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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171
jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, June 30, 2021) ––Within days, one-million-plus Washington, D.C. metro area residents strong will set a new local travel record for the Fourth of July holiday period. It all unfolds on area roadways, at area airports, and above in the skies, as soon as tomorrow, Thursday, July 1. From its nadir to its pinnacle in a span of a single year, stunning is the turnaround. In counterpoint to this time last year, two out of ten residents in the region will venture 50 miles or more from home during the Fourth of July. It is at once a remarkable rebound and record-breaking resurgence in the total number of people living in and around the Washington metro area, who will be traveling during this Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The year 2020 was greatly shaped by a pandemic and protests, and any thoughts of, or the merest mentions of holiday travel were checkmated by the coronavirus crisis. Things were so bleak, in fact, that AAA did not issue a Fourth of July holiday travel forecast in 2020. Declaring their deliverance from last year’s doldrums, griefs, fears, woes and worries, when significantly lower numbers of Americans traveled in the wake of the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, Washingtonians are traveling in a record-clip this year.

In total, a record-breaking 1,324,300 people in the metro area are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home, an increase of 70% percent compared to last year. Those traveling during the holiday comprise 21% of the Washington metro area’s 2020 population of 6.3 million. But that’s not the full story.

“What an inflection point. Making up for a lost year and lost time incurred in the year that was 2020, while still remaining mindful of lives lost due to the pandemic, a grand total of 3.69 million persons from the Washington, D.C. metro area, Maryland and Virginia will travel for the Fourth of July,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Of that number, 3.4 million persons from the three areas will travel by automobile to their Fourth of July holiday destinations. This is a record-breaking year for total travel volume in the Washington, D.C. metro area, besting the previous high in 2019 by almost 9%. Auto travel is expected to be nearly 17% higher than the previous high set in 2019.”

Washington, D.C. Metro Area - 2021 Independence Day Holiday Travelers


Total

Automobile

Air

Other

(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2021 (Forecast)

1,324,300

1,235,400

78,400

10,500

2020 (Actual)*

780,200

750,500

24,600

5,200

2019 (Actual)

1,217,000

1,059,600

91,800

65,500

Change (2019 to 2021)

+8.8%

+16.6%

−14.6%

−84%

Change (2020 to 2021)

+69.7%

+64.6%

+218.6%

+102.9%

*AAA did not issue an Independence Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.

 

But, of course, road travel is the mode of choice for 93% of the dwellers in the Washington metro area who are planning to travel, or 1,235,400 people, the highest auto travel volume on record for the July Fourth travel period for the Washington, D.C. metro area going back to 2001. An additional 78,400 people are expected to travel by air and 10,500 people will travel by other mode.

Timing is everything. As proof, ahead of the holiday weekend, Virginia is set to lift its Coronavirus State of Emergency on the cusp of the midnight hour at 11:59 P.M., Wednesday, June 30. The state of Maryland is lifting its “COVID-19 State of the Emergency” as of tomorrow, Thursday, July 1. Nearly 1.33 Million Virginians are expected to travel for the holiday this year, that's just shy of the 1.34 million who traveled pre-pandemic in 2019. Nearly 93% of Virginians who are traveling will go by car this year. All told 1.23 million Virginia residents will drive 50 miles or more to the 4th of July holiday destinations.

 So, AAA is forecasting 1,036,400 Maryland residents will break the previous 2019 travel record for July Fourth for the state. Of that tally, 960,000 Marylanders, nearly 93 percent of holiday travelers in the state, will be doing so by automobile. Even so, 67,400 of their neighbors will travel by air, plus 9,000 denizens will travel by bus, train or cruise.

One of the major reasons that car travel is bouncing back much more rapidly than other modes of transportation this Fourth of July, and this summer too, for that matter, is because, as coronavirus pandemic concerns linger, and due to the fact that many Americans are not fully vaccinated yet, this mode is still by far the safest and the most convenient way to go, explains AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Counting Cars.” You better. If you know what is good for you. With a vengeance unseen in months, gridlock will be visited upon area freeways, roadways and exit ramps as soon as tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, July 1, from 3-5 P.M., and again on this Friday afternoon, from 4-5 P.M. Even worse, travel delays will swell 30% over normal conditions at the epicenter - Interstate 95 southbound, from Route 3 to Dumfries Road - this Thursday afternoon from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M. Then there is the nightmarish hour of all that congestion on the return trip on the following Monday, July 5, particularly in the P.M. rush hour from 4-5. Expect plenty of company – translation: traffic and gridlock - on Maryland’s Bay Bridge and along its U.S. 50 corridor this holiday weekend “from Friday, July 2, through Monday, July 5.”

As to “the big picture” nationwide, more than 47.7 million Americans will take to this country’s roadways and skies for the nation’s perennial birthday bash –– the Fourth of July holiday season (July 1–5).

