NEW YORK — A stronger economy, rising consumer confidence and cheap gasoline will likely have Americans traveling in big numbers this Independence Day.
An estimated 41.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend, up 0.7 percent from last year and the most since 2007, right before the recession, according to travel agency and car lobbying group AAA.
As usual, the vast majority of travelers will be using their cars: about 85 percent. Gas currently costs $2.78 a gallon, down 88 cents from the same time last year. That means a family driving 200 miles on highways will save about $7.30 for their holiday gas this year.
AAA defines the holiday period as July 1 through July 5. But Americans, in general, are already driving more.
The Federal Highway Administration this week announced that Americans drove 987.8 billion miles for the first four months of the year, topping the previous record — 965.5 billion — set in 2007. The government said that the nation's driving has increased steadily for 14 consecutive months.
More folks are going away this July 4 thanks to the better economy and lower fuel prices which give them more disposable income. However, Independence Day travel predictions are particularly volatile since the holiday falls on a different day of the week each year. Three- or four-day weekends see more travelers, typically.
AAA estimates that mid-range hotels this holiday will cost 6 to 8 percent more and airfare is 6 percent higher.