July 4th Travel Outlook: Fourth of July 2021 Expected to be the Biggest Travel Weekend Since the Start of the Pandemic

July 4th is shaping up to be the biggest travel weekend since the start of the pandemic and Americans have been eyeing the holiday since Biden's announcement in March.

Adit Damodaran - Jun. 8, 2021

Summary:

  • We expect July 4th to be the biggest travel weekend since the beginning of the pandemic, with a forecasted TSA throughput of around 2 to 2.1 million passengers. 

  • July 4th is the most searched weekend of summer 2021. Searches for July 4th are 47% higher compared to other summer weekends.

  • Since Biden's announcement in mid-March, searches for July 4th have trended 56% higher than searches for other weekends this summer.

  • The Most Booked Destinations for July 4th 2021: Las Vegas (#1), Miami (#2), and Orlando (#3) top the list for domestic destinations. For international destinations, Cancun (#1), San Juan (#2), and Mexico City (#3) are the top booked on Hopper for July 4th travel.

  • Top Road-Trips Booked for July 4th: 1.) Los Angeles, CA to San Francisco, CA; 2.) Miami, FL to Orlando, FL; and 3.) Nashville, TN to Atlanta, GA

  • What will airfare cost? A good deal on domestic airfare for July 4th will be around $302 round-trip. For international flights, a good deal will be $775 round-trip.

Since President Biden announced in March that America can "mark independence" from Covid-19 on July 4th if people get vaccinated, travel searches for the summer holiday have surged. 

Biden’s July 4th Announcement on March 11th

In early March 2021, searches for July 4th flights were about 3% lower than searches for other weekends this summer. On March 11th, President Biden set a goal for July 4th, 2021 to mark an “independence from this virus”, establishing a more definitive timeline for the U.S. to gauge a return to normalcy. Following that announcement, we began to see more searches for July 4th air travel. Heading into early April, July 1st had become the most searched departure date for Summer 2021 flights. As of June 7th, searches for July 4th flights are 56% higher than searches for other weekends this summer. 

July 4th is The Most Searched Weekend of Summer 2021

Since searches for a given departure date tend to be highest as we approach that date, we use advance (the number of days before a departure date) to better compare search volumes for different future dates. Comparing searches 30 days before July 4th weekend to those of the next highest weekend (the weekend of June 25th-27th), we saw searches for the weekend of July 4th were 47% higher.

Shops by Advance
Figure 1: Shops for July 4th weekend departures (the pink lines) are pulling away from other summer dates (grey lines), signaling higher than usual demand for flights that weekend. July 1st and July 2nd saw the highest search volumes, followed by July 3rd. Fewer travelers were interested in departing July 4th itself (the blue line) which falls on a Sunday this year.

With demand trending strongly even compared to a normal, pre-pandemic year

The search demand we’re seeing for July 4th weekend is remarkable even compared to a normal year, like 2019. Here we’ve produced the same chart for 2019, where July 4th fell on a Saturday. Friday, July 3rd and Saturday, July 4th also saw higher search demand compared to other summer departure dates, but searches 30 days out were closer to just 23% higher for Friday, July 3rd, compared to 47% this year. In other words, the days leading up to July 4th (the pink lines) didn’t pull away as sharply as we’re seeing this year -- the pack was more bunched together. 

Screen Shot 2021-06-08 at 6.33.48 AM
Figure 2: Shops for July 4th weekend departures in 2019 were also higher than other departure dates, but not by nearly as much. In 2019, shops for July 3rd departures were 23% higher than the next highest weekend (that of June 26-28, 2019), compared to shops being 47% higher this year compared to the next highest weekend (that of June 25-27, 2021).

The Biggest Travel Weekend Since the Beginning of the Pandemic

We expect July 4th to be the biggest travel weekend since the beginning of the pandemic, with a forecasted TSA throughput of around 2 to 2.1 million passengers. 

TSA Throughput
Figure 3: We think July 4th weekend could see around 2 to 2.1 million passengers heading through TSA checkpoints, the highest volume in the course of the pandemic, and comparable to the first week of March 2020.

This estimate would put us about on par with TSA throughput volumes in early March 2020. 

But not yet matching July 4th, 2019

2-2.1 million passengers through TSA on July 4th weekend would represent an increase of ~160% from 2020 (which peaked at just 764k passengers through TSA on Thursday, July 2nd, 2020), but down 33-40% from 2019 (which peaked at 2.8 million on Friday, July 5th, 2019). 

How Much Will Airfare Cost for July 4th?

For domestic flights on July 4th weekend, we think a good deal on airfare is $302/round-trip (on par with the $306/round-trip airfare we saw for July 4th, 2019). For international flights, a good deal would be $775/round-trip (down 18% from $940/round-trip for July 4th, 2019). Travelers should expect higher prices the closer they book to July 4th weekend.

