Gasoline prices are up slightly from a year ago, but travel forecasters are expecting a large boost in the number of vacationers who will be hitting the road for the Fourth of July weekend. Rose White, spokeswoman for Triple-A-Iowa, says it’ll be the busiest Independence Day weekend in several years.

Triple-A projects the number of Americans traveling during the holiday weekend will rise more than 17% from 2009, with nearly 35-million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, fewer than 30-million Americans traveled during that same holiday weekend. For the weekend ahead, Triple-A projects 90% of the travelers will be heading for their destinations in motor vehicles. White says the projections are up, despite a modest hike in prices at the pump.

Fuel prices are up about a nickel a gallon compared to last year and are averaging about $2.75 for self-service unleaded. White says as the economies in the state and nation have improved, so have people’s attitudes about spending money on luxuries like travel. Last summer, she reminds, the mood wasn’t so light.

“We have to look back to last year which, basically, during July was considered the middle part of the Great Recession,” White says. “High unemployment coupled with bank closures, collapsing home values and a plunging stock market, meant many people were taking ‘stay-cations’ and staying closer to home.” She says the travel forecast calls for this July 4th weekend to beat last year — and the year before.

White says, “If you look back to July of 2008, at that time we were paying record high fuel prices, averaging $4.10 a gallon across the Midwest.” The current average gas price in Iowa is $2.67 a gallon. The national average is $2.75.