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AAA expects nearly 1.33 million Virginians to travel this Independence Day holiday, a 37 percent increase from last year, and overall, state travel numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Nearly 93 percent (1.23M) of Virginians who are traveling this year will go by car. That’s an increase of 32 percent over last summer when just 926,000 Virginians hit the road to celebrate July Fourth. It also represents a 5 percent increase over the record number of Virginians who hit the road back in 2019.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” said Martha Meade, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off to the summer travel season. All indications are that Independence Day will be even busier.”

Across the U.S.

Nationwide, more than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roadways and skies this Independence Day, as travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.

This will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019. Overall, just 2.5 percent fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to Independence Day in 2019.

This represents an increase of nearly 40 percent compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million.

Modes of travel

While all modes of travel will see increased demand this Independence Day, the Great American Road Trip continue to dominate this summer. Despite the highest gas prices in seven years, more than 91 percent of holiday travel will be by car. An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5 percent more than the previous record set in 2019.

With 3.5 million people planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and increase 164 percent compared to last year.

Another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes this Independence Day, an increase of over 72 percent compared to last year, but 83 percent lower than in 2019. This includes travel by bus and train, and also the return of cruising.

Cruise lines have announced limited sailings resuming from U.S. ports beginning in late June. For those who make the personal decision to take a cruise, AAA reminds them that a travel advisor can help advise on cancelation policies, what you can expect on your cruise, and travel insurance options to help protect your health and travel investment before and during your vacation.

Daily worst, best times to travel

Date Worst Time Best Time
Thursday 3:00 – 5:00PM After 7:00PM
Friday 4:00 – 5:00PM Before 12:00PM
Saturday 11:00AM – 1:00PM After 2:00PM
Sunday Free flow expected
Monday 4:00 – 5:00PM Before 1:00PM
Source: INRIX

Travelers: Prepare for higher gas prices

While AAA found average airfares have declined 2 percent compared to last Independence Day, travelers can expect to find higher prices for hotels and car rentals as demand climbs. Mid-range hotel rates have increased between 32 percent and 35 percent, with average nightly rates ranging between $156 and $398 for AAA Two Diamond and AAA Three Diamond hotels, respectively.

Daily car rental rates have increased 86 percent compared to last Independence Day, topping out at $166. Consumers have experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the chip shortage impacting auto manufacturers. This production delay has presented a domino effect as rental car companies work to increase their inventory of new vehicles in time to meet the increased demand for domestic road travel.

The 43.6 million Americans expected to travel by car this Independence Day can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average likely to remain above $3 per gallon.

“Higher gas prices won’t deter drivers from hitting the road this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said Meade. “Though prices will remain above $3 a gallon, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”

AAA members can save on gas by joining the Fuel Rewards at Shell program. Save 30 cents per gallon on your first fill-up at Shell when you join between July 1 and Aug. 31.

Join now at