The Best and Worst Times to Travel This Fourth of July Weekend

AAA just released new data to help you with your holiday weekend travel plans.

Independence Day weekend is almost here and Americans are reportedly more excited than ever to pack their bags and go for a trip.

Compared to last year and even to pre-pandemic levels, the number of folks who are embarking on a trip for the Fourth of July weekend is expected to be incredibly high. According to AAA's projections, 50.7 million Americans will get on the road and travel 50 miles or more for the occasion, which will set a new record for this holiday. When looking at numbers this year and those of the same period last year, there is also a huge increase when it comes to domestic travel. Reportedly, this year, an extra 2.1 million people will travel domestically.

Whether it's for travel by car or by plane, Independence Day weekend is projected to be a record breaker no matter how you're getting there. According to AAA, 43.2 million people are expected to be driving to their destination, which is a 2.4% increase from the same period in 2022 and a 4% increase compared to 2019's levels. In terms of air travel, the increase will be even larger, with numbers higher by 11.2% compared to 2022 and 6.6% compared to 2019.

"We've never projected travel numbers this high for Independence Day weekend," said Paula Twidale, senior VP of AAA Travel, said in a statement. "What this tells us is that despite inventory being limited and some prices 50% higher, consumers are not cutting back on travel this summer. Many of them heeded our advice and booked early, another sign of strong travel demand."

While these new records are surely good news for the travel industry, they come with a price for travelers themselves, and traffic is expected to be brutal at specific dates and times. Luckily, though, INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insight, has analyzed data revolving around Independence Day weekend, and has come up with the best and worst times to travel and get on the road.

Courtesy of AAA

Friday, June 30, is expected to be the busiest day on the roads, and average travel times are predicted to be up by almost 30% compared to regular levels. More specifically, anytime between 10 am and 6 pm is a no-no, and travelers from major metro cities including Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC will be the ones to witness the higher traffic levels most intensely. For June 30 travelers, the advice is to leave either before 10 am or after 6 pm to run into less traffic.

The other dates aren't expected to be as wildly busy, though it is important to keep in mind some specific times to avoid peak traffic. On June 29, travelers should avoid getting on the roads between 4 and 6 pm, and the best time to do it is actually anytime before 12 pm. On July 1, instead, predictions show that 1 pm is the worst time to be traveling by car, and travelers should aim to get behind the wheel in the morning anytime before 12 pm to avoid busy streets. On July 2 and 3, instead, minimal traffic impact is expected, and drivers won't have to worry much about best or worst times to travel.

The problems rise again once the party is over (or close to being over). On July 4, Americans should refrain from driving between 12 and 3 pm, and should actually aim to get in the car before 11 am or after 6 pm. On July 5, it's best to start driving anytime before 2 pm, since the worst times are expected to be those between 3 and 6 pm.

For more information and to check out detailed projections of peak congestion times where you live or where you're heading, you can read the full report on AAA's website.

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.