More than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roadways and skies this Independence Day (July 1–5), as travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019. Overall, just 2.5% fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to Independence Day in 2019. This represents an increase of nearly 40% compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million.
While all modes of travel will see increased demand this Independence Day, road trips continue to dominate this summer. Despite the highest gas prices in seven years, more than 91% of holiday travel will be by car. An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019. With 3.5 million people planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and increase 164% compared to last year.
“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “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 to follow.”
Another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes this Independence Day, an increase of over 72% compared to last year, but 83% lower than in 2019. This includes travel by bus and train, and also the return of cruising. Cruise lines have announced limited sailings resuming from U.S. ports beginning in late June. For those who make the personal decision to take a cruise, AAA reminds them that a travel agent can help advise on cancelation policies, what you can expect on your cruise, and travel insurance options to help protect your health and travel investment before and during your vacation.
|2021 Independence Day Holiday Travelers|
(Bus, Train, Cruise)
|Change (2019 to 2021)||−2.5%||+5.1%||−10.3%||−82.5%|
|Change (2020 to 2021)||+39.6%||+34.1%||+163.8%||+72.7%|
*AAA did not issue an Independence Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.
Top Destinations & Resources to Plan Your Trip
AAA Travel booking data also indicate a strong travel recovery for summer. Theme parks in Orlando and southern California, as well destinations including Denver, Las Vegas and Seattle are topping the list of Independence Day destinations this year.
Top Independence Day Travel Destinations:
- Orlando, FL
- Anaheim, CA
- Denver, CO
- Las Vegas, NV
- Seattle, WA
- Chicago, IL
- New York, NY
- Atlanta, GA
- Boston, MA
- Kahului, Maui, HI
*Based on AAA Travel advance air and tour bookings, July 1–5, 2021
When planning a trip, refer to the new AAA Digital TourBook guides, now available for destinations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean at TourBook.AAA.com. Available on smartphone, tablet or desktop, the new interactive guides feature detailed destination information, must-see attractions, sample itineraries and more.
To meet the needs of today’s travelers, AAA is enhancing its Diamond inspections. Hotels that meet AAA’s standards for cleanliness, condition and new surface cleanliness testing will now be recognized as Inspected Clean and then assigned a Diamond designation. AAA inspectors will start conducting testing to identify Inspected Clean properties later this month. In the meantime, travelers can look for AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge for peace of mind. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests.
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 drivers in Boston and San Francisco likely to experience nearly three-times the delays.
“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 Corridors and Times to Travel
|Metro Area||Corridor||Peak Congestion||% over Normal|
|Atlanta||I-75 N, Jodeco Road to Jenkinsburg Road||Friday, 1:00–3:00PM||50%|
|Boston||I-95 S, MA-10 to Sanford Road||Monday, 3:00–5:00PM||330%|
|Chicago||I-90 E, W Roosevelt Road to I-294||Friday, 4:00–6:00PM||50%|
|Detroit||I-75 N, 12 Mile Road to Oakland St||Friday, 3:00–6:00PM||50%|
|Houston||I-10 W, Bernardo Road to Pin Oak Road||Saturday, 8:00–10:00AM||50%|
|Los Angeles||I-405 N, I-5 to Jefferson Blvd||Friday, 3:00–5:00PM||10%|
|New York||I-278 E, Bronx River to Williamsburg St||Thursday, 3:00–5:00PM||30%|
|San Francisco||CA-17 N, Lark Ave to Mt Hermon Road||Monday, 6:00–8:00PM||340%|
|Seattle||I-5 S, Capitol Blvd (Olympia) to JBLM||Friday, 1:00–3:00PM||20%|
|Washington DC||I-95 S, Route 3 to Dumfries Road||Thursday, 2:00–4:00PM||30%|
Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel
|Date||Worst Time||Best Time|
|Thursday||3:00 – 5:00PM||After 7:00PM|
|Friday||4:00 – 5:00PM||Before 12:00PM|
|Saturday||11:00AM – 1:00PM||After 2:00PM|
|Sunday||Free flow expected|
|Monday||4:00 – 5:00PM||Before 1:00PM|
Travelers: Prepare for Higher Prices
While AAA found average airfares have declined 2% compared to last Independence Day, travelers can expect to find higher prices for hotels and car rentals as demand climbs. Mid-range hotel rates have increased between 32% and 35%, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.
Daily car rental rates have increased 86% compared to last Independence Day, topping out at $166. Consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers. This production delay has presented a domino effect as rental car companies work to increase their inventory of new vehicles in time to meet the increased demand for domestic road travel.
The 43.6 million Americans expected to travel by car this Independence Day can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average likely to remain above $3 per gallon.
“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said Jeanette C. McGee, AAA spokesperson. “Though prices will remain above $3 a gallon, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”
AAA members can save on gas by joining the Fuel Rewards at Shell program. Save 30 cents per gallon on your first fill-up at Shell when you join between July 1 and August 31, 2021. Join now at AAA.com/Shell.
More Tips for Travelers
While many aspects of daily life start to return closer to a pre-pandemic normal, AAA cautions that the travel landscape has changed. Remember to exercise caution while traveling, and consider working with a travel agent to plan your trip. They can help if you need to make any last-minute changes to travel plans, explore travel insurance options and help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort-level this summer.
Although the CDC advises that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, it’s important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place. Travelers can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest information to help plan their trip.
For travelers who are not vaccinated but choose to travel, CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested for COVID-19 before and after travel.
Regardless of vaccination status, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Make Sure Your Car is Road Trip-Ready
Before hitting the road, AAA reminds motorists to plan their route in advance and ensure their vehicle is ready, to help avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 460,000 Americans at the roadside this Independence Day weekend.
AAA makes it easy to request assistance—by phone or text (1-800-AAA-HELP), app or online—and members can track the service technician’s progress en route to their vehicle. Also, don’t leave home without an emergency roadside kit and continue to pack extra snacks or meals as well as cleaning supplies, including disinfecting wipes.
Regardless of how you plan to get to your destination, AAA advises travelers to seek the advice of a knowledgeable travel agent to help plan their trips this Independence Day. To get started and to learn more, visit AAA.com/Travel.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. For the purposes of this forecast, the Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, July 1 through Monday, July 5. When the Fourth of July falls on any day of the week other than a Wednesday, it is considered to be a five-day holiday period. The travel forecast was prepared the week of June 1, 2021.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2021 Independence Day holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding COVIDÃ¢?’19–related restrictions and activity.
AAA provides more than 62 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 30 motor clubs and more than 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.