AAA predicts slight decreases in Fourth of July travel For the first time this decade, AAA is predicting a drop in the number of Americans expected to travel over the Fourth of July holiday period.�? �? AAA projects 40.45 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Fourth, down 1.3 percent (nearly 550,000 Americans) from the 41 million who traveled last year. This is the second consecutive 2008 travel holiday where a year-to-year decrease has been forecast. AAA projected a nearly one percent drop in holiday travelers over Memorial Day.�? â�?�?While the numbers of travelers are a bit off from last yearâ�?�?s levels, it is important to note that there are still millions of Americans who plan to travel,â�? said Mark Madeja, spokesman for AAA South Dakota. According to AAA, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population will be driving or flying this holiday weekend despite sky-high gas prices and the nationâ�?�?s sluggish economy. Many will be taking advantage of travel bargains being offered by hotels and destinations hoping to boost last-minute business. In South Dakota, AAA estimates 108,357 South Dakotans will travel by all modes of transportation over the Independence Day holiday period, a decline of one percent from July 4 last year. Of this number, 91,268 will be traveling by motor vehicle, a drop of a 1.7 percent from last year, and 10,177 will fly, 3.7 percent fewer than in 2007.�? Nationwide, more than 34.2 million Americans (almost 85 percent of all holiday travelers) intend to travel by motor vehicle, a 1.2 percent decrease from the number who drove to their holiday destinations last year. Approximately 4.54 million Americans (11 percent of holiday travelers) are expected to travel by airplane, a 2.3 percent decrease from last year. And about 1.7 million plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. â�?�?Gas prices are continuing to take a toll on travel budgets, but the travel industry is responding, as they have in the past, with discounts, promotions and other incentives to inspire people to travel this year,â�? Madeja said. â�?�?For instance, be on the look-out for free gas card offerings, breakfast promotions, kids-eat-free deals, car rental discounts, and use association discounts, such as those offered by AAA.â�? Automobile travelers across much of the country will have to contend with gasoline prices at or above $4 a gallon. The national average for self-serve regular is currently $4.067 a gallon. That is 13 cents more than last month and $1.09 more than a year ago. Today, in South Dakota, our statewide average for self-serve regular is at $4.006 a gallon. Nationwide, more than half of all states and the District of Columbia report gas prices above $4 a gallon. AAAâ�?�?s Leisure Travel Index, which is based on available rates this holiday, reveals that Fourth of July holiday travelers can expect air fares an average of 13 percent more than last year. In addition, AAA advises travelers that many airlines now charge fees for checked baggage and other services that were previously complimentary, so check with the airline or your travel agent about any additional fees you may encounter on your trip. Average hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond-rated hotels across the country are unchanged from Fourth of July weekend 2007. Two notable exceptions to this trend are hotel rates in Houston, up 49 percent from last year at this time, and Dallas, up 37 percent. Car rental rates vary from location to location, but this holiday travelers will see a 12 percent average increase in car rental prices. AAAâ�?�?s LTI for car rentals is based on the average lowest intermediate size car daily rate at 20 U.S. airport locations. Rates do not include sales tax, insurance or other miscellaneous charges. The AAA Fuel Gauge Report Web site (www.aaafuelgaugereport.com) lists average daily national, state and city-by-city prices for all grades of gasoline. For fuel-saving tips and access to AAAâ�?�?s free Fuel Cost Calculator, visit www.AAA.com and click on Automotive, Car Care & Repair. Research for Fourth of July weekend holiday travel projections is derived from the Travel Industry Associationâ�?�?s Holiday Travel Forecast Model, based on consumer travel intentions and TIAâ�?�?s quarterly travel forecast data. Travel intentions data are collected through online surveys of 2,000 adults nationwide. AAA is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying organization providing travel, auto/home insurance, financial and automotive-related services to more than 51 million members nationwide â�?�? 89,000 in South Dakota. AAA South Dakota can be accessed on the Internet at www.AAA.com.