For the first time on record, the number of travelers over the Independence Day holiday will exceed 5 million statewide and 3.1 million in the Southland, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Travel is expected to increase by 2.8 percent statewide and in Southern California compared to last year’s Fourth of July holiday. An Independence Day holiday trip is defined as one of 50 miles away from home between Friday, June 30 and Tuesday, July 4.
Seventy-nine percent of Southern California travelers, or 2.5 million, are expected to drive to their holiday destinations, which is a 2.7 percent increase from last year, while 395,000 are projected to fly, a 5.6 percent increase from last year’s holiday. Almost 260,000 Southland residents are expected to go by train, cruise ship, bus or other means on their trips – about the same amount as last year.
“Travelers continue to feel confident that they have the discretionary income to spend on trips because of rising wages and lower unemployment,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel. “Strong growth in air travel also indicates a full recovery from the recession of 2008 and 2009.”
Statewide and national travel numbers also reflect that recovery. More than 4 million Californians, or 79 percent of the total 5 million travelers, will go by car to their destinations – up 2.7 percent over last year. Air travel for California residents is projected to increase by 5.6 percent from last year to 642,000, and those going by other means will number about the same as last year at 419,000.
Nationally, an all-time record of 44.2 million Americans are expected to celebrate the Fourth of July on a trip, which is an increase of 2.9 percent over last year. Of the total, 37.5 million will go by car, 3.44 million will fly and 3.27 million will go by other means.
According to a survey of AAA Travel agents, the top five destinations for Southern Californians this holiday are:
1) San Diego
2) Las Vegas
3) San Francisco
4) Grand Canyon
5) Santa Barbara
Falling gas prices will also benefit travelers. In Southern California, gas prices averages are now just about 10 cents more than prices last year at this time, and most pump prices for regular unleaded are under $3 a gallon.
According to the AAA Leisure Travel Index, travelers on average are paying about 10 percent less for airfares compared to this time last year, while AAA Three Diamond hotel rates will be about the same and car rental rates will be about 14 percent lower.
With the record number of travelers, congested traffic is likely both at airports and en route to popular holiday destinations. The Auto Club is advising travelers that enhanced security screenings at some airports including LAX could also mean delays. “Allow for extra time to drive to the airport and plan to arrive two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours early for an international trip,” Andre said. “This will ensure you have time to check in, check baggage and get through security. Also, keep in mind that LAX changed terminals for several airlines in May, so make sure to double-check that you are going to the correct terminal.”
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. The London-based business information provider teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2017 Independence Day holiday travel forecast is available at newsroom.aaa.com.