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Midweek July Fourth causes muddle for travelers

By Scott Mayerowitz

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 8:45 a.m. MDT

Some don't plan to celebrate at all. There will be no trips to the beach, no fireworks and no barbeques for 1 in 5 Americans, according to Visa.

The overwhelming majority of Independence Day travelers plan to drive: 35.5 million people or 84 percent of travelers according to AAA. As they do, they'll get a break at the pump.

The price of gasoline, always on travelers' minds before a summer road trip, is now an average $3.33 per gallon — down from almost $4 in early April, when there was talk of $5 gas by summer. Whether that will translate into spending more at their destination remains unclear.

"Theoretically, it should boost consumer spending, but so far there's no evidence of that," said energy consultant Jim Ritterbusch. "The housing industry is still depressed and that's keeping people from being confident. They're going to remain thrifty."

Another 3.2 million travelers, or 8 percent of holiday vacationers, plan to fly. That will boost their credit card bills: the average domestic roundtrip ticket is $391, up 6 percent from last year, according to Travelocity.

Hotel rooms will also cost more. The average price for a room in the top 25 cities will be $140, up 16 percent from last year, according to Orbitz.

Some families haven't been able to travel for three or four years. There are signs they might finally be ready for a summer trip, whether it's this week or not.

Adam Weissenberg, who heads the travel and hospitality consulting group at Deloitte, said many families canceled or delayed vacations during the recession.

"People are starting to say: gee, I need to take a vacation," Weissenberg said.

Brandy Moore, owner and captain of Biloxi Shrimping Trips in Mississippi, was worried about the mid-week holiday but has ended up selling out her 20-person, 6 a.m. fishing tour for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But she attributes it to a better overall summer season; not a particularly strong Independence Day.

"We are just are having a really busy summer all around," Moore said.

At Kampgrounds of America Inc., which operates 450 campgrounds in the United States under the KOA name, summer bookings are up 5 percent from last year.

But KOA is still feeling the effect of the calendar quick. Reservations for the July Fourth holiday are down 4 percent.

"It's the weakest situation we could ask for," said Mike Gast, the company's vice president of communications. "We obviously like it to be a Friday or Monday."

Reporters Chris Kahn and Samantha Bomkamp contributed to this report.

Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.

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