DES MOINES — Over the upcoming holiday weekend, tens of thousands of Iowans will be declaring their independence from their houses and heading off on road trips.
Brian Ortner, spokesman for AAA Iowa, says travel records are being forecast for the four-day weekend, both for the Midwest and for the nation. “Looking at our region, AAA is forecasting more than 3.7-million travelers are going to be taking a trip of at least 50 miles or more between this Friday and Tuesday, July 4th,” Ortner says. “That’s 140,000 more holiday travelers than the previous high that was set last year, which tied the record that was originally set in 2019, our pre-pandemic numbers.”
For the nation, AAA predicts 50.7 million Americans will be traveling over the long weekend, which is over two million more than over the 4th of July last year. As far as the travel industry is concerned, the pandemic is a distant memory now, as all travel numbers are back to where they were before COVID-19 disrupted the world.
“This year is really going to be the benchmark for that, because we were looking back at pre-pandemic numbers,” Ortner says, “and if we look at where we were for holiday travel during Christmas and Thanksgiving last year, we were edging up on those pre-pandemic numbers, and then Memorial Day we broke pre-pandemic numbers.”
Since the majority of travelers will be in cars, trucks, SUVs and other motor vehicles, gasoline prices are key, and Ortner says compared to a year ago, they’re down considerably. “Last year, between July 1st and July 6th across the state of Iowa, the average price per gallon for gas was $4.57 to $4.61 a gallon, so definitely, we were over that $4 mark last year,” Ortner says. “If we look at gas prices today in Iowa, the average is $3.36, so a dollar-plus more in savings.”
The financial news isn’t all good for vacationers, though, as AAA also says airfares and hotel rates are more expensive than last year.