Road Trip Travel: Fired Up for the 4th of July

Despite the ongoing economic doldrums, for 2012, Americans are feeling more upbeat than ever when it comes to planning 4th of July road trips. With gas prices down by 10 to 20 percent from the $4+ per gallon highs they hit in April, more Americans are planning to hit the road, and we’re traveling farther for our fireworks and fun. According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), more than 42 million Americans will hit the road to celebrate Independence Day. This number is the biggest ever, and considerably more than any year since the previous peak year, back in 2007.

Besides the recent drop in fuel prices, another factor has boosted the numbers this year: the fact that the 4th of July falls on a Wednesday means travelers can add the weekend before or after the 4th of July, extending the range of their road trip options without having to take more time off work. The additional time means the average traveler expects to drive nearly 750 miles, 150 miles more than last year.

The biggest proportion of people making a 4th of July getaway are planning to start their trip on the afternoon of the Friday before the 4th, June 29th. More than half of all travelers are expected to depart over the course of that weekend, but the second biggest cohort will be staying at home until July 3rd, the day before the 4th. No matter when you go, roads around major 4th of July destinations like Philadelphia (where the 4th of July was first celebrated , way back in 1776!), Boston, and Washington DC, location of the National Independence Day Parade, are likely to be extremely congested, so allow plenty of time to get to where you want to be.

Almost every city and town all over America has some kind of 4th of July celebration, with parades, fairground attractions and plentiful BBQ, but fun as these are, there is no better all-American place to spend the nation’s birthday than in the heartland: Hannibal, Missouri. Here in the hometown of writer Mark Twain, two hours north of St Louis, the traditional 4th of July activities and events take place as part of Tom Sawyer Days, a week long festival of fun and games inspired by Twain’s fictional creations. Unique events include raft races on the river, a frog jump, and a fence-painting competition, remembering the scene where Tom Sawyer persuades his friends to do his chores for him and even to pay for the privilege.

Wherever you go, have a happy Independence Day.