What to watch for if you’re traveling July 4

If you plan to hit the road this weekend, you won’t be alone: AAA predicts you’ll be joining 47.9 million others.

According to AAA, that’s an 3.7% increase over 2021, bringing travel volumes just shy of those seen in 2019.

And traveling by car is primed to set a record despite historically high gas prices with 42 million people heading out on the roads.

“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in release.

“Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase, and it’s not tapering off. People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much needed vacation.”

Click to expand. (Courtesy AAA)

New gas taxes in the area are one reason you’ll see higher numbers at the pump.

In Maryland, the new gas tax will set you back an additional 7 cents per gallon. It’s an automatic increase due to legislation passed in 2013 and is based on the consumer price index.

Virginia drivers can expect to pay 3 cents more per gallon.

The convenience store chain Sheetz is hoping to provide a little relief for holiday travelers: The company has announced plans to drop the price of unleaded fuel from $3.99 to $3.49 per gallon now through July 5. That’s well below the national average of $4.84, according to AAA.

You can take advantage of the discounts at more than 500 Sheetz locations across the mid-Atlantic.

On the plus side, travelers seemed to be experiencing fewer delays and canceled flights early Friday than they did earlier this week.

The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.4 million travelers at airport checkpoints on Thursday, 17% more than on the same Friday before July Fourth in 2019.

“We expect that (Friday) is going to be busy, of course, and then Sunday will be very busy,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said on NBC’s “Today” show.

Not everything is rosy at the airports.

One traveler told WTOP’s Acacia James their flights were booked on top of each other, and their bags got separated, and he has work he needs to do.

“It’s putting a bump in my groove, putting a dent in my flow,” he said. “We’ll be all right though.”

Leisure travel has bounced back this year, offsetting weakness in business travel and international flying. Still, the total number of people flying has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. TSA screened 11% fewer people in June than it did in the same month of 2019.

WTOP’s Acacia James and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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