AAA Colorado: Almost 700,000 Coloradans expected to hit the road for the July 4th holiday |

AAA Colorado: Almost 700,000 Coloradans expected to hit the road for the July 4th holiday

AAA Colorado projects more than 690,000 Coloradans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday, a 0.5 percent decrease from last year.

The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominantly due to a shorter holiday period. With the Fourth of July landing on a Thursday this year, the holiday period has returned to the standard five-day holiday, compared to the six-day period in 2012 when the holiday fell on a Wednesday. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 7.

Nationwide, AAA projects 40.8 million Americans will travel over the Independence Day holiday, a 0.8 decrease from 2012. Independence Day is typically the busiest holiday of the summer travel season with 6 million more Americans traveling than Memorial Day six weeks ago.

July 3 and 7 busiest days

This year 46 percent of travelers intend to begin their trip prior to the start of the holiday travel period (July 3-7). The largest share of travelers (32 percent) on a single day will depart on July 3 and the largest share will return on July 7 (38 percent). Thirty-four percent intend to stretch their holiday vacation into the following week returning on or after Monday, July 8.

Auto remains dominant

Approximately 553,000 Colorado travelers (80 percent) plan to drive to their destination, the same percentage as last year.

AAA Colorado reminds drivers as they head out for the holiday that it is important to keep their mind on the task of driving. Mental distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them.

Gas prices are unlikely to be a major factor in travel decisions this holiday. As of mid-June, prices in Colorado were two cents lower than the same time in 2012. Prices are currently 12 cents per gallon below prices on Memorial Day earlier this year. The current statewide average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.70.

However, gas prices remain at a level most Americans consider too high. Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, according to a new consumer index developed by AAA. Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3 per gallon; 61 percent when it reaches $3.50 per gallon; and 90 percent when it reaches $4 per gallon. Sixty-two percent of Americans are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.

More than 71,000 of Colorado leisure travelers (10 percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a less than 1 percent increase from last year’s air travelers.

Not as far

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Coloradans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 701 miles, which is 125 miles less than last year’s average of 826 miles. The decline is likely reflective of the shorter holiday period.

Median spending during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be $591, compared to $648 last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 28 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 23 percent on food and beverage and 20 percent on lodging.

In addition to the always popular holiday weekend activities of visiting with friends/family (56 percent) and dining (53 percent), Coloradans plan to take time to enjoy the outdoors with hiking and biking (47 percent) and visiting national or state parks (29 percent) among the top activities planned.

Rates on the rise

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase more than 4 percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average $164 per night compared to $158 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels are expected to increase 2 percent with an average cost of $119 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $58, 29 percent more than last year’s average of $45. Airfares increased 6 percent with an average lowest round-trip rate of $228 for the top 40 U.S. air routes compared to $215 last year.

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