The Best (and Worst) Times to Hit the Road This July 4 Weekend

Between Wednesday, July 3, and Sunday, July 7, more than 41 million Americans plan on taking a road trip. Here’s how to avoid them.

The Best (and Worst) Times to Hit the Road This July 4 Weekend

The worst time for driving in the San Francisco Bay Area on July 3 is predicted to be 1:30–2:30 p.m.

Photo by Keep Smiling Photography / Shutterstock

A record-breaking 48.9 million Americans will travel for Independence Day this year, according to a new American Automobile Association (AAA) report. This is the most AAA has recorded since it began tracking holiday travel in 2000, with 1.9 million more people planning a getaway for July 4 this year than last.

While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is bracing for its busiest week ever at U.S. airports over the holiday, only around 8 percent of those going away for July 4 plan on flying. The wide majority—nearly 85 percent, or 41.4 million Americans—will be hitting the road. The other 7 percent will be traveling by other means, including trains, buses, and cruise ships.

The rise in road-trippers this Fourth of July is thanks in part to lower gas prices compared to last summer. The national average is currently $2.66 per gallon, which is about 19 cents cheaper than it was last year and 17 cents less than it was over this past Memorial Day weekend.

According to the global mobility analytics company INRIX, Wednesday, July 3, is expected to be the busiest day on the road because travelers and regular commuters will be out at the same time. As such, people who plan on driving that day in major U.S. cities could encounter delays four times worse than a normal commute.

“Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road,” Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX, said in a statement.

While Wednesday will be the busiest driving day overall, the worst days for travel vary city by city, AAA says. INRIX and AAA broke their data down even further to find the worst hours to be on the road for 10 major U.S. metropolitan areas. If you can plan on departing earlier or later than these travel windows, you’ll be more likely to avoid starting or ending your holiday getaway stuck in a traffic jam:

Atlanta: Friday, July 5, 5:00–7:00 p.m.

Boston: Friday, July 5, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Chicago: Friday, July 5, 1:00–3:00 p.m.

Detroit: Wednesday, July 3, 2:00–4:00 p.m.

Houston: Thursday, July 4, 1:00–3:00 p.m.

Los Angeles: Wednesday, July 3, 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

New York: Wednesday, July 3, 1:45–3:45 p.m.

San Francisco: Wednesday, July 3, 1:30–2:30 p.m.

Seattle: Thursday, July 4, 12:00–2:00 p.m.

Washington, DC: Sunday, July 7, 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

If, however, your plans won’t allow you to avoid the road during these dreaded hours, may we suggest downloading one of our favorite audiobooks for road trips or listening to our essential road trip songs to pass the time more pleasantly?

>> Next: A Guide to the World’s Best Road Trips

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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