Record number of travelers expected over Fourth of July holiday weekend

Three-and-a-half million Southern California residents are expected to travel over Independence Day -- an all-time travel record for the holiday for the third straight year, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Travel is expected to increase by 3.9 percent locally and statewide compared to the 2018 July Fourth holiday.

The number of Independence Day travelers has increased for six consecutive years due to continued consumer confidence amid lower unemployment and increased discretionary income. A holiday trip is defined as 50 miles or more away from home between today and Sunday, July 7.

"We are seeing a continued increase in demand for destinations such as Hawaii and Europe over this holiday and throughout the summer,'' said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club's vice president for travel products and services. "Travelers are benefiting from new river cruise ships that have launched in recent years throughout Europe and from increased airline competition that has lowered airfares to Hawaii.''

Officials at Los Angeles International Airport, meanwhile, said last week that about 2.9 million people will travel through LAX over the 11-day holiday period through Monday, July 8.

"The first week of July is typically among the busiest of the year at LAX, so we are once again asking our guests to allow extra time and be informed travelers before heading to the airport,'' said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director for operations and emergency management for Los Angeles World Airports, which runs LAX.

"With up to an estimated 111,000 vehicles using the Central Terminal Area during the busiest times of the holiday week, it's essential that travelers use our website or social media to check the latest traffic, TSA wait times and parking availability. We also ask our guests to allow extra time at the airport and use the Lower/Arrivals Level to help save transit time for drop- offs and pick-ups.''

The Auto Club projected that among the 3.5 million Southlanders expected to travel this Fourth of July holiday, 2.8 million will travel by car, 471,000 by air and 278,000 by other means, such as a bus, train or cruise ship.

Top destinations for Southern Californians are Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle for Alaska cruises and local travel, and the Grand Canyon, in that order. Anaheim, home of the Disney Resort, is expected to be the fifth most popular destination nationwide for travelers, according to the AAA.

After several weeks of declines at the pumps, Southern California gas prices are hovering at or near the same levels as this time last year. The average pump prices are now about $3.70 a gallon for regular but could increase closer to the holiday as a 5.6-cent gas tax increase in California took effect on July 1.

Traffic congestion is expected to be especially heavy this afternoon throughout Southern California due to holiday travelers, the Auto Club said. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, holiday traffic will almost triple travel times at the peak and traffic will be the worst between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. today.

The AAA said it expects to rescue nearly 367,000 motorists at the roadside this Independence Day holiday. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the primary reasons for vehicle troubles.

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, air fares on average are 10 percent more expensive compared to last Independence Day, while average car rental rates are 5 percent higher than last year, at $69 daily.

CNS contributed to this report.