Americans will travel in near-record numbers during the July Fourth holiday period, the AAA predicted Thursday, noting lower gasoline prices that on Long Island are $1 per gallon below a year ago.
The motorist group, which also noted general economic improvements, defined this year's Independence Day holiday as a five-day period from Wednesday, July 1 through Sunday, July 5.
AAA projected that 41.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Independence Day period, the most in this survey since 2007 and a 0.7 percent increase from last year's total. The group began tracking holiday travel in 2000.
"This Independence Day, more people will get in their cars, board airplanes, and take buses, trains and cruise ships to celebrate our nation's freedom with friends and family," AAA president Marshall L. Doney said in a statement. He said Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel holiday.
The AAA announcement said that, despite recent seasonal increases, gas prices remain well below year-ago levels, which has helped boost Americans' disposable income. Thursday's national average for regular gas was $2.78 -- 88 cents less than the average price on Independence Day last year.
Regular gas averaged $3.023 on Long Island Thursday morning, the AAA said.
Gasoline prices began falling in early July of last year -- from a Nassau-Suffolk average for regular of $4.036 a gallon on July 2 to a recent low of $2.348 on Feb. 2, according to AAA figures. Prices have been rising since then because of seasonal factors and some recovery in crude oil prices.
The Long Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau is projecting an increase of 2 percent to 4 percent in total travel and leisure revenue for all of this year over last year's estimated $5.6 billion.
Last year's total dollar figure represented a 3.6 percent increase over 2013. Total revenue had slipped as low as $4.4 billion during the recession.
Attendance last year at the Island's state parks and historic sites rose by 16 percent from a year earlier, to more than 19 million people, according to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The total was 16.7 million in 2013, hurt by weather and leftover damage from superstorm Sandy, 18.9 million in 2012, 19.1 million in 2011 and 19.4 million in 2010.
State officials are expecting another strong summer, if the weather cooperates.