The Fourth of July weekend looks like it will be a busy one for 2021, as AAA forecasts a return to pre-pandemic travel levels, with more than 47.7 million Americans expected to drive or fly for a vacation.
If you’re planning an Independence Day road trip, prepare for sticker shock at the gas pump and plenty of traffic. According to AAA, gas prices will be at a seven-year high, yet 91 percent of people who are planning on traveling will be doing so by car.
“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said Jeanette C. McGee, AAA spokesperson. “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.”
That doesn’t mean the airports will be empty—3.5 million people are planning to fly to their Fourth of July destinations, which is a 164 percent increase compared to last year (and will be back to 90 percent of typical pre-pandemic air travel volume).
Related: The Top 10 Summer 2021 Destinations
The Best Times to Travel for July Fourth Weekend
Follow AAA’s advice and leave before 7 pm on Thursday, before noon on Friday, or after 2 pm on Saturday. Head home a day early on Sunday to beat the traffic, or leave Monday morning before 1 pm.
The Worst Times to Travel for Fourth of July Weekend
If you can, AAA advises avoiding traveling between 3-5pm on Thursday, 4-5pm on Friday, 11am-1pm on Saturday, and 4pm-5pm on Monday, when the traffic is anticipated to be the worst.
Traffic is expected to be particularly bad in Boston, with a 330 percent increase in congestion forecasted for Monday between 3pm-5pm. San Francisco is also expecting heavy traffic of 340 percent more than normal on Monday between 6-8pm.