BALTIMORE, MD (June 26, 2023) – The upcoming Independence Day weekend is set to witness a surge in travel, with a record-breaking 50.7 million Americans projected to embark on trips of 50 miles or more from home. According to AAA, this figure surpasses the previous record of 49 million travelers set in 2019, indicating a strong rebound in travel following the past year’s challenges.
The projection represents an increase of 2.1 million people compared to the previous year, highlighting growing confidence among consumers regarding summer travel. Ragina Cooper Ali, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Maryland and Washington, D.C., noted, “Despite higher prices and limited inventory, these record travel volumes suggest consumers will not be deterred when it comes to summer travel.”
AAA 2023 July 4th National Travel Forecast Total Travel Automobile Air Other (Bus, Train, Cruise) 2023 (Forecast) 50.7 million 43.2 million 4.17 million 3.36 million 2022 (Actual) 48.7 million 42.2 million 3.75 million 2.72 million 2019 (Actual) 49 million 41.5 million 3.91 million 3.54 million % Change (2022 to 2023) 4.3% 2.4% 11.2% 23.8% % Change (2019 to 2023) 3.7% 4.1% 6.6% -4.8%
Car travel is expected to dominate the holiday weekend, with AAA estimating that 43.2 million Americans will opt for road trips, an increase of 2.4% compared to 2022 and 4% higher than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Gas prices, a significant factor in road travel, have remained relatively stable, hovering around $3.50 to $3.60 per gallon due to the lower cost of oil. Travelers can enjoy lower fuel expenses this summer than last year, when the national average was $4.80 per gallon on July 4th.
Meanwhile, air travel is also poised to reach new heights. AAA projects that 4.17 million Americans will fly to their destinations during the Independence Day weekend, marking an 11.2% increase from the previous year and a 6.6% surge from 2019. This record-breaking figure represents 8.2% of the overall holiday forecast, the highest percentage in nearly two decades.
Other modes of transportation, such as buses, cruises, and trains, will also see a significant uptick. AAA expects 3.36 million people to choose these options, reflecting a 24% increase compared to the previous year. However, despite the rise in alternative transportation, the numbers are not expected to surpass the 2019 total of 3.54 million.
More than 995,000 residents in Maryland are expected to travel over the holiday weekend, a 3.5% increase from the previous year. The majority, nearly 874,000 Marylanders, will take to the roads, marking a 2% rise from 2022 but still 3% lower than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Air travel in the state is predicted to experience a 10% increase from the previous year, with a slight rise over pre-pandemic numbers. Additionally, approximately 42,000 Marylanders will opt for other modes of transportation, a 22% increase from 2022 but still down by nearly 25% compared to 2019.
AAA 2023 July 4th Travel Forecast – Maryland Total Travel Automobile Air Other (Bus, Train, Cruise) 2023 (Forecast) 995,166 873,969 79,273 41,924 2022 (Actual) 960,486 854,044 72,027 34,415 2019 (Actual) 1,033,821 900,019 78,142 55,660 % Change (2022 to 2023) 3.65 2.4% 10.1% 21.8% % Change (2019 to 2023) -3.7% -2.9% 1.4% -24.7%
To ensure safety on the roads, Ragina Cooper Ali advises drivers to ensure their vehicles are road-ready and everyone is buckled up. She emphasizes the importance of limiting distractions, obeying speed limits, and practicing caution by slowing down and moving over when approaching vehicles with flashing emergency or hazard lights.
Travel analytics provider INRIX predicts that Friday, June 30, will be the busiest day on the roads during the Independence Day holiday weekend, with average travel times expected to increase by nearly 30% over normal levels. Major metropolitan areas such as Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. are anticipated to face the worst traffic congestion. INRIX recommends travelers leave in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest holiday traffic.
As travel demand surges, various trends are emerging in the summer travel landscape. Despite higher ticket prices, air travel is experiencing a significant spike in demand, with passengers willing to pay 40% to 50% more compared to last year. Airlines are responding to this demand by hiring additional staff and replacing smaller planes with larger ones to accommodate more travelers. However, challenges persist, including a shortage of air traffic controllers, which has resulted in reduced service at airports in the New York City area.
AAA advises avoiding checked luggage for those traveling by air to save time and money. Instead, opting for a carry-on bag can help skip baggage claims and provide flexibility in case of delays or cancellations.
Hotel prices have slightly increased compared to 2022, but domestic hotel bookings remain consistent, while international hotel bookings have soared by 80% compared to the previous year. This surge in international travel has also led to a significant increase in passport applications, with the U.S. State Department processing half a million applications per week. Routine passport services are currently averaging 10-13 weeks.
To expedite the passport application process, AAA recommends utilizing RushMyPassport, which offers expedited services and discounts for AAA members. In May of this year, RushMyPassport handled over 1,100 applications from AAA members, a significant increase from the 73 applications processed in May of the previous year.
The car rental industry, which faced shortages during the pandemic, has shown signs of improvement. Inventory has steadily increased since last year, with newer models and electric vehicles added to rental fleets. Rental prices have also seen a slight decrease compared to the previous year. However, there has been a significant surge in demand for international rental cars, with an 80% increase compared to 2022.
For those planning to drive abroad, AAA reminds travelers that some countries require International Driving Permits (IDPs). AAA is one of only two private entities in the U.S. authorized by the State Department to issue IDPs. Demand for IDPs has doubled compared to the previous year.
Cruising has made a comeback, with sold-out ships and advance bookings. Prices for cruises are similar to those of 2022, although certain cruises may have slightly higher costs due to increased demand. Alaska cruises, Caribbean cruises, and European river cruises are among the top vacation choices for travelers in 2023.
AAA recommends travelers protect their investments by considering travel insurance. The demand for travel insurance has increased by more than 100% compared to the previous year as more travelers recognize the need for preparedness in unforeseen circumstances.
The travel forecast methodology employed by AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence leverages economic variables such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices, interest rates, and travel-related indicators to project travel volumes accurately. Historical travel volume estimates are sourced from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM, which gathers data from over 50,000 U.S. households each month.
As the Independence Day holiday travel period approaches, travelers need to be prepared and exercise caution. By following recommended safety measures, staying informed about traffic conditions through traffic apps and local DOT notifications, and utilizing services like 511, travelers can minimize frustrations caused by holiday travel congestion.
With the record-breaking number of Americans expected to travel this Independence Day weekend, the summer of 2023 is poised to be a remarkable season for travel. As vaccination rates rise and travel restrictions ease, travelers embrace the opportunity to explore and create lasting memories again.