The number of Americans taking road trips expected to be the most ever, exceeding 2019

Editor’s notes: Washington data is bold. This release sent in lieu of a AAA Travel Hub.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — More than 47.7 million Americans, 1.08 million-plus from Washington, will take to the nation’s roadways and skies this Independence Day (July 1–5), as travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, only trailing 2019 by 2.5%. Compared to last year, this represents a nationwide increase of nearly 40%, 54% for Washington, when total travel fell to 34.2 million Americans, including 702,000 Washingtonians.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue the trips they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Kelly Just, public relations manager, AAA Washington. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

By the Numbers:2021 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast

Auto: Road trips continue to dominate this summer. Despite the steady increase in gas prices, more than 91% of holiday travel will be by car. An expected 43.6 million Americans (more than 933,000 Washingtonians) will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019.

Planes: With 3.5 million people, 135,000 Washingtonians, planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and increase 164% compared to last year.

Other: Another 620,000 Americans, more than 14,000 from Washington, are expected to travel by trains, buses and boats this Independence Day, an overall increase of more than 72% compared to last year, but 83% lower than in 2019.

Top Destinations:
AAA Washington’s online booking data show travelers who reach Independence Day destinations by air will head to southern California, the Hawaiian Islands and Seattle.

When it comes to road trips, that booking data show many Washingtonians will travel inside the state to Seattle, Leavenworth and the Bellingham/Blaine area; as well as longer trips to Idaho, Montana and Colorado, all with plenty of outdoor attractions including National Parks.

Long Traffic Delays:
With so many people taking road trips, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trips on Monday.

“With travelers eager to hit the road this summer, we’re expecting nationwide traffic volumes to increase about 15% over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delay,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon, along with Monday mid-day.”

Once again, Seattle is on INRIX’s top ten list of major metro areas expecting the most traffic congestion. Drivers who head east on Highway 18 late Friday afternoon and early evening are expected to face the longest delays between Issaquah and I-90 with travel times up to six times what is normal.

Day Worst Corridors Worst Time To Leave % over Normal
Friday EB WA-18, Issaquah to I-90 4 – 6 PM 520%
Friday I-5 South, Kent to Tacoma 2 – 4 PM 20%
Friday I-5 South, Olympia to JBLM 1 – 3 PM 20%
Friday EB US-2, WA-522 Junction to Stevens Pass 12 – 2 PM 10%
Saturday I-5 S, Federal Way to Tacoma 11 AM – 1 PM 170%

Travelers: Prepare for Higher Prices
Washington residents who travel by car and fill up around the Pacific Northwest can expect to pay roughly $1 more per gallon compared to last year when much of the country remained under stay-at-home orders. Current pump prices are more in line with prices we saw in 2019: WA $3.64, OR $3.49, ID $3.31.

“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said Just. “These travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”

Travelers will also see higher prices for hotels and car rentals as demand climbs. Mid-range hotel rates have increased up to 35%, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively. Daily car rental rates have increased 86% over 2020, topping out at $166 per day. There is also a limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers.

While many aspects of daily life start to return closer to a pre-pandemic normal, AAA cautions that the travel landscape has changed. Although the CDC advises that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, it’s important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place. Travelers can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map for the latest information for each state, county and city on their trip.

For travelers who are not vaccinated but choose to travel, CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested for COVID-19 before and after travel.

Regardless of vaccination status, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Make Sure Your Car is Road Trip-Ready
Before hitting the road, AAA reminds motorists to plan their route in advance and ensure their vehicle is ready, to help avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 460,000 Americans at the roadside this Independence Day weekend.

Methodology:
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. For the purposes of this forecast, the Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, July 1 through Monday, July 5. When the Fourth of July falls on any day of the week other than a Wednesday, it is considered to be a five-day holiday period. The travel forecast was prepared the week of June 1, 2021.

In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2021 Independence Day holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding COVID‑19–related restrictions and activity.

About IHS Markit:
IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.

About INRIX:
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. INRIX’s partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.

INRIX Media Contact: Mark Burfeind
(425) 284-3825 | markburfeind@inrix.com