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Your long Fourth of July holiday? Luxuriously long, super pricey

Holiday weekends that begin on Friday? Those are for people who don’t dream big. This year, the Fourth of July holiday is on a Saturday, making Friday the officially recognized federal holiday.

But unofficially, the holiday begins Wednesday, an executive of an airfare website said.

“You’ll get the peak days starting next Wednesday and following through to Sunday [and] Monday,” Tom Spagnola, a senior vice president with CheapOAir told me. He based that projection on the volume of tickets already sold.

Whenever they leave, travelers will have plenty of company: AAA  predicts that nearly 42 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend.

People who have waited to make their air travel plans will pay a premium.

Airfares checked Thursday showed a round-trip ticket for travel July 1-5 from Los Angeles to Denver, CheapOAir’s five most popular destinations for Independence Day, will cost at least $633.

Frontier Airlines  showed fares from $468; Southwest Airlines’  lowest price is $473. But always volatile airfares may already be gone.

It’s definitely cheaper to drive, although that hypothetical trip to Denver – roughly 1,000 miles from L.A. – will take 16 hours or more, eating into your weekend.

Based on the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report’s  average prices per state, the drive to Denver and back would cost about $245 for gas. (That calculation is based on average fuel consumption of 25.5 miles per gallon, the May 2015, figure from a University of Michigan study.)

Of the five states crossed during the drive, gas costs the most per gallon in California ($3.46) and the least in Colorado ($2.67). As of Thursday, AAA pegged the national average at $2.78.

Those with flexible travel plans should see airfares drop as summer continues.

“You’ll see the month of August will have some very good, reduced last-minute fares,” Spagnola said. Most summer travelers book their vacation tickets by late May or early June.

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