- By Holly Shively Staff Writer
High gas prices and a holiday in the middle of the week aren’t expected to keeps Ohioans from traveling in record numbers during the week of the Fourth of July.
More than 2 million Ohio residents are expected to travel to celebrate Independence Day week, the highest on record since AAA started tracking holiday travel 18 years ago. The number is 6 percent higher than 2017.
“A strong economy and Independence Day falling in the middle of the week, offering more travel flexibility for families to schedule a trip the weekend before or after the holiday, are factors contributing to the increase in travel to celebrate the nation’s birth this year,” said AAA Managing Director of Leisure Travel, Micki Dudas.
Travel rates have been steadily increasing over the last few years, she said.
The mid-week holiday means there is potential for fewer people to travel on the holiday itself, but AAA’s forecast finds that vacationers will travel before and after the holiday. The top five destinations for residents in this region are national parks in the West, Florida, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, coastal areas in the Northeast and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Of the more than 2 million Ohio travelers, almost 1.8 million will travel by car, up 6 percent compared to 2017, despite higher gas prices.
The average gas price in Ohio is $2.76 per gallon, up from about $2.10 last year. Dayton is higher than average at $2.80 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com
“It could be a deterrent when anybody’s putting together a travel budget, but overall consumer confidence is up,” Dudas said. “With the economy, it’s the stabilization. People have more confidence that they will have discretionary money to spend.”
With extra money to spend, Dudas said travelers are looking for the “fun and warm.” Nationwide, about 47 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles, up 5 percent from last year.
The higher rate of travel for the holidays lines up with general travel trends. Vacationing has been on the rise during 2018, and 2019 is also looking like a heavy travel year as vacationers book trips further advance, Dudas said.
“I’ve been in the business over 40 years and I can honestly tell you booking trends are kind of cyclical,” Dudas said. “We are seeing people book further out. I think this is really because of the kind of trips they are taking.”
Instead of trips within the United States, some are taking more international trips in the upcoming years including African safaris and Paris.
But the difference between everyday vacations and the Fourth of July is that holiday vacations tend to be multi-generational family trips, Dudas said.
“People want to meet with family and friends over holidays,” she said.
The most congested day will be July 3 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., especially in larger metro areas when holiday travelers mix with commuters leaving work early for the holidays, according to AAA.
Dudas advises travelers to get their vehicles inspected before they leave for vacation. AAA estimates it will receive 362,000 emergency road service calls nationwide during the Independence Day travel season.
“Share the road—we have 2 million travelers—bring your patience,” Dudas said.
In addition to road travelers, about 88,000 Ohioans will fly, up 5 percent from last year. Nearly 3.8 million will fly nationwide during the holiday season.
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