FLORHAM PARK—Approximately a million fewer Americans will travel during the Independence Day holiday weekend, according to a AAA forecast released this week.
The travel organization projects that 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home between Thursday, June 30 and Monday, July 4, a 2.5 percent decline from the 40 million people who traveled a year ago.
“AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Independence Day travelers, mainly due to fuel prices being approximately one dollar per gallon higher than last year,” said Glen MacDonnell, director, AAA Travel Services. “Increased fuel costs are also responsible for a shift in the demographics of the typical Independence Day traveler as the higher prices impact lower income households more significantly.”
The amount of money spent each month on gasoline is unlikely to vary much across household income groups; however, as a share of total spending is obviously going to consume a larger share of the budget for lower income households. As a result, the percentage of travelers with a household income of $50,000 or less is expected to decrease from 41 percent to 33 percent, while travelers with a household income of more than $100,000 are expected to increase to 35 percent from 26 percent.
Approximately 32.8 million people plan to travel by automobile this upcoming holiday weekend. That’s a decline of almost one million auto travelers from last year (33.7 million). Despite gas prices that are about a dollar per gallon more expensive than a year ago in many parts of the country, automobile travel remains the dominant mode of transportation (84 percent) among holiday travelers.
A survey of intended travelers found that 56 percent said rising gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans. Of the 44 percent who said higher gas prices would impact their travel plans, seven out of 10 will economize in other areas and the remaining three out of 10 are planning to take a shorter trip or travel by a different mode of transportation.
A little more than three million leisure travelers (eight percent of holiday travelers) will fly during the holiday weekend, a nine percent increase from last year’s 2.75 million air travelers. This increase continues a rebound in air travel that began in 2010, following the lowest years for air travel in the past ten-2009 and 2008. Despite the recent increase in airfares, air travel is becoming a more viable option for some travelers because of the increased cost of traveling by car, due mainly to the rising cost of gasoline.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index (LTI), Independence Day holiday airfares are expected to be 11 percent more than last year, with an average lowest round-trip rate of $213 for the top 40 U.S. air routes.
The remaining eight percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.
Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase three percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $147 per night, compared to $143 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay eight percent more at an average cost of $110 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $56, a three percent increase over a year ago.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Locally, the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club, headquartered in Florham Park, provides automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to residents of Essex, Morris and Union counties. Visit AAA online at AAA.com.
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