Planning on traveling for the Fourth of July holiday? Here’s how to avoid the rush (2024)

Planning on traveling for the Fourth of July holiday? Here’s how to avoid the rush (1)

By The Associated Press and WYATTE GRANTHAM-PHILIPS AP Business Writer

Published: Jun. 29, 2024 at 2:35 AM CDT

NEW YORK (AP) — The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and the travel rush is already heating up.

Millions of Americans are preparing to get out of town sometime in the coming holiday week. That will likely mean busy roads, as well as packed airports and train stations.

Motor club AAA projects that some 70.9 million travelers will head 50 miles (80 kilometers) or more from their homes over a nine-day Independence Day travel period — surpassing pre-pandemic numbers for the U.S. holiday. And the Transportation Security Administrationexpects to screenover 32 million individuals in airports from this Thursday through July 8, up 5.4% from last year’s numbers.

Are you traveling for the Fourth? Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

When is the best time to hit the road for July Fourth?

Smooth sailing for travel around any holiday is never a given. But avoiding the most hectic times, when others are rushing out of town, is a good way to start.

If you’re traveling by car for the Fourth of July, it’s best to hit the road in the morning, according to transportation data and insights provider INRIX. Peak traffic congestion varies by location, INRIX data published by AAA shows, but the worst times to drive on, or leading up to, the holiday are generally between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Either way, be prepared for the roads to be jammed.

“Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal,” Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a prepared statement.

July Fourth falls on a Thursday this year, and many travelers will likely take Friday July 5th off to extend their trip into a four-day weekend. Drivers in large metro areas can expect the biggest delays on Wednesday July 3 and Sunday July 7 — as travelers leave and return to town, Pishue added.

And if you’re renting a car ahead of July Fourth, the busiest pickup days will be Friday, Saturday and Wednesday before the holiday, AAA notes.

When will airports be busiest?

Airports will also likely be packed all week long — but the TSA expects most people will take to the skies on Friday.

It anticipates that it will screen more than 3 million individuals Friday. That would surpass the agency’s current record for most people screened on a single day,which reached just under 3 millionlast Sunday.

“We expect this summer to be our busiest ever,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said, adding that travel typical peaks around Independence Day.

Last year, the busiest day for Fourth of July air travel was also the Friday ahead of the holiday, TSA data shows. If past trends hold, travel will likely be higher on the days before and after the Fourth — particularly closer to the weekend. In 2023, for example, more than 2 million people were screened on the Fourth, which landed on a Tuesday last year, down from 2.88 million the Friday before.

What should I do if my flight is delayed or canceled?

Flights can be delayed or canceled for an array of reasons — from plane-specific mechanical problems to major storms impacting popular travel paths.

If your flight is canceled, airlines are required to provide refunds for customers,even if the cancellation is due to weather. Delays are trickier, because they typically have to meet certain criteria for relief, such as refunds or compensation — but carriers will often give customers to chance to switch to alternative flights, if available, at no cost.

In April, the Biden administrationissued final rulesthat include requiring airlines to provide automatic cash refunds within a few days for canceled flights and “significant” delays. Those rules are set to take effect over the next two years, but the Department of Transportation has a site that lets consumers see thecommitments each airline has madefor refunds and covering other expenses when flights are canceled or significantly delayed.

Always check your itinerary before leaving home

It’s better to be stuck at home than locked in hourslong traffic or stranded in an airport terminal. Before heading out the door this holiday week, do yourself a favor and check the status of your travel plans.

Was your flight, train or bus ride delayed? Are there are traffic incidents set to disrupt your drive? And what about the weather? A quick look through your itinerary — such as trip updates on a carrier’s website — checking weather forecasts and monitoring traffic safety through services like the 511 hotline or your phone’s navigation apps can go a long way toward avoiding travel misery.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:

— Leave early: There are more people everywhere during a holiday week, so lines will be longer and roads will be busier. Give yourself more time to get to your destination or to make your way through airport security.

— Keep an eye on the weather — and not just for your destination: Look at the weather for your entire travel path. Even if it’s sunny skies both at home and the place you’re headed, it’s important to keep an eye out for any storms in between. You may need to do some rerouting.

— Be kind: A trip delay or cancellation can be really frustrating — but if you’re running into disruptions, chances are others are too. Customer service agents have a lot on their plate at this time of year, and it’s important to be patient and respectful as they try to help you.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Planning on traveling for the Fourth of July holiday? Here’s how to avoid the rush (2024)


Is the 4th of July a busy travel day? ›

AAA has said it expects the number of people traveling over the Fourth of July period to set records in Georgia and nationally. More than 70.9 million people in the United States are expected to travel at least 50 miles over the Independence Day period by air, automobile and other modes of transportation.

