UNDATED -- AAA is projecting the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July holiday weekend will increase 17.1 percent from the holiday period last year, with approximately 34.9 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home.
The 2010 Independence Day travel weekend is defined as Thursday, July 1 to Monday, July 5.
"While financial markets continue to be volatile because of the European debt crisis, the landscape of the U.S. economy is in a much different place than it was one year ago," said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. "AAA travel agents report double-digit increases in the percentage of travelers making advanced reservations for cruises. Plus, vacation packages and online hotel bookings via AAA.com are up over last year."
As the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico continues, the situation is changing rapidly and the impact on tourism in the Gulf Coast region is still unknown. However, most beaches remain open and although AAA Oklahoma offices have been fielding member inquiries regarding travel to the Gulf Coast, they have not experienced widespread cancellations. Additionally, travelers visit these communities for reasons other than boating and swimming, including visiting family and friends, state and national parks, golfing, shopping, dining and nightlife.
Air and car trips to increase
More Oklahomans are expected to travel this Fourth of July period than last year. AAA predicts 541,300 will drive or fly this year, a 13.2 percent jump from 2009. Of this number, 472,600 will hit the highway, a 13.8 percent increase over year-ago levels, and 56,800 will be heading for the airport, 4.2 percent more than over July 4th, 2009.
Nationwide, AAA projects that trips by automobile will increase in popularity with 90 percent of travelers, or 31.4 million people, reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 17.7 percent from last Fourth of July when 26.7 million travelers went by motor vehicle. Leisure air travel is forecast to grow slightly with 1.56 million holiday flyers expected, an increase of 8.2 percent from one year ago when 1.44 million flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by six percent of all travelers nationwide.
AAA says the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline will be between $2.70 and $2.80 per gallon during this Fourth of July holiday weekend, about a nickel above prices a year ago. In Oklahoma, the auto club predicts the state average will range between $2.55 and $2.65, around ten cents more than over the 2009 holiday.
Fourth of July marks the busiest travel holiday for emergency roadside service calls, according to AAA. As temperatures rise, vehicles are under great pressure to perform. Without preventive maintenance, the summer heat increases the likelihood of vehicle failure, leaving motorists unexpectedly – and dangerously – stranded on the side of the road. AAA expects it will come to the aid of 520,000 stranded motorists during the holiday weekend across the country. Batteries can be especially affected by heat; AAA anticipates it will replace 30,000 auto batteries on the roadside and jump start an additional 60,000 during the holiday weekend. The auto club also will aid 85,000 motorists locked out of their vehicles and change 75,000 flat tires.
To decrease the likelihood of break down, AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles serviced regularly based on the manufacturer's recommended schedule, and identify a quality repair shop. AAA offers a free public service to help consumers find reputable auto repair facilities that meet and maintain high professional standards for training, equipment, cleanliness and customer service. Motorists can either look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at local auto repair shops, or search for a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facility online at AAA.com/repair.
Median spending down; average distance traveled will be 617 miles
The average distance traveled by Americans this Fourth of July holiday weekend (617 miles) is forecast to be approximately the same as one year ago (614 miles). Median spending is estimated to be $644 this Fourth of July, nearly $50 less than last year when median spending was estimated at $693. Fifty-eight percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday.
Airfares, hotel and rental car rates increase over holiday compared to last year
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Fourth of July holiday weekend are expected to increase 13 percent from last year as air passengers will pay a lowest average round-trip fare of $192 per ticket. However, it is important to note that fares for the prior year dropped 16 percent and, in spite of the increase in 2010, fares are still below the average from two years ago. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase four percent to an average of $54. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings
are also expected to increase four percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $137 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels will pay only one percent more at an average cost of $102 per night.
AAA offers a variety of travel planning tools including free TourBook travel guides and maps for members and the TripTik® Travel Planner, available free to all travelers at AAA.com. Three iPhone apps offer access to AAA products and services on the go. The free AAA TripTik Mobile app provides gas prices and information on hotels, restaurants and attractions. The members' AAA Discounts app, which has been downloaded more than 800,000 times, uses GPS technology to acquire a user's location and displays nearby AAA Show Your Card & Save® locations. With AAA Roadside, AAA members requiring emergency road service can quickly send their location, vehicle description and specific breakdown details directly to AAA. The free apps are available for download at the iTunes Store: www.iTunes.com.
Holiday projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2010 Fourth of July holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides nearly 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA Oklahoma can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.