back this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue vacations they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day.”

Long Delays Expected for Drivers

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trip on Monday mid-day. Major metro areas across the U.S. could see nearly double the delays verses typical drive times.

“With travelers eager to hit the road this summer, we’re expecting nationwide traffic volumes to increase about 15% over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delay,” 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, along with Monday mid-day.”

Worst and Best Times to Travel
Date Worst Time Best Time
Thursday 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. After 7:00 p.m.
Friday 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Before 12:00 p.m.
Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. After 2:00 p.m.
Sunday            Free Flow Expected
Monday 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Before 1:00 p.m.
Source: INRIX

Around the World

Traveler enthusiasm continues to grow as destinations reopen around the world. On Wednesday, the European Union voted to add the United States to its safe travel list.

While this would make it easier for Americans to vacation in Europe without quarantining, each of the 27 member states may have different testing and vaccination requirements for inbound travelers.

“This is an exciting and confusing time for Americans who are eager to plan a vacation,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “It’s clear that vaccinated travelers have fewer constraints, but vaccine and testing requirements vary by destination and type of trip. This can be especially challenging for travelers to navigate on their own, so AAA encourages Americans to work with a trusted travel adviser. AAA’s travel advisors have new tools to help you plan the trip that best fits your desires, while saving you time, and providing peace of mind.”

Hawaii Requires Negative COVID-19 Tests for Incoming Travelers

There’s no greater example of the disparity in travel requirements than our nation’s 50th state. Hawaii remains one of the top travel destinations for Americans. However, many are unaware of the strict protocols for incoming travelers, even those who were vaccinated in the continental United States.

Requirements for Hawaii Tourists

  • All inbound travelers to Hawaii are required to pass a COVID-19 test, or be subject to a 10 day quarantine.
  • The test must be taken 72 hours before arrival.
  • The negative COVID-19 test result must then be uploaded to the Safe Travels platform or printed out and in hand prior to departure to Hawaii.
  • The state of Hawaii will ONLY accept FDA-approved NAAT test results, processed by a CLIA-certified laboratory from the following approved list of providers.
  • Travelers will not be able to obtain a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) upon arrival at any Hawaii airport.
  • This includes Americans who were vaccinated outside of Hawaii.
  • People vaccinated in Hawaii are not required to submit a COVID-19 test.
  • When the state reaches a vaccination rate of 60%, the vaccination exception will reportedly extend to travelers vaccinated in the United States, traveling domestically.

“Hawaii is a great option to get away right now, but understanding the COVID requirements is a key part of planning an enjoyable vacation.” Haas continued.

Air Travel

Travelers planning a trip to Hawaii or any future flight should prepare for crowded airplanes and longer lines at terminals.

Air travel continues to recover from the pandemic. The TSA screened 2.09 million passengers last Sunday. That’s the highest level since March 7, 2020, yet 20 percent less than the same day in 2019.

The TSA warns of longer than normal wait times at checkpoints around the country, due to increased passenger totals and a shortage of TSA agents following the pandemic.

AAA encourages air travelers to check-in at least three hours before their flight to ensure they have enough time to get through security.

National Parks

Long lines have also become more common at state and national parks. In some cases, visitors have reported multi hour-long waits to get in, as the parks (and even nearby hotels and restaurants) reach capacity.

“Open air destinations like national parks are increasingly popular this year, because of the pandemic,” Haas said. “If you plan on visiting popular sites like Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore this summer, make sure you plan ahead. Just because you drive over, it doesn’t mean you can get in.

“AAA has relationships with tour operators, giving our Travel Advisors access to rooms that aren’t available to the general public,” Hass continued. “By booking a guided tour, travelers can relax knowing that our trusted partners will navigate the evolving environment for them.

Should I get Vaccinated?

The decision to get vaccinated is a personal choice. However, vaccinated travelers currently have more options and fewer required protocols when traveling. Although some countries require incoming travelers to be vaccinated, non-vaccinated travelers can often gain admittance by passing a Covid-19 test. Be sure to work with a travel advisor to understand the travel requirements before booking a trip.

Check your Passport

Travelers are urged to check the expiration date on their passports. Many countries may not allow you to enter if your passport expires within 6 months from the return date.

Plan ahead. Because of delays, caused by the pandemic, passport renewals may take up to 8-12 weeks. The process could be reduced to 2-3 weeks for an expedited service, but at a cost of $60-$100.

Importance of Travel Insurance

Whatever your plans, AAA encourages you to consider travel insurance. There are various coverage options to protect your health and financial investments from unexpected circumstances before and during your trip. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that you have to be prepared for the unexpected.   Travel Advisors can help you choose the policy that best fits your needs.

AAA Travel Advisors’ New Tool

AAA travel advisors have begun using a new virtual tool, which enables them to check the travel status of any destination in the world, with just the click of a button.

That includes timely information regarding a destination’s:

  • Travel restrictions
  • Vaccine or COVID-19 test requirements
  • Quarantine policies
  • Mask mandates
  • Any health documents you may need before or during your trip
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