Nationally, travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, this will be the second-highest Fourth of July travel volume on record, trailing only 2019. Overall, just 2.5% fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to the July Fourth holiday period in 2019. This represents an increase of nearly 40% compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million.

Now “the bird’s eye view,” for perspective, while all modes of travel will see increased demand this Fourth of July, road trips continue to dominate this summer. Despite the highest gas prices in seven years, more than 91% of all holiday travelers will go by car. An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations. This comprises the highest volume on record for this mode for this holiday. It is 5% more than the previous record set in 2019. With 3.5 million people planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and increase 164% compared to last year.

2021 Independence Day Holiday Travelers


Total

Automobile

Air

Other

(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2021 (Forecast)

47.7M

43.6M

3.5M

620,000

2020 (Actual)*

34.2M

32.5M

1.3M

359,000

2019 (Actual)

48.9M

41.5M

3.9M

3.5M

Change (2019 to 2021)

−2.5%

+5.1%

−10.3%

−82.5%

Change (2020 to 2021)

+39.6%

+34.1%

+163.8%

+72.7%

*AAA did not issue an Independence Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow.”

Another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes this Fourth of July, an increase of over 72% compared to last year, but 83% lower than in 2019. This includes travel by bus and train, and also the return of cruising. Cruise lines have announced limited sailings resuming from U.S. ports beginning in late June. For those who make the personal decision to take a cruise, AAA reminds them that a travel agent can help advise on cancelation policies, what you can expect on your cruise, and travel insurance options to help protect your health and travel investment before and during your vacation.

Top Destinations & Resources to Plan Your Trip

AAA Travel booking data also indicate a strong travel recovery for summer. Theme parks in Orlando and southern California, as well destinations including Denver, Las Vegas and Seattle are topping the list of Independence Day destinations this year.

Top Independence Day Travel Destinations:

  1. Orlando, FL
  2. Anaheim, CA
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Las Vegas, NV
  5. Seattle, WA
  6. Chicago, IL
  7. New York, NY
  8. Atlanta, GA
  9. Boston, MA
  10. Kahului, Maui, HI

*Based on AAA Travel advance air and tour bookings, July 1–5, 2021

When planning a trip, refer to the new AAA Digital TourBook guides, now available for destinations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean at TourBook.AAA.com. Available on smartphone, tablet or desktop, the new interactive guides feature detailed destination information, must-see attractions, sample itineraries and more.

To meet the needs of today’s travelers, AAA is enhancing its Diamond inspections. Hotels that meet AAA’s standards for cleanliness, condition and new surface cleanliness testing will now be recognized as Inspected Clean and then assigned a Diamond designation. AAA inspectors will start conducting testing to identify Inspected Clean properties later this month. In the meantime, travelers can look for AAA’s Best of Housekeeping badge for peace of mind. Prior to any hotel stay, call ahead to ensure your hotel is open and ask what precautions they are taking to protect guests.

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 versus typical drive times, with drivers in Boston and San Francisco likely to experience nearly three-times the delays.

“With travelers eager to hit the road this summer, we’re expecting nationwide traffic volumes to increase about 15% over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delay,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon, along with Monday mid-day.”

Worst Corridors and Times to Travel

Metro Area

Corridor

Peak Congestion

% Over Normal

Atlanta

I-75 N, Jodeco Road to Jenkinsburg Road

Friday, 1:00–3:00 PM

50%

Boston

I-95 S, MA-10 to Sanford Road

Monday, 3:00–5:00 PM

330%

Chicago

I-90 E, W Roosevelt Road to I-294

Friday, 4:00–6:00 PM

50%

Detroit

I-75 N, 12 Mile Road to Oakland St

Friday, 3:00–6:00 PM

50%

Houston

I-10 W, Bernardo Road to Pin Oak Road

Saturday, 8:00–10:00 AM

50%

Los Angeles

I-405 N, I-5 to Jefferson Blvd

Friday, 3:00–5:00 PM

10%

New York

I-278 E, Bronx River to Williamsburg St

Thursday, 3:00–5:00 PM

30%

San Francisco

CA-17 N, Lark Ave to Mt Hermon Road

Monday, 6:00–8:00 PM

340%

Seattle

I-5 S, Capitol Blvd (Olympia) to JBLM

Friday, 1:00–3:00 PM

20%

Washington DC

I-95 S, Route 3 to Dumfries Road

Thursday, 2:00–4:00 PM

30%

Source: INRIX

 

This year, the Fourth of July falls on Sunday, meaning the midsummer national holiday and the “federal day off” will be observed on Monday, July 5. That means a long weekend for more than a half million, some 589,426 federal workers and federal contractors in the national capital area, as well as for most state, county and city workers in the Washington metro area, and for those heading to the beach or park.

Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel

For the beach-bound, heed the motto. “Go early and stay late.” That’s the best advice for those crossing the iconic Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the eastbound direction for the Fourth and in the westbound direction after the Fourth. Expect heavy volumes on the span. The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) advises: “Travel off-peak when heading to and from the Eastern Shore. The best times to travel the Bay Bridge this holiday period include:

  • Friday, July 2 – before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 3 – before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 4 – before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
  • Monday, July 5 – before 6 a.m. and after 5 p.m.”

 

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is “lifting all HOV restriction on Interstate 66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway on Monday, July 5.”

Date

Worst Time

Best Time

Thursday

3:00 - 5:00PM

After 7:00 PM

Friday

4:00 - 5:00PM

Before 12:00 PM

Saturday

11:00AM - 1:00PM

After 2:00 PM

Sunday

Free flow expected

Monday

4:00 - 5:00PM

Before 1:00 PM

Source: INRIX

It is axiomatic: record-level drivers equals record-level delays on area freeways this Fourth of July holiday weekend. Holiday travelers departing the area, alongside those residents staying put for the holiday will intercross, along with through-put travelers up and down area interstates during the same periods. It will be at a record-breaking pace in the Washington metro area this Fourth of July. July 4, 2021 (the legal public holiday for Independence Day), falls on a Sunday. For most Federal employees, Monday, July 5, will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes.”

Travelers: Prepare for Higher Prices

While AAA found average airfares have declined 2% compared to last Independence Day, travelers can expect to find higher prices for hotels and car rentals as demand climbs. Mid-range hotel rates have increased between 32% and 35%, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.

Daily car rental rates have increased 86% compared to last Independence Day, topping out at $166. Consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the chip 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.

The 43.6 million Americans expected to travel by car this Independence Day can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average likely to remain above $3 per gallon. “Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said Jeanette C. McGee, AAA spokesperson. “Though prices will remain above $3 a gallon, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”

AAA members can save on gas by joining the Fuel Rewards at Shell program. Save 30 cents per gallon on your first fill-up at Shell when you join between July 1 and August 31, 2021. Join now at AAA.com/Shell.

More Tips for Travelers

While many aspects of daily life start to return closer to a pre-pandemic normal, AAA cautions that the travel landscape has changed. Remember to exercise caution while traveling, and consider working with a travel agent to plan your trip. They can help if you need to make any last-minute changes to travel plans, explore travel insurance options and help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort-level this summer.

Although the CDC advises that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, it’s important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place. Travelers can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest information to help plan their trip.

For travelers who are not vaccinated but choose to travel, CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested for COVID-19 before and after travel. Regardless of vaccination status, masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Make Sure Your Car is Road Trip-Ready

Before hitting the road, AAA reminds motorists to plan their route in advance and ensure their vehicle is ready, to help avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 460,000 Americans at the roadside this Independence Day weekend.

AAA makes it easy to request assistance—by phone or text (1-800-AAA-HELP), app or online—and members can track the service technician’s progress en route to their vehicle. Also, don’t leave home without an emergency roadside kit and continue to pack extra snacks or meals as well as cleaning supplies, including disinfecting wipes.

Regardless of how you plan to get to your destination, AAA advises travelers to seek the advice of a knowledgeable travel agent to help plan their trips this Independence Day. To get started and to learn more, visit AAA.com/Travel.

Plan Ahead With Great American Road Trip Resources

The United States is turning 245-years- old this Fourth of July. In celebration, as Americans begin their Fourth of July travel and summer travel planning, AAA is here and ready to help by offering a free “Great American Road Trip Vehicle Health Inspection” to both members and non-members at any AAA Car Care Center through the end of July. This free inspection includes tire, brake, battery, exterior lights and fluid level safety checks. Appointments can be scheduled at AAA.com/CarCare. We’ve also compiled our favorite trip-planning resources, backed by more than 100 years of road-tested experience and expertise.
            

AAA.com/RoadTrip is a free resource to help travelers find inspiration, explore destinations, plan the perfect route and get their vehicle road-trip ready. 

Methodology:

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.

About INRIX:
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.
    

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AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and nearly 90,000 members in Washington, D.C.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit www.AAA.com..

TEDx Wilmington Salon

Who's in the Driver's Seat? The Transformation of Transportation

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, AAA and TEDx Wilmington held the first TEDx Salon dedicated to ideas worth spreading in transportation.

This event had:

  • 12 live talks given by 13 speakers
  • 368 people in attendance at the live event
  • More than 7,500 viewed the event online through Livestream, viewing events, and on the AAA Associate network
  • Online viewers came from all 50 states and approximately 30 countries around the world

View a slideshow from the event

This TEDx WilmingtonSalon was organized in partnership with AAA

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