DENVER (June 22, 2021) - Pandemic - what pandemic? More than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation's roadways and skies this Independence Day (July 1-5), marking the second-highest travel volume on record. That's up 40 percent over last year, and down just 2.5 percent from the overall record set in 2019.
Nearly 770,000 Coloradans will make up the ranks of these travelers and, building on last year, Denver will be a top-trending destination for vacationers the country over.
"Travel is back this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue vacations they've deferred for the last year-and-a-half," said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA - The Auto Club Group. "We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off to summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day."
Road Trips to Reach Record Highs
While travel demand will surge across the board this Independence Day, road trips will continue to dominate. All told, more than 91 percent of holiday travel will be by car.
An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations. That's the highest on record, and five percent more than the previous record set in 2019.
"As we emerge from a chaotic year, Americans are increasingly opting for the sense of freedom and control they get from road tripping," said Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA. "Here's how much travel demand is surging: Gas prices are at their highest point in seven years, and despite that, everyone's choosing to drive - in record numbers."
Gas Prices: Most Expensive since 2014
The 676,000 Coloradans expected to travel by car this Independence Day will find the most expensive gas prices since 2014. Colorado gas prices currently sit at an average of $3.31, well above the national average of $3.07 per gallon. Drivers passing through Vail will pay the most per gallon, at $3.64, while the Boulder-Longmont region enjoys the lowest prices, at $3.26. Prices are expected to rise steadily in advance of the Independence Day travel period.
Air Travel Takes Off
With 3.5 million Americans planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, up 164 percent over last year.
On average, airfares for the holiday period have declined two percent compared to last Independence Day, as available supply comes back online. The lowest average price per ticket is $175. That's $4 less than last year, and $13 less than the 2019 holiday weekend.
Another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes this Independence Day, an increase of more than 72 percent over 2021 - though still down 83 percent from 2019. This includes travel by bus and train and, in a historic move, the return of cruising. Cruise lines have announced limited sailings will resume from U.S. ports beginning in late June.
Denver a Top Destination
With the re-opening of theme parks in Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., those destinations have returned to their traditional berths at the top of travel booking data. But Denver comes in at the number three spot, followed by Las Vegas and Seattle - indicating sustained interest in the wide-open spaces and diverse travel ecosystems of the American West.
"As a general proposition, Westerners should expect to be victims of our own success as we emerge from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," McKinley said. "It's no secret that we live where other people want to be, and that's going to mean higher gas prices, extra traffic, and busy, booked-up travel properties throughout the summer. Increased travel spending here, of course, will give us a leg up as we look to build the longer-term, post-COVID economy."
Colorado: Regional Prices Surge
As demand climbs, prices follow: Travelers can expect to pay significantly more for hotels and car rentals this year over last. Nationwide, mid-range hotel rates have increased between 32 percent and 35 percent, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.
In Denver? Prices are skyrocketing, with travelers paying more than double what they would have, per night, last year. At present, the average nightly rate for a Three Diamond hotel stay is $492, up from $242 last year. Per AAA booking data, Denver is second only to Miami in nightly hotel costs over the Independence Day travel period.
Nationwide, daily car rental rates have increased 86 percent over Independence Day last year, topping out at $166. Consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the microchip shortage impacting auto manufacturers. 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.
Long Delays Expected for Drivers
INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trip on Monday mid-day. Major metro areas across the U.S. could see nearly double the delays verses typical drive times, with drivers in Boston and San Francisco likely to experience nearly three-times the delays.
AAA to Rescue more than 460,000 Travelers
AAA expects to rescue more than 460,000 Americans at the roadside during the Independence Day travel period, the vast majority of whom will be stranded due to a preventable breakdown. Before hitting the road, plan your route in advance and ensure your vehicle is road-trip ready. A good mechanic can help. Find one you can trust at AAA.com/Repair.
To get placed directly in a rescue queue without going through dispatch, AAA members should visit AAA.com/Service or through the AAA mobile app. Otherwise, call or text: 1-800-AAA-HELP.
AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit. For the purposes of this forecast, the Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, July 1 through Monday, July 5. When the Fourth of July falls on any day of the week other than a Wednesday, it is considered to be a five-day holiday period. The travel forecast was prepared the week of June 1, 2021.
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. For the 2021 Independence Day holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding COVID 19-related restrictions and activity.
INRIX is the global leader in connected car services and transportation analytics. Leveraging big data and the cloud, INRIX delivers comprehensive services and solutions to help move people, cities and businesses forward. INRIX's partners are automakers, governments, mobile operators, developers, advertisers, as well as enterprises large and small.
About IHS Markit:
IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world's leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
AAA Colorado is a proud part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second-largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.