Move over, Clark Griswold -- it looks like more American families will hit the road this Fourth of July. A new survey from AAA projects that the number of Americans traveling more than 50 miles from home this Independence Day will rise to 34.9 million, up 17.1% from the 29.8 million who did so last year, when consumers were more keenly feeling the effects of the recession.
Of those, 90% of travelers -- spurred by lower gas prices -- will drive, an increase of 17.7% from last year. (The Orlando, Fla.-based organization expects fuel to cost $2.70-2.80 per gallon during this Fourth of July holiday weekend.) But leisure air travel is also expected to increase -- with 1.56 million taking to the skies, up 8.2%.
AAA also reports that while it's still difficult to assess the impact that the oil spill in the Gulf will have on travel, "most beaches remain open and while AAA offices have reported member inquiries regarding travel to the Gulf Coast, they have not experienced widespread cancellations," the organization says in its release, so that it continues to forecast an increase in travel to states in the Gulf Coast region as well.
On average, the group predicts people will travel about the same distance -- 617 miles over the holiday weekend -- but spend just $644, a decline of $50 from last year.
And a new study from the National Retail Federation also reports that while Americans feel like celebrating this year, they certainly will not be doing anything over the top. The study, conducted by BIGResearch and including some 8,400 adults, says that 61.9% will either host or attend a cookout, barbeque or picnic and roughly 42.2% will watch fireworks. And more plan to watch a parade: Some 12.2% will wave those little flags on Main Street, up from 11.5% last year.
The NRF poll, however, predicts that the percentage of people traveling will remain flat, at about 11.5%.