Despite its weird Wednesday arrival, forecasters are expecting Americans to set some records this Fourth of July, with the AAA predicting lots of travel. Spending, however, is expected to be a little more subdued.
AAA says it anticipates 46.9 million people will travel at least 50 miles, up 5% from last year, and the most since it started tracking the holiday 18 years ago. That’s likely to translate to some Tuesday traffic nightmares, with INRIX, a global transportation analytics company that works with AAA, estimating that travel time in some places may be twice as long as usual.
It attributes the increase to more consumer confidence, as well as the mid-week holiday, which it says gives travelers the flexibility to schedule a trip for either the weekend before or after the holiday.
While gas costs an average of 59 cents a gallon more than last year, it notes, prices have been falling since last month.
The AAA’s forecast conflicts with the National Retail Federation, however, which predicts a decrease in travel, with 31 million people hitting the road, down from 33 million last year. And, it says, 25% say gas prices play a part in their decision.
AAA is predicting the biggest increase in air travel, with 7.9% more people flying for the holiday, marking the ninth straight year of gains. Orlando, Anaheim, Calif., and Seattle are the leading domestic destinations. Rome, London and Dublin are the top international spots.
Overall, consumer spending may slow a little this year, says the NRF. It says the Hump Day holiday is likely to result in $6.9 billion in sales, down from $7.1 billion last year, which was a record.
Its study, based on a survey of 7,200 adults and conducted by Prosper Insight & Analytics, says that 87% intend to celebrate, with 62% planning a cookout or picnic, spending an average of $75.35 per person. (Predictions only cover food costs.)