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Record number of Marylanders expected to travel for Fourth of July weekend

The Bay Bridge is busy on spring and summer weekends as motorists travel to Ocean City.
The Bay Bridge is busy on spring and summer weekends as motorists travel to Ocean City. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

A record 890,000 Marylanders are expected to travel over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, due in part to the lowest Independence Day gas prices in more than a decade, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

As usual, most plan to drive to their destinations for what is usually the busiest travel weekend of the summer. About 773,000 Marylanders — nearly 87 percent — will hit the road, 1.3 percent more than last year. Air and other modes of travel such as bus, train and boat also are expected to increase.

The Marylanders heading out of town will be among nearly 43 million Americans taking advantage of the roughly $20 billion saved on gasoline nationwide so far this year to travel, the auto group said.

Maryland's expected increase in holiday travel volume mirrors the expected national increase of 1.3 percent, but the state is expected to outpace the rest of the country in both auto and air travel.

This year's Independence Day travel projections are the highest both in Maryland and nationwide since AAA began tracking them in 2001. Combined with robust Memorial Day travel numbers, the Fourth of July figures are expected to make for record-breaking summertime travel.

"These numbers will bode well for tourism across the region, particularly here in Maryland, at tourism destinations such as Ocean City, Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the National Harbor," said Ragina Cooper Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman. "We see lots of people traveling to Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, for our national holiday."

While gas prices in Maryland and nationwide have risen more than 60 cents per gallon since this year's low of $1.70 in February, they've dropped slightly since mid-June, and the average price per gallon the lowest for this time of year since 2005, AAA said.

The average gallon of regular, unleaded gas in Maryland cost $2.29 as of Sunday, three cents cheaper than the national average, AAA reported. Both Maryland and national gas prices are down 47 cents from this time last year.

Increased consumer confidence and rising economic activity are offsetting a cooling labor market to also boost travel, Averella said.

The travel estimates are for the five-day period from Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

Just about 7.3 percent of Maryland travelers, roughly 64,600, plan to fly to their destinations this weekend, AAA said. That's an increase of about 1 percent.

The other 51,800 state residents expected to travel this weekend will go by bus, train, cruise and other modes of transportation, a 1.3 percent bump in that category, the auto club said.

Nationwide, 84.6 percent of travelers, 36.3 million, will drive, and 3.3 million are expected to fly. Those numbers rose by 1.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Another 3.3 million Americans will take buses, trains and other means of transportation. While they remain the least popular option behind auto and air travel, they are expected to see the biggest nationwide growth from last Fourth of July, 2 percent.

Lodging and airfare are also cheaper this year, AAA reported.

Average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes dropped nine percent from last Fourth of July, with an average round trip costing $207.

An average night at a "two-diamond" hotel, one with slightly better than basic amenities, is $144; a "three-diamond" hotel room, the next step up, is $185.

Car rental prices have risen 6 percent since last year to about $75 a day on average, AAA said.

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