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Low gas prices, airfare lead to expected record July 4 travel numbers

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Low prices on gas and plane tickets could lead to the highest Independence Day travel volume on record according to the AAA Auto Club Group.

“Independence Day is always the most-traveled holiday of the summer, but this year it will be bigger than ever, primarily because of low gas prices,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO of the Auto Club Group. “Airports will be just as crowded as the roads because low fuel prices are making it more affordable to fly. If fundamentals remain the same, this could be a record-breaking year for summertime travel.”

The group expects nearly 43 million Americans to travel over the holiday travel period, which it defines as June 30 through July 4. The number in an increase of about 600,000 travelers over last year, and would top the current record of 42.3 million travelers back in 2007.

More than 36 million travelers are expected to drive to their destination this year, and 3.3 million are projected to fly, while a boost in cruise trip bookings accounts for the rest of expected travel volume.

Drivers will see the lowest prices at the pump in more than a decade, the group said, with the average national price clocking in at $2.31 a gallon – 46 cents less than last year’s July 4 average and $1.35 less than the average two years ago.

“The average motorist has saved about $100 on gasoline so far this year compared to the first six months of 2015,” said Auto Club Group spokesman Mike Jenkins. “These low gas prices, combined with rising wages, are helping boost disposable income, making travel more affordable. Gas prices for the rest of the year are forecast to remain lower than last year, unless oil prices take an unexpected upward turn.”

Plane tickets and hotel rooms are also cheaper on average than a year ago, with the average roundtrip ticket costing passengers $207 – 9 percent less than last year. AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels will average $185, and a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel will average $144 nightly. The price drops didn’t head to rental cars, however, which AAA said will cost slightly more than last year at $75 a day.

Jenkins said roadways and airports will be busiest Friday and Monday afternoons and that drivers can avoid some of the congestion by hitting the road in the morning, while those traveling by plan should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours early to account for longer security lines.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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