Expect some extra travel fireworks this July 4 holiday period, AAA says, as 42.3 million Americans take to the roadways, skies and byways — representing a 4.9 percent increase a year ago.
Taking cues from Americans' appetite for travel, a mid-week holiday, and generally lower gasoline prices, the increase is expected outpace the 40.3 million people who traveled last year. And it should be enough to tie the past decade's high mark set in 2007, prior to the recession. The travel volume is expected to represent a near 42 percent increase from 2009.
The travel projections are based on economic and forecasting research conducted by IHS Global Insight, a research consulting firm that works jointly with AAA to analyze travel trends during the major holidays.
The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday July 8.
Since July 4 falls on a Wednesday, the calendar will place a significant role in driving up holiday travel, helping expand a traditional five-day travel period to six days or more. The mid-week holiday will give travelers the option of including a weekend and two days on either side of July 4.
AAA's travel intender survey found that 54 percent of people planning to travel will begin their Independence Day travel trip prior to the start of the work week that includes July 4. Response percentages by trip departure day are:
• 25% - Friday, June 29
• 16% - Saturday, June 30
• 13% - Sunday, July 1
• 11% - Monday, July 2
• 19 % - Tuesday, July 3
• 16% - Wednesday, July 4
"We view the projected increase in travel as a positive signal even though it's surrounded by a mixed bag of economic drivers," said AAA Idaho Public Affairs Director Dave Carlson. "Modest improvements in the economy and lower gas prices throughout much of the country can make for a healthier travel season."