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The number of Americans traveling during the July 4th holiday weekend will increase 1.2% from a year ago, the smallest rise since 2000, as high pump prices cause people to cut back, AAA said in an annual forecast.
A record 40.7 million Americans will take trips during the long weekend, the summer’s biggest travel holiday, up from 40.2 million last year, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motoring club. About 34.3 million people will travel by car, up 1.3% from last year, the report said.
“The leading reason people give for not traveling, or changing their travel plans, has been high gas prices,” AAA spokesman Mike Pina said.
About 14% of the U.S. population will travel by road, rail or air over the holiday, the report said. The number of July 4th travelers generally increases to a record every year, Pina said. The last time there was a decline was in 1998.
Rising crude oil prices and limited refining capacity have contributed to a 29% jump in costs at the pump from a year ago. Gasoline averaged $2.859 a gallon Wednesday (June 28), according to AAA. Crude oil in New York was trading around $72 a barrel, up 19% from this time last year.
High pump prices aren’t keeping people from renting recreational vehicles, or RVs, said Joe Laing, marketing director for El Monte RV Inc., a Santa Fe Springs, Calif., sales and rental company with dealerships around the U.S.
“We are running out of motorhomes for the 4th of July,” said Laing, who estimated that most RVs get less than 10 miles per gallon of gasoline. “We are expecting in certain areas to be completely booked out.” El Monte RV typically has between 1,500 and 1,800 RVs available, Laing said.
“People are finding a way around the issue of gas prices,” AAA Chief Executive Officer Robert Darbelnet said in a telephone interview from Washington. “We see people expressing more interest in the budget hotels in contrast to the more pricey hotels. The only times we see a dip in peoples’ willingness to take a road trip is when the availability of gas is in question.”