This weekend a record number of Americans are expected to hit the road as in-person Fourth of July celebrations return after two years of pandemic-induced restrictions for many.
With the weather improving an estimated 48 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from their homes this weekend, according to AAA. At the same time there has been a slight drop in the average price of gasoline after months of near-constant increases.
“The volume of travelers we expect to see over Independence Day is a definite sign that summer travel is kicking into high gear,” said AAA Travel senior vice president Paula Twidal. “Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it’s not tapering off.”
With so many people taking the road, we take a look at the best and worst times to make a long-distance journey this weekend…
The best time for Fourth of July travel
The timing of this year’s holiday, landing on a Monday, means that Americans will get a three-day weekend, likely encouraging more people to make a trip. Bob Pishue, transportation analyst for transportation data company Inrix, recommends leaving early in the morning if possible because fewer people are commuting to work than had been the case previously.
“They’re not as many people are commuting into work at 7:30 or 8 o’clock (am). So the mornings are lighter, but the midday travel is as strong or a little bit stronger,” Pishue told USA TODAY.
“People are getting out in midday and afternoons. Not so much in the morning. So leave early, that’s generally the best.”
He advised that the best times to leave for the Fourth of July weekend 2022 are:
Friday, 1 July: Before 10:00 am or after 9:00 pm
Saturday, 2 July: Before 12:00 pm or after 7:00 pm
If you’re planning a shorter trip then you should be in the clear, because Sunday and Monday are expected to be days of very low traffic on the roads for much of the country.
The worst time for Fourth of July travel
When there’s higher-than-usual numbers of cars on the road it is better to be prepared as even a minor traffic incident can result in extremely long delays when the highways are busy.
“A lot of things can happen on a roadway,” Pishue explains. “We can’t predict that.”
Spending a long time stuck in traffic is not only a pretty uninspiring start to the holiday weekend but it also eats into that valuable quality time with friends and family. With this in mind you should definitely try to avoid the worst times for holiday travel.
Pishue has advised that the following periods are likely to have the most traffic of the Fourth of July weekend:
Friday, 1 July: 12:00-9:00pm
Saturday, 2 July: 2:00-4:00pm