AAA: 17% more Fourth of July travelers expected

By Becky Yerak
Posted June 23, 2010 at 8:17 a.m.

The roads and airports will be more crowded during the July 4 weekend, but travelers will be spending less money.

AAA Chicago projects that the number of Americans traveling the July 4 weekend will rise 17.1 percent from 2009, with 34.9 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home.In Illinois, nearly 2 million people will travel for the holiday weekend, defined as July 1 to July 5. That’s a 19.7 percent increase over 2009.Gas prices are unlikely a factor in many travel decisions, as fuel costs statewide are averaging $2.87 a gallon, about the same as a year ago.

“The U.S. economy is in a much different place than it was one year ago,” AAA Chicago President Brad Roeber said in a statement.

Still, AAA Chicago found that median spending is estimated to be $644 this July 4 weekend, nearly $50 less than last year. And that’s despite generally higher travel costs.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the July 4 weekend are expected to increase 13 percent from last year, when fares had dropped 16 percent. Air fares are still below the average from two years ago, AAA said.

Weekend daily car rental rates will increase 4 percent to an average of $54. Hotel rates for AAA three-diamond properties are also expected to increase 4 percent from a year ago, with travelers spending an average of $143 a night.

Nationally, trips by car are expected to be up by 17.7 percent.  AAA expects the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline to be about $2.75 a gallon during the long weekend.

Leisure air travel is expected to increase by 8.2 percent from a year ago.

More than 600 respondents planning to travel the July 4 weekend were interviewed about their plans.

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