All the expert sources predict that the rush of Fourth of July travel this year will outpace last year’s record. AAA says that almost 49 million will travel more than 50 miles from home over the holiday. And because the fourth is on a Thursday this year, many of you will make it into a Thursday-Sunday four-day weekend.
Busiest Fourth of July Travel Times and Routes
Most—41.4 million, says AAA—will drive. And USA Today reported “the absolute worst time to hit the road will be Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.,” due to the confluence of regular commuters and holiday travelers.
If you’re flying, the worst crunch will be on Sunday afternoon and evening, Not all of you will take all four days off, but regardless of when you start your trip, you probably have to be back home before Monday.
The Worst Airports for Fourth of July Travel 2019
If this year follows 2018 then the busiest route, reports AirHelp, will be between Los Angeles International and San Francisco. That makes sense; four-day weekend trips tend to be shorter-distance than extended vacation trips. But lots of other routes to/from popular vacation destinations will also be busy.
Although you may see data on which airports suffered the most delays last year, you can’t accurately extrapolate those to 2019. Holiday delays are more likely to be caused by bad weather than any other factor, and weather forecasts for this year suggest what might happen over the five-day travel period this year at some of the most delay-prone hub airports:
- San Francisco is expecting mostly sunny weather throughout the period.
- Ultra-busy Atlanta expects thunderstorms later in the weekend.
- Chicago expects thunderstorms early, switching to partly cloudy.
- New York’s three delay-magnet airports—JFK, La Guardia, and Newark—are looking at scattered thunderstorms for the full period.
- And Dallas-Ft Worth, which manages to rack up major delays even in good weather, expects mainly partly cloudy weather, with thunderstorms on the fourth.
For flying in the U.S., airlines owe you nothing in the way of compensation for delays due to weather.
Highways, airports, resorts, campgrounds, trains, restaurants, attractions, and anything else involved in vacation travel will be at or even over full capacity. Prices will be high; lines will be long; everything will move more slowly. Allow as much slack in your timetable as you can, and be prepared to tolerate the many frustrations you will encounter. Presumably, your destination experience will be worth the effort. And if you’re not up to ignoring the increased hassle factors, stay home.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.