CLEVELAND — With the Fourth of July falling on a Monday this year, it turns the holiday into a three-day weekend.
But travel experts are expecting the mad rush to start as early as Thursday. Despite gas prices still over $4.80 per gallon here in Ohio and across the country, a record number of summer travelers are expected to hit the road.
AAA says nearly 48 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend, many of them by car. Gas prices may have slid recently nationwide but are still nearly $2 per gallon higher than they were this time a year ago.
In July of 2021, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Ohio was $2.95 compared to the price today of $4.84 per gallon. AAA says they don’t see the surge putting the brakes on many summer travel plans.
“We've been restricted as far as our travel for so long, you know, for over the past two years, said Tiffany Stanley, a spokesperson for AAA East-Central. ”People are ready to get out. They're ready to see family again, and travel with friends. And so that's why it does make sense why we are seeing such high demand.”
The travel agency expects that roads will be busiest Thursday and Friday afternoon and evening between noon and 9 p.m.
“You're mixing the vacationers with the normal commuters. So, your best bet is to leave as early as possible if you can or wait until after 9 p.m. to avoid all that traffic,” Stanley said.
The uptick in car travel, in part, to concerns over flight delays and cancellations, as recent holiday weekends have seen scores of flights scrapped last-minute across the country. AAA reports that air travel is down 1.2% in Ohio and down 3.4% in the East-North-Central Region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
“We do know that things like inflation are pushing prices slightly higher than typical. Also, right now we are having problems with flight cancelations,” Stanley said. “We are advising everyone to have a plan A, Plan B and a plan C and make sure you're budgeting accordingly.”
If you do opt to fly this weekend, travelers should check their flight status well before leaving for the airport.
If a flight is canceled for any reason or "significantly delayed" and they choose not to take a different flight, customers can be issued a full refund per the Department of Transportation guidelines.
“You want to make sure to ask yourselves, ‘if I was stuck in this city or stuck in my town for an additional day or two,’” Stanley said.
Reward systems like fuel perks are also a life saver when it comes to buying fuel, and AAA recommends if you see a good price, stop, and fill up instead of running your tank low and risk getting stranded. The travel agency also expects to rescue 449,000 motorists on the road this holiday weekend.
“If you're going on a long trip, a little maintenance goes a long way,” Stanley said. “The major calls that we typically see over the holiday weekend are going to be battery service, tire change and lockout service.”
Before hitting the road, motorists need to be prepared for emergencies by taking along certain items:
- A mobile phone and car charger
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- A first-aid kit
- A basic tool kit
- Drinking water
- Snacks for all passengers
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