While some people were stocking up on burgers and sparklers for July Fourth celebrations Wednesday afternoon, Randy and Pat of Hagerstown were at Advance Auto Parts on Dual Highway browsing for tires and spark plugs.
They were getting their van ready for a trip to Skyline Drive in Virginia, where they planned to spend the holiday weekend relaxing in the Blue Ridge Mountains and visiting a parent’s grave, said Randy, who did not want to give his last name for fear of attracting burglars while they are out of town.
The couple is among nearly 760,000 Marylanders — or about 13 percent of the state’s population — projected to travel on vacation this holiday weekend, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit member-service club for motorists.
Of those travelers, about 86 percent are expected to take to the road while about 8 percent will fly, AAA projects. They will log an average of 613 miles round-trip.
Although the number of travelers is down slightly from last year’s July Fourth weekend, overall travel is expected to be “robust” compared to the 2008 and 2009 holidays, bringing the fourth-highest travel volume in the past 10 years, AAA said.
AAA expects gas prices to average between $3.50 and $3.60 a gallon through the weekend.
While nearly a dollar higher than this time last year, gas prices have dropped nearly 40 cents per gallon since peaking in early May and remain more than 50 cents lower than the all-time record set nearly three years ago, AAA said.
In Hagerstown, gas prices averaged $3.63 a gallon for regular unleaded as of June 26, according to AAA.
A nationwide survey found that of those intending to travel over the holiday weekend, 56 percent said gas prices would not impact their travel plans, AAA reported.
Of the remaining 44 percent, three out of 10 are planning to take a shorter trip or travel by a different mode of transportation, and seven out of 10 will economize in other areas, the report said.
For Marylanders, average round-trip distance is expected to drop 12 percent compared to last year’s estimated 700-mile average trip, according to AAA.
Air travel by Marylanders is projected to increase by nearly 20 percent over last year’s July Fourth weekend, AAA said.
That’s good news for Hagerstown Regional Airport, which last week introduced a new twice-weekly air service to Myrtle Beach and the Tampa-Orlando area.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Direct Air flight departing Hagerstown Thursday was 87 percent booked, with 121 of the 139 seats taken, Hagerstown Regional Airport Director Phil Ridenour said.