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4th of July Weekend Travel Forecast, Best Times To Fly and Drive

This coming Fourth of July holiday travel period promises to be the second-busiest the U.S. has seen since 2000, according to a AAA booking analysis for the long weekend.

Despite record-high gas rates and astronomical airfare prices, AAA has forecasted that 47.9 million Americans will be taking trips of 50 miles or more away from home. That represents an increase of 3.7 percent over last year, falling just shy of 2019’s pre-pandemic travel volumes for the same period.


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The spate of mass flight cancellations and delays that have made air travel a huge hassle in recent weeks may be responsible for an increase in planned road trips this Independence Day weekend. Even with the national average gas price exceeding $5 per gallon, AAA foresees record-breaking car travel volumes, with 42 million people hitting the road over the holiday weekend.

In fact, the share of travelers who’ll be flying is set to be the lowest since 2011, with only seven percent traveling by air versus 88 percent who will go by automobile.

Air Travel Tips

ABC News looked at AAA’s forecast in combination with data from price comparison app Hopper to determine the best days to take to the skies or hit the road this July 4th weekend. Overall, airfare prices within the U.S. are up a whopping 45 percent over 2019’s pre-pandemic rates for the same period, with a roundtrip domestic flight averaging $437.

According to AAA booking data, Friday, July 1 looks to be the busiest day for air travel over the long weekend (defined as June 30- July 4). The holiday itself—Monday, July 4—is likely to be the least busy for flyers.

According to Hopper’s comparison tool, the best available pricing on Independence Day airfare would be for a quick weekend break, departing on Saturday, July 2 and returning on Monday, July 4.

Fireworks over the Chicago skyline
Fireworks over the Chicago skyline. (photo via Thinkstock/Stockbyte)

Road Travel Tips

If you’re among the throngs of Americans who will be packing up the car and heading onto the highways this Fourth of July, AAA anticipates that the pre-holiday afternoons of Thursday, June 30 and Friday, July 1 will be busiest, thanks to a blend of regular commuters and vacationers trying to set out ahead of the actual weekend. Those driving in major U.S. metro areas will hit serious congestion and can expect to experience double the normal travel times.

Transportation analytics company INRIX advised avoiding driving on Thursday and Friday afternoons, recommending that those who must travel on Thursday, do so before 7:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m.; and, on Friday, before 10:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.

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