(Media release from AAA – The Auto Club Group):

Georgians will travel in record numbers for Independence Day. AAA forecasts more than 1.6 million Georgians will take at least one trip of 50 miles or more, between Friday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 4. That’s 68,000 more holiday travelers than the previous record high, set last year.

Nationally, travel figures are also expected to set new records. An estimated 50.7 million Americans are forecast to travel for the holiday weekend. That’s nearly 2.1 million more travelers than last year’s holiday and almost 1.8 million more than the previous high, set back in 2019.

“Independence Day weekend appears to be the continuation of what has already been a very strong summer travel season,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Although airfares and hotel rates are more expensive than last year, Americans are still eager to travel. So, expect to see congested roads, busy hotels, and long lines at airports and attractions.”

National Independence Day Travel Figures
2023 (Forecast)50.7 million43.2 million4.2 million3.4 million
202248.7 million42.2 million3.7 million2.7 million
201949 million41.5 million3.5 million3.5 million
AAA Georgia Independence Day Travel Volumes
2023 (Forecast)1.6 million1.4 million124,46372,142
20221.5 million1.3 million112,20958,424
20191.5 million1.3 million111,07979,973
July 4th Graphic 23.jpg

Road Trips Remain the Preferred Mode of Transportation

Nearly 85% of all travelers will take a road trip. AAA predicts 43.2 million Americans will drive to their destinations. That’s a little over 1 million more people on the road than last year. In Georgia, more than 1.4 million are forecast to take a holiday road trip. That’s over 41,000 more than last year.

Gas Prices to Remain Lower than Last Year’s Holiday

While it’s still too early to know exactly what drivers will pay at the pump this Independence Day, it’s likely to be well below what drivers paid during last year’s holiday period. The Georgia average was $4.31 per gallon on July 4th, 2022. So far this summer, gas prices have been somewhat erratic, but the state average has remained below $3.39 per gallon, thanks to the lower cost of oil.

419,000 more Americans will board a flight

A record-setting 4.17 million Americans will fly to their destinations this Independence Day weekend. That surpasses the previous July 4th weekend air travel record of 3.91 million travelers, which was set in 2019. The share of air travelers in the overall holiday forecast this year is an impressive 8.2% – the highest percentage in nearly 20 years.

An estimated 124,463 Georgians are forecast to fly this year. That’s over 12,000 more than the previous year.

Other modes of transportation are also on the rise this year. AAA expects 3.36 million people will travel by bus, cruise, or train over the long weekend, an increase of 24% over last year. This national figure is not expected to surpass 2019 levels.

Best/Worst Times to Travel and Peak Congestion by Metro  

Friday, June 30 is expected to be the busiest day on the roads during the Independence Day holiday weekend, according to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights. The worst travel times vary by day but are generally in the afternoon and early evening.

Average travel times are estimated to be 30% longer than normal, particularly in major metro areas, near beaches and attractions. To avoid the heaviest congestion, INRIX recommends drivers leave in the morning or after 6 p.m.

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car
DateWorst Travel TimeBest Travel Time
Thu, June 294:00 – 6:00 PMBefore 12:00 PM
Fri, June 3010:00 AM – 5:00 PMBefore 10:00 AM, After 6:00 PM
Sat, July 11:00 PMBefore 12:00 PM
Sun, July 2Minimal Traffic Impact Expected
Mon, July 3Minimal Traffic Impact Expected
Tue, July 412:00 – 3:00 PMBefore 11:00 AM, After 6:00 PM
Wed, July 53:00 – 6:00 PMBefore 2:00 PM
Peak Congestion by Metro
MetroRoutePeak Congestion PeriodEst. Travel TimeCompared to Typical
AtlantaSavannah to Atlanta via I-16 WTue, 6PM6 hrs 18 mins67%
TampaTampa to Orlando via I-4 ETue, 11AM2 hrs 24 mins69%

Summer Travel Trends and Tips

Travel demand has steadily increased since 2020, and this summer is poised to be one for the record books. Here are some trends and tips from AAA Travel.

  • Air travel is seeing the biggest spike in demand despite higher ticket prices. Passengers are paying 40% – 50% more for flights compared to last year, yet AAA data shows bookings remain strong. Many airlines are responding to surging demand by hiring more staff and taking smaller regional planes out of service and replacing them with larger ones to increase capacity. However, there are still challenges, including a shortage of air traffic controllers that has led to reduced service in and out of New York City area airports.
    • AAA Travel Tip: Avoid checking luggage to save time and money. Instead, travel with a carry-on bag instead to skip baggage claim and give yourself flexibility if your flight is delayed or canceled.
  • Hotel prices are up slightly over 2022, but not by much. While the number of domestic hotel bookings is about the same as last year, AAA data shows international hotel bookings are up 80% compared to 2022. International travel demand is booming and so are passport applications. The U.S. State Department says it’s processing half a million applications a week. Routine service is averaging 10-13 weeks.
    • AAA Travel Tip: Need a passport fast? RushMyPassport provides expedited services and discounts for AAA members. This past May, they handled more than 1,100 applications from AAA members, compared to just 73 applications in May of last year.
  • Car rental shortagesseen during the pandemic have improved. Inventory has steadily increased since last year, with newer models and electric vehicles added to fleets. AAA data shows rental prices are down slightly from last year. Demand for international rental cars is up more than 80% compared to 2022.
    • AAA Travel Tip: Prepay for your rental car to be eligible for added savings and the confidence that the car of your choice will be waiting for you as planned. If you’re planning to drive abroad, keep in mind some countries require International Driving Permits. AAA is one of only two private entities in the U.S. authorized by the State Department to issue IDPs. This year, AAA reports demand for IDPs is double what it was in 2022.
  • Cruising is back to pre-pandemic numbers, with sold-out ships and advance bookings. Prices are about the same as 2022, with certain cruises a bit higher this year due to demand. Alaska cruises are particularly popular this time of year. AAA booking data also shows Caribbean cruises and European river cruises are top vacations in 2023.
    • AAA Travel Tip: Protect your investment with travel insurance. AAA data shows demand for travel insurance is up more than 100% over last year, as more travelers now see the need to prepare for the unexpected.

Holiday Forecast Methodology  

Travel Forecast 

In cooperation with AAA, S&P Global Market Intelligence developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes. The economic variables used to forecast travel for the current holiday are leveraged from S&P Global Market Intelligence’s proprietary databases. These data include 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 gasoline prices, airline travel, and hotel stays. AAA and S&P Global Market Intelligence have quantified holiday travel volumes going back to 2000. 

Historical travel volume estimates come from DK SHIFFLET’s TRAVEL PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM. The PERFORMANCE/MonitorSM is a comprehensive study measuring the travel behavior of U.S. residents. DK SHIFFLET contacts over 50,000 U.S. households each month to obtain detailed travel data, resulting in the unique ability to estimate visitor volume and spending, identify trends, forecast U.S. travel behavior and position brands—all after the trips have been taken.

The travel forecast is reported in person-trips. In particular, AAA and SPGMI forecast the total U.S. holiday travel volume and expected mode of transportation. The travel forecast presented in this report was prepared the week of May 15, 2023.

* Independence Day Holiday Travel Period 

For purposes of this forecast, the Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Friday, June 30 to Tuesday, July 4. When the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, it is considered to be a six-day holiday period, when it falls on any other day of the week the holiday period is a five-day window.