More Americans will travel on July 4 despite the price of gasoline

(CNN) — Americans are suffering from high gas prices, but they won’t leave their cars parked because of it, predicts the American Automobile Association (AAA, for its acronym in English).

The auto and travel planning group’s annual forecast for the Fourth of July holiday weekend says 42 million Americans, more than ever, will take a road trip of 50 miles (80 kilometers) or more.

That’s despite gasoline prices hitting a record high earlier this month. On Monday, the national average per gallon stood at $4.98, just cents below the high of $5.02 hit a week earlier.

A mix of tourists and commuters could cause the normal length of travel times to double in rush hours late Thursday and Friday, traffic experts at Inrix said.

They warned that some of the most congested routes will include freeways around Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

The best time to travel between Thursday and Friday is early or late afternoon, Inrix projected. He said congestion on Sunday and Monday should be less. The 4th of July falls on a Monday this year.

Tips to save gas

People who have decided to hit the road still have ways to ease some of the high gas prices. Some strategies include:

• Avoid stations right next to major highways: “It’s generally best not to use stations along the interstate,” advised Ellen Edmonds, public relations manager for AAA, in a recent interview with CNN Travel. Instead, “drive a few miles down the highway. Look for residential areas or remote rural areas.”

• Be stingy at expensive gas stations: If you’re running low on gas and stuck in an area with high prices, stop to refuel. Just don’t fill the tank. Put in enough gas to get safely to a place where stations generally charge less.

• Consider a “vacation nearby”: There are options between settling for a “vacation at home” and an epic cross-country road trip that would break your budget. This is a “close vacation”. Think of places closer to home but far enough away to feel like a bona fide trip.

In heaven

While the roads will be packed, fewer Americans will fly for the holidays, AAA anticipates.

He said that the 3.55 million people projected to take to the skies during Independence Day is just 7% of travelers. That is the lowest ratio since 2011, when the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession.

AAA says airfare is about 14% more expensive than it is in 2021.

Fare watchers at Hopper say prices paid this month are down about $20 from May’s average, but they attribute that to travelers buying less expensive flights in the fall. The average hotel room rate is 23% higher than last year, AAA said.

All told, AAA said travel demand “isn’t slowing down” despite higher spending.

“People are ready for a break, and even though things are costing more, they’re finding ways to take that much-needed vacation,” said Paula Twidale of AAA Travel.

Tips for flight cancellation

CNN Travel asked Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and spokeswoman for FlightAware, what travelers can do to prepare for potential cancellations and delays this summer.

He offered these tips based on a conversation he had on Monday with an employee of one of the major US airlines:

• Leave free time: do not travel on the day of an important event. Plan to arrive at least a day early.

• Apps are your friend: If your flight is cancelled, reschedule your trip in the airline app. You’ll likely be able to rebook faster, and you’ll have access to seats that would likely be filled while you’re waiting on the phone.

• Use a carry-on for essentials: Pack everything you’ll need for a day or two in your carry-on. Do not document prescription medications or other essential items.

• Be considerate: Don’t take out your frustration on customer service employees. They do not make the decisions related to operations.

And click here for even more tips on what to do if your flight is canceled or delayed.

CNN’s Forrest Brown and Marnie Hunter contributed to this article.

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