Interstate 80 on DOT traffic camera.

Travel industry experts predict the upcoming Fourth of July holiday will be the busiest-ever for travel by car, truck, SUV and van in Iowa and nationwide, despite record or near-record gasoline prices.

Meredith Mitts, spokeswoman for AAA-Iowa, says the forecast predicts nearly 48-million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday, and 42-million will travel by motor vehicle.

“The entire year up to this point, we have seen this strong resurgence for travel as people really want to be able to get out and go and do all of these things that they haven’t been able to do the last few years,” Mitts says, “and there’s also the budget from a couple of years worth of canceled vacations that are now available to be used.”

The average price for gas in Iowa is now $4.68 a gallon, down from the all-time record set last Wednesday of $4.76. The national average is $4.94. A year ago, gas in Iowa was averaging $2.89. Based on past holiday history, Mitts says pump prices will likely bounce again before the Fourth of July arrives.

“Gas prices usually do increase around the holidays because there is that demand for travel and so many people are taking to the roads,” Mitts says. “Unfortunately, we cannot predict how high they will go. It will come down to largely how many people are traveling, how far away they’re going, and then what that oil price is at close-out per barrel.”

The demand for travel started rising earlier this year, she says, and it’s not tapering off. People are ready for a break, Mitts says, and despite higher prices, they’re still finding ways to take that much-needed vacation.

“Our top destinations this year are: Orlando, Florida; Seattle, Washington; New York, New York; Anaheim, California and Anchorage, Alaska,” Mitts says. “Unless, of course, you’re going internationally which is finally opening back up again, in which case we have: Vancouver, Canada, we have Paris, France; London, England; Rome, Italy and Amsterdam, Netherlands.”

While air travel is forecast to be slightly stronger than last year, domestic air travel volumes are expected to remain well below pre-pandemic levels. She blames recent issues with air travel and ongoing concerns of cancelations and delays due to pilot shortages.