With Almost 47 Million Americans Traveling for Independence Day, Traffic Could Be a Nightmare

More than 1 million Massachusetts residents are expected to hit the road for the holiday, according to AAA.

Cars in gridlock

Photo via iStock/Grafissimo

You’ve got your outfit planned, your Airbnb booked, and your favorite rendition of “America the Beautiful” on your road trip Spotify playlist. Independence Day weekend is just around the corner, and ready or not, the traffic is coming.

Nearly 47 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles for the Fourth of July holiday, AAA estimates, and 39.7 million vacationers plan to hit the road to get away. With so many cars, there’s bound to be some bumper-to-bumper backups, and if you’re one of the 1.1 million Massachusetts residents getting behind the wheel next month, you’ll want to plan your departure time carefully so you don’t spend the holiday in gridlock.

The worst time to leave Boston, according to AAA, is between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on July 3. If you set out then, the insurance company predicts it’ll take you 1.8-times longer to reach your destination, turning your two-hour ride to the Berkshires into a three-and-a-half-hour slog.

Mary Maguire, the director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Massachusetts, says the strong economy has a lot to do with the high volume of vacationers. With lower gas prices, people can afford to drive farther and have a little more spending money once they reach their destinations.

Boston, of course, draws huge crowds for Independence Day, and millions of revelers have enjoyed the Pops Fireworks Spectacular since it began more than 40 years ago. And yet, despite how packed the Hub will inevitably feel, Massachusetts is not one of the spots AAA expects travelers to flood this Independence Day. Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, home to Disney World and Land, respectively, are predicted to see the most tourists during the upcoming holiday. Seattle; Anchorage, Alaska; and Honolulu round out the top-five destinations.

Cross-country trips may be more attractive among vacationers this year because the Fourth falls on a Wednesday. With the chance to turn a long weekend into an even longer break, a sojourn to the West Coast or down to Florida can seem far more manageable.

“The fact that July 4 falls on a Wednesday gives people some really nice flexibility to take two days off before or after the holiday,” Maguire says. “If you tack on those extra days and you have five days to make a trip, then D.C., Niagara Falls, or a place in the Midwest becomes a lot more feasible.”

Of course, even though Mickey Mouse and friends will surely put on a dazzling display of pomp and circumstance, nothing beats the red, white, and boom of fireworks in historic Boston.