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Your July 4th Travel Forecast

Wondering what to expect on your July 4th trip? Think 2014.

At least as far as the numbers go, this July 4th weekend will look a lot like last year’s. According to AAA, 41.9 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home, between July 1, Wednesday, and July 5, Sunday. That would be the highest number since 2007, but a negligible 0.7 percent increase from last year.

The great majority of July 4th trips, 85 percent, will be by car. Good news there: “Independence Day gas prices are expected to be the lowest in at least five years,” predicts AAA.

Most air travelers will pay more, however. This year, airfares to the top-40 domestic destinations will average $227, up 6 percent from 2014.

U.S. airlines have exercised restraint in their capacity increases over the past year, so load factors should be more or less comparable to last year’s. Which means that planes will be flying, on average, around 90 percent full over the holiday weekend. And on more popular routes, every seat is likely to be occupied.

What can you do to mitigate the discomfort? Short of splurging for a first-class ticket, there’s no magic bullet. If practicable, avoid flying on the holiday’s two busiest travel days, July 2 and July 5. Leverage your elite status to upgrade, or cash in miles for premium-cabin flights. Book an aisle seat whenever possible, and fly on carriers like JetBlue that feature an extra smidgen of legroom. Perhaps pay extra to upgrade to economy plus. But mostly, it’s a matter of grinning and keeping your claustrophobia in check.

Safe Independence Day travels!

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