Video: Driving in droves

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/2/2005 5:09:02 PM ET 2005-07-02T21:09:02

Whether by car or by plane, if you're traveling this Fourth of July weekend expect a record number of fellow travelers — as well as higher prices for gasoline and hotels than a year ago.

That's the word from the American Automobile Association, which surveyed Americans to estimate that 40.3 million will travel 50 miles or more from home this long weekend — a 2.8 percent increase from last year.

“This will not only be the most heavily-traveled Fourth of July ever, but this long weekend will actually put more American vacationers on the road than even the granddaddy of holiday travel weekends – Thanksgiving,” AAA Travel Vice President Sandra Hughes said in a statement.

Of 40.3 million, 33.9 million, or 84 percent, expect to be driving — a 2.6 percent increase.

Some 4.6 million, 11 percent, expect to travel by airplane — up 4.2 percent. And 1.8 million vacationers, 5 percent, plan to travel by train, bus, or other transportation.

Hughes said the survey found that Americans weren't changing travel plans due to costs.  “Higher prices for gasoline and increased competition for hotel rooms this holiday will do little to reduce Americans’ desire to travel,” she said.

Apart from gas prices that are higher than a year ago, travelers can expect to find these changes in vacation costs, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index:

  • Hotel rates are up 0.7 percent on average for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels for the 20 top destinations used in the comparison.
  • Airfares are down negligibly – 0.4 percent.
  • Car rental rates are up 12.8 percent.

Other Fourth of July 2005 estimates cited by AAA and based on a national phone survey:

  • Auto travelers. The greatest number will originate in the Southeast with 8.6 million, followed by the West with 8.4 million; Midwest, 6.5 million; Northeast, 5.7 million; and Great Lakes, 4.7 million.
  • Air travelers. The West will produce the largest number with 1.7 million, followed by the Midwest and Southeast at 800,000 each; Northeast, 700,000; and Great Lakes, 600,000.
  • Destination types. Cities tie with towns/rural areas for preferred destinations with 23 percent of travel volume for each. Ocean/beach sites follow at 18 percent and lake areas at 14 percent. Mountain areas get 7 percent, then theme/amusement parks at 5 percent and state/national parks at 4 percent.

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