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Buckle up: Gas prices are falling fast as July 4 approaches

More than 2 million Floridians are expected to travel more than 50 miles as part of July 4 weekend this year.
More than 2 million Floridians are expected to travel more than 50 miles as part of July 4 weekend this year. ttompkins@bradenton.com

More than 2 million Floridians are expected to be among the record number of Americans forecast to hit the road to travel at least 50 miles from home to celebrate Independence Day.

One big reason: Gas prices are expected to be at their lowest level for the July 4 holiday in 13 years.

Auto club AAA on Thursday said it expects 44.2 million people – including 2.3 million from the Sunshine State – will travel during the holiday weekend, which spans Friday, June 30, to Tuesday, July 4.

That’s a 2.9 percent nationwide increase over last year’s record for the holiday. And fueled by plummeting gas prices, the vast majority of those will drive – 37.5 million across the country and 2 million in Florida.

Americans just love to travel and want to do something fun for this midsummer tradition.

Vicky Evans, the assistant vice president for travel sales development at AAA

Even though gas prices tend to rise as summer begins, since more families take to the road and demand goes up, the opposite is happening this year. In fact, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded on Thursday in Florida was $2.24, the lowest of the year. The highest was $2.47 on April 21, according to AAA’s daily fuel tracker.

Costs are even lower in the Bradenton-Sarasota region, as the average price has dropped to $2.20 per gallon and is expected to continue to fall as July 4 approaches.

Moreover, Tom Kloza, the chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks fuel costs for AAA, said that for the first time this century, gas prices could be cheaper over July 4 than during the previous Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.

$2.20The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in the Bradenton-Sarasota region on Thursday, according to AAA.

Because of abundant fuel supplies and declining crude oil costs, “American motorists are the big winners here, as they fill their tanks for a summer road trip. These low gas prices should stick around for a while until oil prices change course,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.

In addition to lower fuel costs, travel experts say low unemployment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence are boosting July 4 weekend getaways.

Said Vicky Evans, the assistant vice president for travel sales development at AAA: “This Independence Day will be historic. Traveler numbers are up and prices are down, adding to what has already been a bustling summer travel season.”

Other key figures for the July 4 holiday weekend:

  • Round-trip airfares are projected to average $186, a 10 percent drop from last year;
  • Daily car rental rates are expected to average $65, a 14 percent decline from 2016;
  • Hotel prices are likely to be about $185 per night, the same as a year ago.

“Americans just love to travel and want to do something fun for this midsummer tradition,” Evans said.

Mike Garbett: 941-745-7011; @MGarbett52

The Top 10

The Top 10 destinations for the July 4 holiday weekend, according to AAA:

1. Orlando

2. Vancouver

3. Cancun

4. Seattle

5. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

6. Honolulu

7. Anaheim

8. Anchorage

9. Las Vegas

10. Montego Bay

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