By Abigail Trabue

AAA is reporting that more Americans than ever, nearly 49 million total, are making plans to travel this 4th of July holiday. The largest number recorded since AAA began tracking holiday travel numbers back in 2000.

“As Independence Day approaches, it’s time for the much-loved family road trip and this year will be one for the record books,” says Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel.”

Overall, travel volume is expected to rise 4.1% over last year, with an additional 1.9 million people planning road trips and other vacations. With gas prices lower compared to last summer, a record-high 41.4 million Americans are expected to travel by automobile this Independence Day. INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts drivers could face delays as much as four times their normal commute, with Wednesday, July 3 expected to be the worst day for travel.

While it’s clear this Independence Day is all about the road trip, plane travel is also on the rise with 3.96 million people taking to the skies, up 5.3% over last year. Trains, Buses, and Cruise Ships will see a very modest increase, around 0.6% or 3.55 million passengers.

For the 41.4 million Americans traveling by automobile, expect delays. INRIX and AAA, predict drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion on Wednesday, July 3 as commuters mix with holiday travelers. In major metropolitan areas, drivers could face delays as much as four times a normal commute. Overall, Nationwide delays are expected to increase by approximately 9%.

“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around our major metros,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road.”

RegionWorst Day for
Worst Time for
AtlantaFriday, July 55:00 – 7:00 PM2.5x
BostonFriday, July 510:00 AM – 12:00 PM3.4x
ChicagoFriday, July 51:00 – 3:00 PM2x
DetroitWednesday, July 32:00 – 4:00 PM2x
HoustonThursday, July 41:00 – 3:00 PM3x
Los AngelesWednesday, July 311:30 AM – 1:30 PM2.7x
New YorkWednesday, July 31:45 – 3:45 PM3.8x
San FranciscoWednesday, July 31:30 – 2:30 PM2.5x
SeattleThursday, July 412:00 – 2:00 PM3x
Washington, DCSunday, July 710:30 AM – 12:30 PM2.4x

Lower gas prices are also motivating millions to travel by car. According to AAA, today’s national average is $2.66 a gallon, 19 cents less than the same period last year, with prices expected to continue to decline, making this summer ripe for automobile travel.

“Gas prices are, on average, 17 cents cheaper than Memorial Day weekend, which is welcome news for motorists hitting the road to celebrate the July Fourth holiday,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano.

Bottom line: Prepare for the possibility of heavy traffic, and make sure you’ve got plenty of music, audiobooks, and the RV Miles and America’s National Parks Podcasts to keep you company. You may be on the road for a while.