What time is best to leave on 4th of July? ›

In general, plan to get an early start. Inrix's data shows the best times to travel by car on Wednesday July 3 and Thursday July 4 are before noon, while road trippers traveling on July 6 and 7 should aim to depart before 10 a.m.

Is it better to travel on July 4 or 5? ›

The best days to fly: Typically, July Fourth is the least busy day to fly. On July Fourth of last year, airport crowds averaged just 70% of what they were relative to the busiest travel day, which was the Friday before July Fourth (June 30, 2023).

What are the five steps to planning a trip? ›

How to Plan Any Trip in 5 Easy Steps
  1. Find Your Destination.
  2. Decide the Length of Your Trip.
  3. Book Flights & Travel Accommodations.
  4. Get Inspired by Local Activities & Attractions.
  5. Packing Your Bags.
Nov 30, 2023

What is the least crowded time of day to travel? ›

Studies consistently highlight the early morning hours as the safest time to be on the road. Generally, roads are less congested between 4:00 AM – 6:00 AM, and drivers tend to be more alert during this time.

What is the slowest travel day? ›

Peak Times vs. Off-Peak Hours at Major Airports
  • Weekends are the busiest travel days. ...
  • Think of airports as similar to highways—they tend to be busiest on weekdays in the early morning and then again in early evening.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually slower.
  • Mid-day is the slowest time all week.
May 23, 2024

Will traffic be bad on July 4th? ›

More than 70 million Americans are expected to travel around the Fourth of July holiday, with traffic and accidents likely to spike as a result.

Are beaches busy on 4th of July? ›

Hundreds of thousands of people will be flocking to Southern California's beaches on Fourth of July, setting up on the sand to kick off the holiday festivities, with plenty of fun in the sun during the day and fireworks, and increasingly this year, drone shows, in the evening.

Do most people get July 4th off? ›

Fourth of July

Government offices and schools are closed. Some businesses may be closed as well. In some years, many employees use a portion of their vacation days to create a long weekend.

What is the safest day to travel? ›

The NHTSA reports that Tuesday is the safest day to drive as there are the least number of auto accidents to report. For instance, while Saturdays average 6,826 crashes, Tuesdays average 4,455.

Is it safer to travel at night or day? ›

You're three times more likely to have a fatal accident at night than in the daytime. Regardless of which type of headlights an oncoming vehicle has, avoid looking directly at it or its lights.

Is it cheaper to travel in July or August? ›

Shop early. With a limited number of seats on a plane, in order to get one of those with the best prices you have to be an early bird. If you don't have to fly in July, you'll find that traveling in late summer – August and September – will save you money, sometimes quite a bit.

What are the 5 stages of travel planning? ›

Almost all of us go through 5 key stages of travel: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing, and sharing.

How to plan a trip for beginners? ›

  1. List your dream locations and choose your adventure. The first step in vacation planning? ...
  2. Plan your budget. ...
  3. Check your calendar and research dates. ...
  4. Book flights and hotels. ...
  5. Search for deals on activities. ...
  6. Build your ideal itinerary. ...
  7. Pack your bags. ...
  8. Research local customs.

How far should you plan a trip? ›

Whenever possible, beginning planning 6-12 months in advance will give you time to find the best prices on airfare, lodging, and activities without the stress. If you're planning a shorter, more spontaneous trip, don't panic! Planning 1-3 months in advance should be plenty for less elaborate and inexpensive getaways.

Is 4th of July busy? ›

Most traffic during Fourth of July week

AAA says Wednesday and Sunday will be jam-packed, specifically between the hours of 2 and 7 p.m. Whether you're taking a road trip or catching a flight, frequent travelers all have the same piece of advice - leave early.

What is the 4th of July travel record? ›

Nearly 71 million people will be on the move over July Fourth week, according to AAA — a record that exceeds even pre-pandemic totals.

Is July a good time to travel? ›

July is one of the hottest and most crowded months to travel domestically in the US. With schools being out for the summer, American families join tourists at the national parks and beach resorts all over the country – so you'll need to book your trips well in advance.

Do people travel more in July or August? ›

July is the most popular vacation month, with 42% of travelers planning trips then. May sees the fewest travelers at 4.5%, while June, August, and September have 24%, 21%, and 10% respectively. Most vacations are short and sweet: 27% of travelers are taking 3–4 day trips, while only 7% plan two-week getaways.


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