With prices at the gas pump showing the slightest decrease nationally, officials are predicting the busiest Fourth of July travel period in recorded history, according to AAA.
Nationally, the average price per gallon is down to $2.86, down four cents in the past week, though AAA has cautioned that increases are likely looming as the dog days of summer swiftly approach.
Despite that potential increase, because Independence Day falls mid-week this year, AAA is estimating that a record-breaking 47 million Americans will travel between Tuesday, July 3 and Sunday, July 8, a 5.3 percent increase from last year, and the highest Fourth of July numbers since AAA began tracking such statistics two decades ago.
AAA Northeast Spokesperson Fran Mayko said that the spike in travelers is due to “a strong economy, more disposable income and the fact that July 4 falls on a Wednesday. This gives travelers more flexibility to schedule trips the weekend before or after the holiday.”
Of the 47 million expected travelers, AAA said that nearly 40 million will take a trip by car, a 5 percent increase from last year, four million will fly (8 percent) and 3.5 million will take some other mode of transportation such as trains, buses and cruise ships on vacation (6 percent.)
The tristate area remains amongst the states with the highest gas prices, with New Yorkers paying an average of $3.03 and Connecticut residents dishing out $3.10 per gallon. The national average is up 58 cents from a year ago, when it was just $2.28 per gallon.
According to the Global Transportation Analytics Company INRIX, travel times in the metropolitan area may be twice as long as normal trips, and the worst congestion will occur on Tuesday, July 3 in the late afternoon, as travelers mix with commuters on roadways. The company also advised that motorists should travel “on off-peak commuting hours or seek alternate routes.”
Travelers who fly will pay an average $171 for a round-trip flight along the top 40 domestic routes, according to AAA’s Travel Index. This figure is the lowest Independence Day airfare in five years, and 9 percent less than last year.
Officials noted that “on the other hand, travelers who rent cars and stay in mid-range hotels can expect to pay higher prices. At $66, the average daily car rental cost is 2 percent higher than last year; while the average nightly rate at AAA Two Diamond hotels is $147, 11 percent more than last year. AAA Three Diamond hotels average $187, a 2 percent increase.”
According to an AAA spokesman, the price has been affected by multiple factors, including the price of crude oil overseas and an increase in demand nationwide. It also comes at a time when refineries begin the process of transitioning from a winter blend of gasoline to a more eco-friendly, expensive, summer blend during the busiest driving season of the year.
“Nearly 80 percent of Americans say the price of gasoline is too high at $3 per gallon. So it’s welcome news for motorists to see gas price averages decrease in 33 states on the week,” Casselano added. “Crude oil prices are falling, but it likely won’t be enough to drop gas prices more significantly this summer.”