Maryland could see record-breaking number of Independence Day travelers

Maryland could see a record-breaking number of July 4 holiday travelers this year, fueled by a surge in people taking road trips, according to AAA.

AAA in Maryland said it’s predicting the largest number of Independence Day travelers since the group started issuing its travel predictions 20 years ago. Nationwide, the number of travelers is expected to come close to a record set in 2019.

Overall, AAA predicts more than 1 million Maryland travelers will take July 4 trips — a 42% increase over 2020, when holiday travel took a pandemic dip.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Ragina C. Ali, public and government affairs manager at AAA mid-Atlantic, in a news release. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the unofficial kickoff of summer. All indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

The vast majority of Maryland travelers this holiday will be in their cars, AAA said.

“In Maryland, the Great American Road Trip is the mode of choice for nearly 93% of travelers,” Ali said.

Overall, about 960,000 Maryland travelers will be driving this year, according to the AAA forecast. That’s the highest volume on record and a 7% uptick above 2019 levels.

Another 67,000 or so Marylanders have booked flights for the holiday weekend, which is 86% of 2019 levels, but more than two-and-a-half times as many air travelers as last year. Another 9,000 people are expected to travel by bus, train or cruise ship.

A travel forecast for the wider D.C. metro area will be published June 30.

Nationwide July 4 travel just shy of record

AAA says it expects the number of travelers nationwide to come close, but just shy of, a 2019 record.

In total, more than 47.7 million Americans are expected to travel this Independence Day, according to the group. That’s about 2.5% fewer than the 2019 record. But it’s up nearly 40% over last year.

As in Maryland, the rebound in July 4 travelers across the county is also being fueled by a large number of people taking road trips. Overall, a total of 43.6 million people are expected to hit the roads this holiday, which is the highest on record and 5% more than the 2019 record.

Another 3.5 million people planning to fly. Air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and increase 164% compared to last year.

The large number of expected road trips comes even as gas prices are at their highest in seven years, AAA said.

AAA, which teamed up with traffic data firm INRIX to predict traffic congestion, says it expects the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend “as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.”

AAA predicts major metro areas could see delays nearly double the usual drive times.

INRIX and AAA predicted the best times to plan your getaway based on expected traffic volumes:

The best and worst times to travel the July 4 weekend, according to INRIX. (Courtesy AAA mid-Atlantic)

AAA said travelers of all kinds should expect to shell out more for certain things this summer. For one, the national average for a gallon of gas is likely to remain above $3.

For holiday travelers hitting the skies, AAA found that while, on average, airfares have declined by 2% compared to last July 4, travelers should expect to encounter higher prices for hotels and car rentals as demand recovers.

Rates for midrange hotels have increased between 32% and 35%, and daily car rental rates have almost doubled — increasing by 86% — compared to last July 4, topping out at $166.

“Consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers,” Ali said. “This production delay has presented a domino effect as rental car companies work to increase their inventory of new vehicles in time to meet the increased demand for domestic road travel.”

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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