A Record-Breaking Number of People Will Travel This Fourth of July

Jun 22, 2018

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A whopping 46.9 million Americans plan to travel at least 50 miles from their home this Independence Day, new numbers from AAA say.

That’s an all-time high for July Fourth travel, and a 5% increase from 2017’s statistics. Experts say the day the holiday falls on this year, on a Wednesday, could be boosting travel numbers. The overall peak holiday travel period will run from Tuesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 8, but travelers also have the increased flexibility to either start vacation the weekend leading up to Independence Day or decide to take additional time away after the holiday.

A record number of Americans — 3.8 million — will fly to their destinations on Fourth of July week, which is almost an 8% increase in air travel compared to 2017.

For air travel, the four busiest travel days will be from Friday, June 29, to Monday, July 2, according to travel app Hopper’s Fourth of July Air Travel Forecast. US airlines have 14 million seats scheduled to depart from domestic airports during that window.

Hopper’s analysis says the busiest — and most expensive — air travel day for the holiday week will be the Friday before Independence Day (June 29), with 3.7 million seats scheduled to depart domestic airports that day alone. So if you can avoid flying out on that day, you might spare a little bit of your own sanity — and cash, for that matter.

Hopper also ranked the busiest times at the top-five busiest airports in the US this Fourth of July. Your holiday travel plans might run a little more smoothly if you can avoid these airports at the following peak times:

  1. Atlanta (ATL): Busiest at 7:50am
  2. Los Angeles (LAX): Busiest at 10:20am
  3. Chicago (ORD): Busiest at 4:50pm
  4. New York (JFK): Busiest at 7:00am
  5. Dallas (DFW): Busiest at 5:30am

The TSA has already been predicting a crush of summer travelers and estimates it will process a minimum of 2.7 million passengers at US airports on peak holiday travel days. The agency has hired additional officers and canine units, but it’s still warning flyers of long waits at security checkpoints and advises passengers to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes to two hours before a domestic flight’s scheduled to takeoff.

About 3.5 million people also plan to travel by train, bus or cruise ship. But, the vast majority of July Fourth travelers will be driving to their holiday getaways this year. Among the estimated 39.7 million people who will hit the road, drivers in bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, will see the heaviest traffic (no surprise there). But road warriors everywhere will see significant increases in traffic on Tuesday, according to travel analytics firm INRIX. 

“Tuesday afternoon will hands down be the worst time to be on the road,” INRIX’s Scott Sedlik told USA Today. If possible, avoid that peak travel time in the afternoon on July 3, or if you can’t, try to take alternative routes, Sedlik advises.

Featured image by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

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