Record July 4 travel predicted by AAA

Record July 4 travel predicted by AAA Strong travel demand and a slight easing of gas prices from recent records will keep Americans traveling in potentially record-high numbers this July 4 holiday, according to AAA.

AAA estimates that 39.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, up 3.4 percent from the 38.2 million who traveled last year. Approximately 34.4 million travelers (87 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 3 percent increase from the 33.3 million who drove a year ago.

Another 4.6 million (12 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, up 4.5 percent from the 4.4 million that flew last July 4 holiday. The remaining 400,000 projected vacationers (1 percent) will go by train, bus, or other mode of transportation, about even with a year ago.

"Americans' strong desire to travel will overcome the highest-ever July 4 gas prices and increased airfares and lodging costs, producing potentially record travel this holiday weekend," said AAA South Dakota's spokeswoman Cheri Cihak. "The recent dip in gas prices � the national average is down about 12 cents from the record it hit over the Memorial Day holiday � will help keep gasoline a relatively small part of most Americans' vacation costs."

According to AAA's online Fuel Gauge Report, the June 22 national average for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline is $1.933, down about 10 cents over the last 30 days. In South Dakota, the statewide average is $1.868, down nearly 15 cents in the past month.

According to AAA, the average U.S. family can expect to spend about $77 on gasoline during its longest driving vacation this summer. This is about $17 more than a year ago, when gas prices were about 43 cents per gallon lower than today's $1.933 national average for self-serve unleaded.

"The July 4 period traditionally is the heaviest travel period of the summer, with trips ranging from weekend getaways and nearby family reunions to far flung exotic trips and extended road trips," said Cihak.

"Americans' travel plans this summer appear a bit more ambitious than last year, with our AAA travel agents reporting tour packages and cruise sales up 31 and 44 percent for the first four months of 2004.

Research for July 4 holiday travel is based on a national telephone survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association of American, which conducts special research for AAA.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides its more than 47 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. AAA South Dakota has offices in Aberdeen, Brookings, Huron, Madison, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Spearfish, Sioux Falls, Vermillion, Watertown and Yankton.

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