AAA: Gas prices impact July 4th travel

Gas prices are predicted to deter some Virginians from traveling this July 4th holiday weekend with close to 1.1 million expected to celebrate Independence Day with a trip of 50 miles or more from home, a decrease of 2.4 percent (or just about 27,500 less) over last year’s holiday.

“The 2010 numbers represented a robust increase in the number of Virginian’s traveling for Fourth of July. This year’s holiday forecast remains strong despite the impact of sustained high gas prices,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “With current pump prices nearly one dollar more this year compared to last, fewer Virginians will be hitting the roads this year.

AAA continues to see strong resiliency among the traveling public as they head out year after year in mass to spend time enjoying holidays. However, “for the second holiday in a row, we are seeing a change in who is traveling with fewer traveling by car and many more traveling by air due to the impact of the recession and gas prices on those in the lower income brackets,” said Meade.

Automobile travel is expected to be down by 3.5 percent (943,000 forecasted auto travelers in Virginia), while air travel will rise by a whopping 21.5 percent or by nearly 15,400 people in spite of the fact that air fares are expected to be up about 11 percent over last year. Total airline passengers in Virginia are expected to reach close to 87,200.

“Although gas prices are impacting the average travel distance, median spending will actually be up this year due to the changing profile of the holiday traveler,” Meade said. “The average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 573 miles, 7 percent less than last year, yet median spending is expected to be $807, an increase of 25 percent from $644 last year.”

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