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Record number of Maryland residents will travel during July Fourth holiday

More than 870,000 Maryland residents plan to travel over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, a record number spurred by strong employment, rising incomes and gas prices well below last year's, AAA Mid-Atlantic said Thursday.

Most will drive. AAA said a record 754,000 people will get away by auto, 2.3 percent more than last year.

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The overall travel forecast, which predicts a 2.3 percent increase over last year's holiday, represents the state's biggest numbers for Independence Day-related travel since AAA began tracking the data in 2001.

Maryland's growth is expected to outpace national travel increases across all modes of transportation, AAA said.

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"This may be an indication that perhaps Marylanders are feeling more confident and economically secure compared to other Americans," said Ragina Cooper Averella, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman.

AAA defines the holiday travel period as Wednesday, July 1, to Sunday, July 5, and tracks those journeying 50 miles or more from home.

Maryland travelers will be among the nearly 42 million Americans the auto club expects to set off on trips during what typically is the busiest summer travel holiday. The national travel numbers are the most since 2007, but only a slight increase compared to last year's holiday, AAA said.

Gas prices over the holiday period are expected to be the lowest in at least five years, Averella said. Consumers are benefiting from lower gas prices, leaving them with more spending money.

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"Although some consumers are using their recent savings on gas to pay down debt and save, overall, Americans are planning to travel in record numbers," Averella said.

Travelers appear undeterred by recent seasonal increases in gas prices.

The price of gas in Maryland, which has been rising since mid-April, averaged $2.76 per gallon on Thursday, about 7 cents more than a month ago but 94 cents per gallon less than a year ago, AAA reported.

People traveling by car will face lower toll prices at Maryland bridges and tunnels, as well as on the Intercounty Connector and Interstate 95, starting July 1.

A small share of Maryland travelers, 64,700, or 7 percent, plan to fly to their destinations, according to AAA. Another 52,100, or 6 percent of travelers, will rely on buses, trains or other modes of transportation. The number of travelers in those categories is up as well, by nearly 2 percent, the auto club said.

Nationally, nearly 85 percent of travelers, or 35.5 million, plan to drive, while 3.21 million will fly, a 1.5 percent increase. The national average price for gasoline averaged $2.78 as of Wednesday, 88 cents less than the average price last year on July 4, AAA said.

Lodging and airfare rates are slightly higher than last year's July Fourth holiday, according to AAA's leisure travel index.

Nightly stays in "two diamond" hotels — hotels with room that offer slightly more than basic amenities — jumped 6 percent to an average $145, while rates for "three diamond" hotels — a step up in amenities — jumped 9 percent to an average $195. Passengers flying the top 40 domestic flight routes can expect to pay 6 percent more, or an average $227, AAA said.

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