Record-breaking travel weekend forecast for July 4 holiday

A record-breaking 2.2 million Ohioans are expected to travel 50 miles or more for the July 4 holiday, despite gas prices that remain near record highs.

AAA predicts an increase of 3.3% in total travelers since from last year, higher than pre-pandemic levels. Across the nation, 47.9 million travelers are expected for the holiday weekend, a period defined as the five days from Thursday to Monday.

Despite gas prices still close to $5 per gallon in most locations in the region, travelers are hitting the road. Automobile travel will still encompass 42 million, or 88%, of the total 47.9 million nationally.

Ohioans are making similar choices, with 2.08 million traveling by automobile, 70,000 by air and a new height of 104,000 by trains, cruises and other transportation. The 94% Ohio trend toward automobiles is similar to the Dayton metro area, where 90% of people are choosing the road over the air.

“We have seen a pretty big increase in airfare, and then you couple that with the issues that airlines are having,” AAA Club Alliance spokeswoman Kara Hitchens said. “Ohioans are steering away from air travel.”

Over the most recent holiday weekend of Juneteenth and Father’s Day, thousands of flights were canceled. Challenges come with every mode of transportation this year, as prices increase across the board. This time last year, Ohio’s average gallon of gas cost $2.99, or about 65% less than the current average of $4.95.

“Even with high gas prices, people make their budget work — meaning they’ll cut back someplace else,” Hitchens said.

For those planning to drive, AAA offers predictions to prepare for the busiest times to avoid. On the afternoons of Thursday and Friday, employees getting off work early will mix with travelers setting out for trips, creating congested roadways. The worst times, with drive times almost doubling the norm, are 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Setting out in the early morning and late evening will help drivers reach their destinations faster, with less traffic. Sunday and Monday are expected to be slower traffic days.

Bookings for domestic locations have increased by 60% in the past year. Although the increase of travel to big cities in the U.S. is significant, the draw of international destinations is increasing even more. A mix of iconic European spots, Canadian cities and beaches bring the international bookings up 252% for 2022.

“It is important travelers are prepared and flexible to minimize stress and enjoy the holiday,” AAA said in a statement.

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