July 4th Travel Outlook Part II: How is July 4th 2021 Shaping Up, Last Minute Deals & Busiest Airports

July 4th is coming up before you know it. The Hopper team breaks down what to expect for the holiday weekend this year.

Adit Damodaran - Jun. 22, 2021

Summary:

Demand (see Part I for full report)

  • 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. 

  • After 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. Since President Biden's announcement on March 11th, searches for July 4th have trended 56% higher than searches for other weekends this summer. 

Airfare (see Part I for full report)

  • 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, and should book ASAP if they haven’t already. 

Destinations (see Part I for full report)

  • 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.

  • Sarasota (#1), Panama City Beach (#2), and Fairbanks (#3), topped our highest trending domestic destinations for July 4th. 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)

  • Los Angeles to San Francisco was the most popular rental car road-trip route, followed by Miami to Orlando, and Nashville to Atlanta. Miami to Orlando was also the most popular staycation pair, followed by Philadelphia to Ocean City and Dallas to Austin.

  • Travelers looking for deals may still be in luck: we most often found domestic flight deals for Austin, Bozeman, and Anchorage, and international flight deals for St. Thomas, Vienna, and Athens. 

Distance + Length of Stay

  • In 2021, travelers will on average fly 1437 miles, a 13% increase from the 1275 miles flown on average in 2020, but down about 20% from the 1769 miles flown on average in 2019. 

  • In the past three years, the average domestic travel length of stay was 5 days. The main difference between years is how long travelers stay at their international destination. This year, travelers heading internationally will stay 6 days on average, up from 5 days in 2020 but down from 7 days in 2021. 

  • Among the above regions, the longest stays on average in 2021 are for Egypt, where travelers departing July 4th weekend plan to spend an average of nearly two months (55 days). In 2019, this title went to the Philippines (49 days), and in 2020 it went to the Dominican Republic (20 days). 

Busiest Travel Days + Airports

  • We’re expecting Friday, July 2nd as the busiest travel day with 3.33m departing seats, which is just 50k more than Thursday. With most travelers sticking around for Sunday night’s fireworks, it’s Monday, July 5th that we predict will be the busiest day to return with around 3.34m seats flying. 

  • We’re expecting Chicago’s O’Hare to be the busiest airport this July 4th weekend, with 100k more departing seats than the next two busiest airports: Los Angeles (LAX) and Dallas Ft-Worth (DFW). O’Hare will be busiest Friday evening with around 21k departing seats heading out between 7:00-8:00PM. 

How does July 4th, 2021 compare to prior years?

Distance Traveled:

Travelers this year will venture further than they did in 2020 but not quite as far as 2019, based on bookings we’ve seen thus far for July 4th weekend. In 2021, travelers will on average fly 1437 miles, a 13% increase from the 1275 miles flown on average in 2020, but down about 20% from the 1769 miles flown on average in 2019. 

Distance Traveled
Figure 4: The average distance travelled for July 4th weekend in 2021 will be 1437 miles, up 13% from 2020 but down 20% from 2019.

The primary reason for the difference is international travel. Bookings for international travel make up 15% of our July 4th bookings thus far in 2021, compared to just 7% in 2020 and 27% in 2019. In 2019, travelers were more likely to book flights to Europe (9% of bookings), South America (2% of bookings), and Asia (2% of bookings), which both heavily influence the average distance travelled. In 2021, these percentages were down to 2%, 1%, and 0% respectively. 

Bookings by Destination
Figure 2: International travel is the main reason for the difference between years. In 2020, just 7% of bookings for July 4th were international flights, compared to 27% in 2019. This year, 15% of bookings thus far are for international flights. Mexico and Central America are more popular this year compared to 2019, and the Caribbean is about on par with 2019. Due to varying degrees of travel restrictions and federal guidance cautioning international travel, Canada, Asia, South America, and Europe will all see fewer July 4th bookings this year relative to 2019.

Length of Stay:

Since travelers’ length of stay at their destination correlates with whether they are traveling domestically or internationally (domestic trips tend to be shorter compared to international), the length of stay trends match closely with the distance travelled. In the past three years, the average domestic length of stay was 5 days. The main difference between years is how long travelers stay at their international destination. This year, travelers heading internationally will stay 6 days on average, up from 5 days in 2020 but down from 7 days in 2021. 

Average Length of Stay
Figure 3: Time spent at domestic destinations (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) is pretty consistently around 5 days over the years. Variation in length of stay tends to be for those international trips.

Those heading to Africa or the Middle East for July 4th weekend will spend 3.5 weeks there on average, compared to around 1 week for those heading to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean. Travelers heading to South America or Europe will spend around 2.5 weeks there. The length of stay at any of the regions is about equal with 2019 length of stays (give or take a day), with the exception of the Caribbean -- where travelers will spend 3 fewer days compared to 2019.  

Average Trip Length
Figure 4: (Selecting for regions that comprise at least 1% of bookings on Hopper so far for July 4th, 2021).

Among the above regions, the longest stays on average in 2021 are for Egypt, where travelers departing July 4th weekend plan to spend an average of nearly two months (55 days). In 2019, this title went to the Philippines (49 days), and in 2020 it went to the Dominican Republic (20 days). 

Busiest Travel Dates to Depart

This year July 4th falls on a Sunday, so we expect the weekdays leading up to it to be the busiest days to travel. Hopper is predicting Friday, July 2nd to edge out Thursday, July 1st as the busiest travel day with 3.33m departing seats, which is just 50k more than Thursday. We anticipate Thursday, July 1st and Friday, July 2nd will be the busiest travel days since the beginning of the pandemic.  

Busiest Travel Dates to Return

With most travelers sticking around for Sunday night’s fireworks, it’s Monday, July 5th that we predict will be the busiest day to return with around 3.34m seats flying. Wednesday, July 7th might just be slightly busier for return flights than Tuesday, July 6th by about 80k seats, likely due to travelers returning from longer length-of-stay international trips. 

Busiest Dates
Busiest travel dates expected over July 4th weekend.

Busiest Airports

We’re expecting Chicago’s O’Hare to be the busiest airport this July 4th weekend, with 100k more departing seats than the next two busiest airports: Los Angeles (LAX) and Dallas Ft-Worth (DFW). O’Hare will be busiest Friday evening with around 21k departing seats heading out between 7:00-8:00PM.

Busiest Airports
Airports expected to be busiest over July 4th weekend.

Nationwide, we’re expecting 7:00-8:00 AM (local time at each airport) to be the busiest time on average to depart on both Thursday, July 1st and Friday, July 2nd. This will vary by airport, especially for larger international hubs since longer-haul international flights tend to depart in the evening. There may be a slight midday lull at most airports following the morning crowds before another evening rush closer to 6:00PM. 

Compared to Memorial Day Weekend, Las Vegas and Orlando have dropped out of the Top 10 busiest airports whereas Houston and Newark have climbed in. 

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