Most Booked Destinations for July 4th

Las Vegas (#1), Miami (#2), and Orlando (#3), topped our most booked domestic destinations for July 4th. These three also topped the charts for Memorial Day weekend. Compared to Memorial Day weekend, Phoenix, Honolulu, and Dallas have fallen out of the Top 10 most booked domestic destinations while Houston, Chicago, and Seattle have climbed into the Top 10. 

The round-trip airfare shown below is based on the most recent 2 weeks of data for July 4th weekend departures specifically. 

Most booked domestic destinations
Most booked domestic destinations

On the international side, it’s Mexico and the Caribbean all the way through. Thus far, the top three most booked destinations match Memorial Day Weekend’s highest bookings with Cancun (#1), San Juan (#2), and Mexico City (#3). London (UK), Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), and Guadalajara (Mexico) fell out of the Top 10, replaced by St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands), Santiago de los Caballeros (Dominican Republic), and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). 

Trending Destinations (Up the Most in Searches Relative to July 4th, 2019)

Hopper collects, from several Global Distribution System partners, 25 to 30 billion airfare price quotes every day from searches happening all across the web. Since Hopper users tend to skew towards younger leisure travelers, our bookings tend to reflect this demographic’s interests. Search traffic collected from across the web is more representative of the broader industry.

Top Trending Destinations (Up the Most in Searches Relative to July 4th, 2019)
Top Trending Destinations (Up the Most in Searches Relative to July 4th, 2019)

Sarasota (#1), Panama City Beach (#2), and Fairbanks (#3), topped our highest trending domestic destinations for July 4th. Beach destinations (like Key West, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Myers) and outdoor mountain towns (like Jackson Hole and Bozeman) trended up the most this year compared to July 4th, 2019. 

Looking at the international chart, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands (#1), San Salvador in El Salvador (#2) and Montego Bay in Jamaica (#3) were up the most in web searches this July 4th compared to 2019. Further down the list, we see several European destinations crop up on the chart including Greece, Turkey, Iceland, and Portugal. While these destinations may not appear on the most booked charts on Hopper, they are certainly much more popular this year compared to where they were in 2019. 

Most Popular Rental Car Road Trips

Given historically high prices (around $100/day last we checked) and nationwide inventory shortages, it’s never too early to reserve your rental car for July 4th weekend. While most users pick up and drop off their rental car in the same city, we took a look at bookings on Hopper for July 4th where the rental car drop off is in a different city. Here were the top five most popular “Rental Car Road Trips” on Hopper for July 4th:

Car Rental Road Trips
Most booked car rentals for July 4th on Hopper

Staycation Destinations

Here were some of the most popular staycations for July 4th weekend, based on hotel bookings less than 250 miles away.

Most Booked Staycations on Hopper for July 4th
Most Booked Staycations on Hopper for July 4th

Where to go? 

Using Hopper, travelers can “watch” a given destination for specified travel dates. We’ll send a notification if we find a great deal on those dates to that destination. In the charts below, we’ve put together a list of the top destinations ranked by how often travellers found a great deal to those destinations. All of these deals were ones we notified users about in just the past week.

Top Deals for July 4th
Top Airfare Deals for July 4th

Tips for Booking July 4th Travel:

  1. Buy airfare ASAP before prices rise - Hopper recommends booking flights ASAP before prices spike leading up to July 4th. If you see a low price now but aren’t ready to book, use Hopper’s Price Freeze feature to lock in a great deal now and buy later.

  2. Check for a low cost carrier - Hopper recommends checking to see if a Low Cost Carrier like Southwest or Spirit recently began service on your route or a nearby airport. Travelers could find deals 20% off leisure routes if they depart after a LCC launches service.

  3. Fly during the week - If you can be flexible with your departure dates, Hopper recommends flying out on a Tuesday. You can save $35 on average compared to departing on a Friday. 

  4. Book your rental car at the same time as your flight - Rental car prices are up 95% from the start of the year to average $99/day. Be sure to book early to get a good price & guarantee in availability especially in the most popular U.S markets: Los Angeles, Orlando, Las Vegas, Denver, Miami.

  5. If you’re headed to a big city, consider booking last-minute - We see nightly hotel prices in big cities fall 13% on average in the final two weeks leading up to check-in. Be sure to check Hopper’s Stay The Night in the app for exclusive last-minute hotel deals.

  6. Always book with Flexibility - Be sure to take advantage of flexible booking options, such as Hopper’s Flexible Dates or Refundable Ticket Plans, so you can easily cancel or change plans without penalty if you need to. In fact, over 40% of Hopper users are paying for additional flexibility and protection over their trips when booking summer travel. 

  7. Can't swing it for July 4th? Consider a late summer/early fall trip instead - If things are looking expensive for July 4th in particular, departing in late-Summer to early-Fall could help you save. We estimate this could save you about 12% (around $100) on average, and nearly 20% (around $150-200) compared to traveling Fourth of July weekend.

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