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AAA: Nearly 663,000 Kentuckians expected to travel this July 4th weekend; many will take to roadways

With summer travel season in full swing, Kentuckians are expected to make the most of the upcoming Independence Day holiday, with 662,881 from the Commonwealth expected to travel 50 miles or more from June 30 through July 4.

AAA predicts travel volumes nationwide to reach about 47.9 million people, just shy of 2019 volumes, and the second-largest travel numbers since 2000. Car travel will set a new record, despite high gas prices, with 42 million nationwide ― including 563,674 Kentuckians ― taking to the roadways.

After many put off summer travel for two years, the volume of travelers predicted for Independence Day weekend is an indicator summer travel is kicking into high gear, despite pain at the pump.

“People are ready for a break. Despite the increased cost of goods and services, including fuel, many are finding ways to take that much-needed vacation,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass.

Recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancellations and delays may be driving the record-breaking car travel volume seen nationwide. In fact, the share of people traveling by air will be the lowest since 2011.

“Traveling by personal vehicle provides a level of comfort and flexibility that many are looking for, given the recent challenges with flying,” continued Weaver Hawkins. “But not all destinations are within driving distance. The best advice we can give travelers is to work with a travel agent who can help plan for the unexpected – like a flight cancellation. They are your best advocate and can take much of the headache out of travel planning, booking, cancellations, and other concerns so you can relax and enjoy your trip.”

Kentuckians React to High Gas Prices

A new AAA survey asked Kentuckians how gas prices are impacting their summer travel plans. The survey found that nearly equal numbers of Kentuckians say gas prices have not entered into their decision to take a summer road trip (37%) as say they have not made plans for a summer road trip because of high gas prices (41%). Another 23% say they have canceled plans for a summer road trip due to high gas prices.

Despite the higher cost to fill up, 46% of Kentuckians surveyed say they are planning at least one road trip of 50 miles or more this summer, with 24% of saying they are planning multiple road trips. Another 19% of Kentuckians say they hope to travel, but haven’t firmed up their road trip plans yet, while 35% say they are not planning a road trip at all.

So how are Kentuckians planning to cut their budgets so they can still take that Great American Road Trip? For Kentuckians planning summer travel, 37% plan to take fewer trips because of gas prices, while 14% say they plan to take shorter trips. To plan for higher costs at the pump, 23% say they are adjusting their budgets for lodging or dining out. However, 26% say gas prices have not been a consideration at all in planning their summer road trip.

Planning for the Best Travel Times

Drivers should expect the longest travel delays heading into the holiday weekend, particularly during the afternoons on Thursday, June 30, and Friday, July 1, as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Drivers in major U.S. metros could experience double the travel times compared to a normal trip.

Nationwide, travel times are expected to increase about 50% compared to normal. Drivers who will be near major metro areas should prepare for significant delays. The best advice? Avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

Travel By Train, Cruise and Bus on the Rise

With many putting off travel by cruise, train, bus and other modes of transportation beyond cars and planes the past couple of years, it’s no surprise that there is a nearly 168% increase in travelers opting for these other modes of transportation this Independence Day weekend. Slightly more than 36,000 Kentuckians are opting for a trip by train, cruise, bus or other modes for the upcoming weekend. This compares to 2.4 million nationwide, also a nearly 168% increase over 2021.

Top Destinations include Big Cities and International Favorites

AAA booking data reveals that big cities and international classics are top destinations this Independence Day. AAA data shows that bookings for air, car rentals, cruise, hotel, and tours are up 60% over last year for top domestic Independence Day destinations and up 252% for international.

Tips for Summertime Travel

With crowded roads and busy airports, AAA wants to prepare travelers so they can have a stress-free July 4th celebration.

Independence Day will be the second busiest since 2000, as travel volumes continue to trend upwards with no sign of slowing down. It is important travelers are prepared and flexible to minimize stress and enjoy the holiday. AAA offers the following advice:

• Have a plan A, B and C. Flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities are in high demand and availability may be limited, which will impact pricing. Finding last-minute deals is unlikely so it’s recommended to look for discounts and rewards. This is also a time when travel agents are an especially great resource since they may know of a deal that may not be readily available to the public.

◦ Air — AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 14% more than last year coming in at $201/ticket.

◦ Hotels — Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 23%, with the average lowest nightly rates coming in at $244/night for AAA Approved Hotels.

◦ Car Rentals — Since last year, the average daily rate for car rentals has continued to increase. With more people traveling, these prices remain on the rise due to continued supply chain issues coupled with growing demand. While daily car rental rates have decreased 34% compared to last year, with the average lowest rate coming in at $110/day, rates are $40 more/day on average than in 2019.

• BET (Battery-Engine-Tires) on a breakdown-free trip. AAA expects to respond to over 446,000 calls for roadside assistance over the Independence Day holiday weekend nationwide and about 1,600 right here in Central Kentucky. Make sure to get a full vehicle inspection ahead of any long trip but especially for components like a vehicle’s battery, engine and tires. Even a vehicle in top shape can run into an issue, so it’s a good idea to pack a well-stocked emergency kit and ensure your AAA membership is up to date so you have roadside assistance just in case.

• Beat the rush. Travel on off-peak times or days or pick a destination closer to home. Based on AAA booking data, Friday, July 1 is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend (June 30 – July 4) with Monday, July 4 being the lightest. For those hitting the road, Thursday and Friday before the holiday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

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