Fourth of July travel to increase

Lower gasoline prices are driving more Southern Californians to drive — and fly — this holiday weekend.

The Automobile Club of Southern California predicts that more than 2.98 million Southland residents will travel for the Fourth of July weekend, a 0.5% increase from last year. That’s the second-highest number of travelers in the last 15 years, the Auto Club said.

Gasoline prices are 60 cents a gallon lower than at this time last year, with the average California price at $3.45 a gallon.

In addition to lower fuel prices, the projected travel increase is attributed to a growing sense of well-being among consumers because of a strengthening economy, declining unemployment and improving wages and housing values.

“There is a continued overall increase in the amount being spent for travel this summer because consumers have confidence in their ability to afford vacations,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services.

A majority of vacationers are expected to travel by car with a 0.4% increase from last year to 2.4 million, the Auto Club said. The number of travelers who are expected to fly to their destination will increase approximately 1.4%.

Nationally, AAA predicts that July Fourth weekend travel will increase by 0.7% to 41.9 million total travelers. In an unexpected turn this year, Chicago is anticipated to be the No. 1 vacation spot because of a 20th anniversary Grateful Dead reunion concert.

Top destinations for Southern Californians this year include Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, the California Central Coast, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.

The busiest travel day is anticipated to be July 2, and the most expensive will be July 5, according to the Orbitz Insider Index.

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