71 Million Drivers Will Hit the Highways This 4th of July Week

traffic jam in the countryside
71 Million Drivers Will Be on the Road July 4th George Pachantouris - Getty Images
  • Some 71 million travelers are expected to hit the road this holiday week.

  • The vast majority will be in cars, too—85.4% versus less than 15% for any other means of transportation, including airplane, bus, or cruise ship.

  • If traffic is your concern, the worst time to drive is between 2 pm and 7 pm.

Brace yourself, travelers, and be prepared to leave early. This 4th of July there will be an estimated 71 million of you on the road trying to get to grandma’s house, or the beach house, or the House of Representatives.

That’s the most travelers ever for a 4th of July holiday, or at least as long as there have been cars and highways and records kept about them.


AAA projected 70.9 million travelers will go 50 miles or more from home during the nine-day period from June 29 to July 7. That’s 5% more than last year and 8% more than in 2019.

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “We anticipate this July 4th week will be the busiest ever, with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”

The vast majority of those people will be in cars, too—85.4% versus less than 15% for any other means of transportation, including airplane, bus, or cruise ship.

The most rent-a-car pick-ups will be in Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, so keep that in mind if you’re flying in and renting a car. The busiest days to pick up that rental car were June 28, 29, and July 3.

southern california traffic jam
A typical day on I-10E through downtown LA.Art Wager - Getty Images

Boosting all this travel by car is lower gas prices—lower than last year when it was $3.53 a gallon. Gas prices will go down until July 4, then level off. Of course, one big, refinery twisting hurricane on the Gulf Coast could throw a real monkey wrench into that equation, AAA said.

Don’t think you can avoid a travel hassle by flying, either. AAA said 5.74 million people will fly during the same period. That’s 7% more than last year and 12% more than 2019. Airplane travel costs 2% less than last year, with the average price for a domestic roundtrip ticket pegged at $800. You can pack the whole family into a car and have them eat spam sandwiches for a lot less than that.

The remaining 4.6 million travelers this week will go by bus, train, or cruise ship, all of which are up this year, with the overall category seeing a 9% increase.

Want to avoid the worst of the traffic, all you automobile drivers? AAA quotes the data firm INRIX saying the worst time to drive is between 2 pm and 7 pm. INRIX breaks it down further:

“Drivers in large metro areas can expect the worst traffic delays on Wednesday, July 3, as they leave town, and Sunday, July 7, as they return,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Road trips over the holiday week could take up to 67% longer than normal. Travelers should monitor 511 services, local news stations, and traffic apps for up-to-the-minute road conditions.”

There’s even more detail about major metropolitan traffic: Driving from Birmingham to Atlanta will be the worst at 6:30 pm July 7; Boston to Hyannis stay off the road 1:45 pm July 4; Chicago to Indianapolis remain home July 3 at 2:45 pm; Fort Collins to Denver the worst moment will be July 8 7:30 pm; Toronto to Detroit stay off the road on July 8 at 3:30 pm; San Antonio to Houston via I-10E July 6 1:30 pm; Bakersfield to LA July 8 2:15 pm.

The list goes on: Eau Claire to Minneapolis July 8 4:45 pm; from the Jersey Shore to New York City stay off the Garden State Parkway North on July 7 at 2:15 pm; Poconos to Philly July 8 8:30 am; Portland to Eugene July 3 5 pm; San Diego to Palm Springs July 4 6 pm; San Francisco to Monterey July 2 at 5:45 pm; Ellensberg to Seattle via I-90E July 7 4:30 pm; Tampa to Orlando July 3 10:15 am; and don’t expect smooth sailing from Baltimore to DC on July 8 at 3:15 pm.

So, you have to ask: Is it worth it? It will be if you’re driving an interesting car. To find one, skim through Autoweek’s review section. Or, just stay home, and save money.

Are you on the road this week? Let us know below.