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Shorter holiday = fewer travelers

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Highways and airports will be slightly – but only slightly – less crowded this 4th of July holiday than a year ago, according to projections from AAA Travel.

The auto club 40.8 million Americans – 1.6 million of them Ohioans — will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from the same period in 2012, when 41.1 million Americans left home.

The decrease is due to a shorter holiday period and observers are not discouraged by the drop in the number of travelers from last year, AAA Ohio spokesman Bill Purpura said.

“It’s a good, solid trend. We’re keeping on pace with where we’ve been over the last couple of years,” Purpura said.

With Independence Day falling on a Thursday, the holiday period lasts the standard five days, from Wednesday through Sunday, compared to last year’s six-day stretch when the holiday was on Wednesday, which usually boosts travel, Purpura said.

Travel volume in 2007 hit 42.3 million – the highest of the decade — when the holiday also fell on a Wednesday.

The projections for this year do not indicate that that the nation’s economy has recovered sufficiently to send Americans onto the roads in pre-recession numbers, but analysts like Purpura are encouraged.

“People are settling down a little bit, they are feeling a little bit better about the way things are going and so they are just continuing to travel,” he said.

The busiest travel; days will be Wednesday, when the auto club says 32 percent of travelers will begin their trips, and Sunday when 38 percent plan to return.

While the 84 percent of travelers who will make their trips by car, a decrease from last year, air travel is expected to increase slightly.

Holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 13-year average of 38.9 million.

The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 613 miles and spend $747, according to the AAA”s projections.

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