AAA says that about 42 million people in the United States will travel by vehicle more than 50 miles from home over the July 4th weekend, a new record. File Photo by Mike Nelson/EPA
July 1 (UPI) -- The number of people who travel far distances in the United States this year over the July 4th weekend is expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels -- just as gas prices are starting to drop.
According to AAA, roughly 48 million people in the United States are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home over the extended holiday weekend. That's almost 4% more than last year and close to the most recent prepandemic level in 2019.
AAA's projection says that a record 42 million of those travelers will be on the road, despite high gas prices.
"The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear," AAA Senior Vice President Paula Twidale said in a statement.
"Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it's not tapering off. People are ready for a break. Despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much-needed vacation."
The national average for gasoline in the United States, AAA said, was $4.84 on Friday -- a decrease of about 1 cent since Thursday and 9 cents over the past week.
However, gas prices are still over $5 per gallon in many states. California has the most expensive gas at $6.27 per gallon.
Despite record gas prices in most of the United States, AAA said a record number of drivers are expected to hit the road this holiday weekend. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
"Traveling by car does provide a level of comfort and flexibility that people may be looking for given the recent challenges with flying," Twidale added.
"But not all destinations are within driving distance, which doesn't mean you have to abandon your vacation plans. The best advice we can give travelers is to consider working with a travel agent who can help plan for the unexpected -- like a flight cancellation. They are your best advocate."
AAA said 2.4 million Americans will travel by other methods, including bus, train and cruise ship -- and 3.5 million by airline, which is the lowest figure since 2011.
The best time to travel this weekend, the group says, will be before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, the best times are before noon and after 7 p.m. The worst time will be between noon and 9 p.m. on Friday and 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Orlando, Fla., Seattle and New York City are among the top destinations for travelers this weekend. New York City will host its annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on the East River on Monday night.
This year's show will include almost 50,000 fireworks shells and effects launched from five barges along the river and will involve new effects that will form fireworks in the shape of hats, mushrooms and blinking smiling faces.
File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Some cities, however, have been forced to cancel their fireworks shows due to a lack of resources.
This year will be the third that Phoenix goes without a fireworks display. The vendor that usually supplies the fireworks wasn't able to deliver this year because of supply chain problems, city spokesman Adam Waltz told The New York Times.
"The first two years were pandemic-related and this year, it's supply-chain-related," Waltz said. "It's just disheartening."
Also, some other cities have called off their fireworks displays this year due to hot, dry and windy weather that's increased the fire danger -- and drought is the reason that Claremont, Calif., will go without a fireworks show.
City spokeswoman Melissa Vollaro said it takes 650,000 gallons of water to soak the area where the fireworks are launched. With present water conditions, that necessary preparation is not possible, she said.