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More than 40 Million Americans to take an Independence Day Getaway

road trip (select to view enlarged photo)

AURORA, IL -- June 26, 2014: AAA Travel projects 41 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend, a 1.9 percent increase from the 40.3 million people who traveled last year and a nearly 14 percent increase compared to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The majority of travelers will be celebrating their freedom with a road trip, with more than eight in 10 (34.8 million) choosing to travel by automobile, the highest level since 2007. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 2 to Sunday, July 6.

Illinois/Indiana Travel Projections

In Illinois, 2.3 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a 2.2 percent increase from 2013. Of those travelers, two million will be driving (a 2.2 percent increase from 2013) and just over 105,000 will be flying to their destination (a 3 percent increase from 2013). Gas prices across Illinois are on average $3.90, down from $4.02 in 2013.

In Indiana, 995,000 people are expected to travel, which is a 2.3 percent increase from 2013. Of those, 873,000 are expected to travel by auto (2.3 percent increase) and about 45,000 by air (3.1 percent increase). In Indiana, gas prices are on average $3.73 per gallon, which is about even with prices in 2013.

"With school out for summer, the Fourth of July holiday is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, with five million more Americans traveling compared to Memorial Day weekend," said AAA Illinois/Indiana Regional President Brad Roeber. "In line with tradition, most travelers are celebrating the Independence Day holiday with an all-American road trip."

Highlights from 2014 AAA Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast include:

Willingness to take on credit card debt, not an increase in income, is responsible for the increase in consumer spending. Nearly five million more Americans are expected to travel for Independence Day than for Memorial Day. Travel volume for Independence Day has grown four out of the past five years and is expected to be more than six percent higher than the average of the past 10 years. Holiday air travel is expected to decrease 0.6 percent to 3.1 million travelers from 3.12 million last year. Travelers will encounter airfares five percent lower than last year and car rental costs that remain consistent with last year at $58. Hotel rates at AAA Two Diamond hotels are 15 percent higher than last year and Three Diamond hotels are nine percent more. An increase in consumer spending is primarily due to increasing credit, rather than rising incomes. Consumers have been hesitant to add to their credit card balances the past several years, but continued improvements in the employment picture and rising home values means they are starting to feel more comfortable taking on debt. In addition to consumer spending, a boost in consumer confidence and the employment outlook are driving more Americans to take a road trip.

"Steady improvement in the economy has spurred increased consumer confidence and spending," continued Roeber. "Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year, dusting off their credit cards to pay for a much-needed Independence Day getaway."

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans At this time, many decisions on travel have already been made, and budgets set aside. A possible increase in gasoline prices leading up to the holiday weekend typically means consumers will allocate more of their budget towards travel expenses and cut back in other areas. The current national average price for a gallon of gas is $3.68 compared to $3.48 on July 4, 2013.

Travel expenses mixed According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase nine percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $178 per night compared to $164 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen 15 percent with an average cost of $137 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, the same as last year. Airfares have declined five percent with the average round-trip, discounted fare for the top 40 U.S. routes costing $215, down from $228 last year.