Forecast: 841,000 Coloradans Traveling for July 4

Overall Independence Day travel to hit all-time high, with increases in every category. 


DENVER (June 25, 2019) – A record-breaking 841,000 Coloradans will join the ranks of nearly 49 million Americans vacationing over Independence Day – the highest number ever recorded by AAA. Overall travel volume for the holiday will rise 4.1 percent over 2018, and Denver International Airport will rank among the top five busiest locations for rental car pick ups. The vast majority of Americans, 41.4 million, will travel by automobile over the course of the holiday – leading to delays of up to four times longer than normal.

What's driving the surge? In addition to lower gas prices, the nation's broader economic fundamentals remain strong. Low unemployment, robust consumer spending, and rising disposable incomes have encouraged consumers to invest in travel.

"The July 4 road trip is an American institution in its own right, and, by the numbers, a lot of Americans have a lot to celebrate this year," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "As a country, we've increasingly decided to spend more money on travel experiences, and this holiday builds on Memorial Day's record demand at a time when schools are out and families have the opportunity to hit the road."

By the Numbers

  • Automobiles: The vast majority of Americans – 41.4 million – will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 4.3 percent more than last year. More than 670,000 Coloradans will travel by car. 
  • Planes: 3.96 million Americans will take to the skies, the highest number on record and 5.3 percent more than last year. That includes more than 90,000 Coloradans. 
  • Trains, Buses, and Cruise Ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 0.6 percent to 3.55 million passengers nationwide, including more than 78,000 who call Colorado home. 

Worst Time to Hit the Road
If you're among those traveling by car, timing is everything. AAA, in collaboration with INRIX, predicts that drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Wednesday, July 3 – as commuters mix with holiday travelers. Nationwide, motorists should anticipate that drive times will run at least 10 percent longer than normal, with delays as much as four times a normal commute near major metros. Colorado motorists should take care to budget extra travel time, as three out of the seven top travel destinations in the continental United States are in the American West – and Denver sits at the well-traveled crossroads of I-25 and I-70.

Falling Gas Prices Spur Travel
Nationwide, gas prices are down 20 cents from this time last year, with precipitous declines taking hold over the last month. In Colorado, motorists can expect to pay an average of $2.73 for a gallon of unleaded – with prices ranging from $2.64 in Denver to $3.12 in Vail. While prices might briefly rise over the course of the holiday travel period, Colorado motorists will see prices continue to fall across the board in the coming weeks. Regional refinery utilization sits at nearly 100 percent, and gasoline stocks have grown to an extremely healthy level for this time of year, at 7.6 million barrels. 

"Filling up at the pump this summer could mean savings as much as a quarter a gallon," McKinley said. "Cheaper prices could entice motorists to take longer trips, or spur those who previously didn't make travel plans to hit the road at the last minute."

The Economic Drivers of Travel

  • Annual real GDP growth should reach 2.7 percent. Unemployment continues to fall, and is now at 3.6 percent.  
  • Conditions for strong consumer spending growth remain, as disposable income continues to rise with healthy gains in employment, wages, and home values.
  • Both business and consumer optimism remain strong, and will encourage discretionary spending. 

Car Rentals & Airfare on the Rise 

Some of the savings travelers are enjoying from lower gas prices will go toward other travel costs this holiday, which are trending higher. According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares on average are 10% more expensive compared with last Independence Day, while average car rental rates are 5% higher than last year, at $69 daily. Meanwhile, mid-range accommodations are expected to cost travelers between $153 for AAA Two Diamond and $189 for AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels.

DIA a Top Destination for Car Rentals
Per research from Hertz, a AAA partner for more than 40 years, Denver International Airport (DEN) will be among the busiest pick-up locations for travelers renting a car this Independence Day holiday – joining Orlando (MCO), Los Angeles (LAX), Las Vegas (LAS), and San Francisco (SFO). The busiest day for rental pick-ups will be Wednesday, July 3. 

AAA to rescue more than 367,000 motorists
Nationwide, AAA expects to be called on to rescue more than 367,000 motorists at the roadside this Independence Day holiday. Dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts are the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. 

AAA recommends motorist take their vehicles to a trusted repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. Be prepared for emergencies with a mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, a basic toolkit, and drinking water and snacks for all passengers.


AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Wednesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 7. In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment; output; household net worth; asset prices including stock indices; interest rates; housing market indicators and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. The complete AAA/IHS Markit 2019 Independence Day holiday travel forecast is available here.

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About AAA Colorado

More than 695,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's most-trusted advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit