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Gas prices highest since 2008
Millions expected to travel for Fourth of July
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Millions of Americans are expected to travel over the Independence Day weekend.
Violence in Iraq can be blamed on the rising cost at the fuel pumps. Americans will likely pay the highest price per gallon this Independence Day since 2008.

But that’s not stopping travelers.

AAA Travel projects that 41 million Americans – an increase of 1.9 percent over last year - will take a trip at least 50 miles from home during the Independence Day holiday travel period, July 2-6. About 1.8 million will be Floridians.

“With school out for summer, the Fourth of July holiday is typically the busiest summer travel holiday," Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group, said in a press release. “About five million more Americans travel for this holiday compared to Memorial or Labor Day weekends. Traditionally, the majority of those celebrating our nation's independence take a road trip."

In fact, more than eight in 10 travelers, about 34.8 million, will travel by automobile, the most since 2007.

"Consumers are still mindful of their personal finances," Jenkins said. "Auto travel is the best option for controlling expenses. It allows travelers the most flexibility in trip length and the option of making last minute changes."

Gas prices are on the rise. AAA says that in recent years, gas prices have gone down prior to Independence Day, but this year the violence in Iraq is driving up the cost of crude oil.

"Current gas prices are still cheaper than this year's peak price and unlikely to deter people from traveling," Jenkins said. "Many travel plans have already been made, and budgets set aside. In some cases, consumers will reallocate their budgets and cut back on dining, shopping or other trip activities."

On July 1, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the United States was $3.67. The same day last year, the price was $3.49. Floridians were paying an average of $3.61. On the same day last year, the price was $3.45.

The price is a little lower closer to home. Motorists in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metro Area are paying an average of about $3.56. Last year, the cost was $3.38.

AAA says current gas prices are the highest since 2008, but they still haven’t reached that same level. On July 5, 2008, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in Pinellas set a new record of $3.996. The highest price ever reported was $4 on July 16, 2008.

Air travel is expected to increase about 1 percent this year. Holiday air travel has slowly increased since 2011, AAA reports. Airfares are down about 5 percent with the average round-trip, discounted fare for the top 40 U.S. routes costing $215, down from $228 last year. Car rentals still average about $58.

Regardless of the mode of travel, hotels will likely cost more than last year. AAA says hotels at Two Diamond hotels are 15 percent higher to about $137 a night, and prices are up 9 percent at Three Diamond hotels to about $178 a night.

AAA’s experts say people are willing to pay a little extra to take a holiday trip.

"Steady improvement in the economy along with increased consumer spending and confidence are the main factors driving more Americans to take a trip, Jenkins said. “ Consumer spending is expected to rise 4.2 percent, because of increasing credit not rising incomes. Consumers have been hesitant to add to their credit card balances the past several years, but continued improvements in the employment picture and rising home values means they are starting to feel more comfortable taking on debt."

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

For more information, visit autoc­lubso­uth.a­­m.
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