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AAA predicts busy travel weekend for July 4 holiday

It’s no secret gas prices go up around holidays.

Even with gas prices near $5 — the national average was $4.92 on June 24 — July 4 holiday travelers should expect that trend to continue, said Heather Stephens, an associate professor of resource economics and management at West Virginia University.

AAA predicts this Independence Day will be the second-busiest in terms of travel since 2000 and will set a record with an estimated 42 million driving more than 50 miles over the weekend. And that will only increase pressure on gas prices, Stephens said.

“If that’s the case, then not only will you have gas stations just raising the price because they know they can, right? You’ll just have actual demand pressure, which will push at least temporarily prices back up,” she said.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to accept short of something drastic happening, that gasoline prices are going to be higher for a while, Stephens said.

However, everything she knows about supply and demand, the predicted record travel weekend, combined with no more supply and the normal holiday hikes — we can’t really expect prices to go down. If China returns to its full pre-pandemic consumption levels, prices are likely to go even higher. 

Stephens noted she wasn’t advocating for higher prices, and she pays the high prices just like everyone else.

“So yeah, if I was going to be doing a lot of traveling next weekend, I would probably make sure that my tank was full, definitely before Friday,” Stephens said.

If the high cost of gas doesn’t scare you into staying home, AAA has some trips to help make travel easier. Have a plan, a backup plan and a backup plan for your backup plan. Check your tires, engine and battery, and travel in non-peak times. For drivers, the Thursday and Friday before the holiday are expected to be the busiest.

The top-three destinations in the U.S. for July 4 travel this year, based on AAA data, are all large cities, with Orlando taking the top spot. Seattle and NYC trail behind the home of Disney World.

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