Car Travel to Set Record This Independence Day

Source: By NACS Daily • Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2022

About 42 million people will hit the road over the holiday weekend—topping 2020 numbers.

ORLANDO, Fla.—AAA predicts that 47.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4), an increase of 3.7% over 2021, bringing travel volumes just shy of those seen in 2019, according to a news release.

“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it’s not tapering off. People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much needed vacation.”

Car travel could set a record—despite historically high gas prices, 42 million people are expected to hit the road. Car travel volume, even with national average gas prices going over the $5 mark, will break previous records with 41.8 million taking a road trip last year and 41.5 million in 2019. The Thursday and Friday before the holiday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

Drivers should expect the longest travel delays heading into the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1 as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

“Even with gas hitting record prices, travelers are still eager to hit the road this summer. We expect nationwide travel times to increase about 50% compared to normal. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delays,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX.

Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancellations and delays may be driving this increase. In fact, the share of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011. AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 14% more than last year, coming in at $201/ticket. Friday, July 1, is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend.

“Traveling by car does provide a level of comfort and flexibility that people may be looking for given the recent challenges with flying,” said Twidale.

Since the holidays last year, the average daily rate for car rentals has continued to increase. With more people traveling, these prices remain on the rise because of continued supply chain issues coupled with growing demand. While daily car rental rates have decreased 34% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $110/day, when compared to pre-pandemic years like 2019, rates are $40 more/day on average.

Independence Day will be the second busiest since 2000, as travel volumes continue to trend upwards with no sign of slowing down. AAA data shows that bookings for air, car rentals, cruise, hotel, and tours are up 60% over last year for the top domestic Independence Day destinations and up 252% for international. The top five domestic destinations are Orlando, Seattle, New York City, Anaheim and Anchorage. The top five international destinations are Vancouver, Paris, London, Rome and Amsterdam.

The Convenience Matters podcast episode “What’s the Tipping Point for Gas Prices?” explores how much pain at the pump consumers will tolerate and what’s ahead for the summer driving season.