The greatest number of Texans on record, approximately 3.7 million total, are expected to travel during the Independence Day holiday weekend (July 1–5), according to travel forecast data from AAA Texas. A closer look at the travel forecast, which AAA started in 2000, shows more Texans than ever will drive to their Independence Day destinations, about 3.3 million. That is a 41% jump from last year and a 10% increase from 2019. Airports will be busier too as AAA Texas forecasts around 338,000 leisure passengers will fly to get away, an increase of 177% from 2020 and just around -3% fewer than 2019. The “Other Travel” category, which includes buses, trains and cruises, is also going to see a recovery by about 75% (+15,000 people) from 2020 totaling around 35,000 passengers but will remain lower by around -83% from 2019 figures.
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*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.
On a national scale, more than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roadways and skies during this holiday timeframe, 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 nationally, 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.
“After deferring opportunities for nearly a year-and-a-half, more Texans than ever are anticipated to travel away from home this Independence Day holiday,” said Kent Livesay, vice president and general manager, AAA Texas. “With this projection in mind, AAA Texas recommends that vacationers work with a trusted travel advisor to plan a memorable getaway that meets your needs and comfort-level.”
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 Texas reminds them that a travel advisor can help with any cancelation policies, answer questions related to what you can expect on your cruise, and travel insurance options to help protect your health and travel investment before and during your vacation.
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.
Also, 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.”
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 3.3 million Texans expected to travel by car this Independence Day can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since June 2018 with the statewide average at $2.74 per gallon of regular unleaded, at the time of this report.
“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 AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “Though prices are around $1 more per gallon compared to this same time last year, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”
AAA Texas 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 Texas cautions that the travel landscape has changed. Remember to exercise caution while traveling, and consider working with a travel advisor to plan your trip.
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 Texas expects to rescue more than 18,000 drivers in Texas at the roadside this Independence Day weekend.
AAA Texas 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.
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 COVID‑19–related restrictions and activity.
About AAA: AAA provides more than 62 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of independently owned motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for the motorist and 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. AAA Texas branch offices throughout the state can be found by visiting www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas.
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. Our partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.
About IHS Markit:
IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.