Fourth of July travel is set to break records. Here’s how to plan.

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Tips for navigating traffic, hotels, heat and flight delays.

The 2024 summer travel season might be the busiest ever, and it’s about to reach its peak.

The Transportation Security Administration, which screened nearly 3 million fliers on Sunday — breaking the record for a single day — expects to top itself again as millions of Americans travel for the Fourth of July. The peak day for holiday flights will be Friday, June 28, TSA says, while the booking app Hopper projects that U.S. airports will be about as packed on Wednesday, July 3.

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release. “We anticipate this July 4th week will be the busiest ever with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”

By The Way rounded up some of our best tips to help Fourth of July travelers navigate the traffic, airport crowds and heat.

The best and worst times to drive

Good news for those driving to their destinations for the Fourth: Gas prices are down nearly 17 percent from last year, according to Hopper, and AAA said prices should continue to fall ahead of the holiday.

AAA projects that Monday, July 1, will be the best day to hit the road, but opting for Tuesday night or before noon on Wednesday or the Fourth itself will help you beat some of the traffic, too. INRIX, an analytics company that provides transportation data and insights, said the worst times to drive before and on the Fourth will be between 2 and 7 p.m., with congestion expected to be heaviest in the Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Philadelphia metro areas. The worst traffic delays for return travelers will hit on Sunday, July 7, INRIX said.

Hopper reports that rental car rates have stayed about the same since last July 4, while travel site Kayak says they’ve increased 9 percent. Experts recommend booking as early as possible to guarantee your vehicle — and to remember that if rates drop after you book, you can rebook at the lower price.

Still too expensive? You might find a deal on peer-to-peer car-rental apps, such as Turo, which have expanded in some parts of the country.

Look out for heat-related delays

Cities across the Lower 48 are breaking temperature records, and the broiling heat isn’t likely to fade for the Fourth. Besides baking travelers, such intense weather can cause planes to enforce weight restrictions, bumping passengers and delaying takeoffs.

Flights early in the morning and late in the evening have the best shot at avoiding heat-related delays. Make sure you have your airline’s app downloaded on your phone, and turn on notifications. That way, you’ll be among the first to find out about any delays or changes.

It might be tempting to wait at home if your flight is delayed, but airlines’ estimates sometimes can shrink and leave late arrivers stranded. If a delay is two hours or less, experts recommend playing it safe and getting to the airport in time for your original departure.

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According to Kayak, LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), JFK (New York), BOS (Boston) and (EWR) Newark are the airports expected to experience the highest volume of travelers over the holiday weekend.

Hotel prices, busy spots and deals

Fourth of July travelers aren’t, in many cases, flying in to those top metro areas to visit the cities themselves, and especially not their downtowns, noted Jan Freitag, national director of hospitality analytics for the CoStar Group. That means last-minute bookers might be able to snag a deal in the heart of a city at a full-service hotel — think the ones with ballrooms and meeting rooms — and they might find more open reservations at midtown lunch or dinner spots, too.

“Because Fourth of July is a holiday where normally business travel and certainly group travel does not happen, that means, in downtown locations, often it’s easier to get rooms even in higher-end hotels, because it’s such a depressed demand situation for them,” Freitag said.

Las Vegas, New York, New Orleans, Orlando and Atlanta are the most popular hotel destinations for the Fourth, according to Priceline.

On average, AAA said, U.S. hotel rates are 17 percent higher around July 4 compared with last year. Hopper reports that hotel prices for the holiday weekend are running $232 per night, on average, and vacation rentals about $400 a night.

Prepare for the worst

Read up on your airline’s policy for cancellations and serious delays. Airlines are required to refund passengers or rebook them if a flight is canceled; some will rebook passengers through other carriers with whom they share agreements.

Hayley Berg, Hopper’s lead economist, recommended also studying up on what other flights are available to your destination, in case a cancellation or other change leaves you scrambling to find a new one. Knowing in advance can give you a slight edge over your fellow passengers who are trying to rebook in the moment. Those airline app alerts can give you a head start as well, and rebooking with an airport self-service kiosk usually saves time over running to a service desk.

“Even a five-minute advantage over the 200 people that just got canceled with you can make a big difference,” Berg told us last year.

If you really want to safeguard your holiday plans, you can book a backup flight, but you’ll need to be rock-solid about your airline’s cancellation policy before trying it.

A more straightforward contingency plan: If your Fourth of July destination is drivable, be ready to hit the road.

Natalie B. Compton and Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.

July Fourth

Travel: The holiday weekend for the Fourth of July is always a cause for travel disruptions and delays. Here are tips for navigating Fourth of July travel, which is expected to be the busiest ever.

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