In projections reminiscent of pre-pandemic travel statistics, AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates that 1.3 million New Jerseyans will venture 50 miles or more from home at some point during the upcoming Independence Day weekend.

Public and government affairs manager Tracy Noble said for AAA's purposes, this holiday weekend begins Thursday, with heavy travel expected as early as mid-afternoon.

And with the Fourth of July falling on Monday, some may have opted to take vacation all the way through next week.

"It speaks volumes to the fact that people have pent-up energy to travel," Noble said. "They might have put their vacation plans on hold for the last two years, and they are coming back at it this year with a vengeance."

Another sign that those in the Garden State are leaving COVID-19 concerns behind, at least for now, is the 151.5% forecasted increase in alternative modes of transportation such as trains, buses, and ferries.

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That only amounts to about 5% of overall travelers from New Jersey, or less than 67,000 people, but Noble admits the percentage jump is eye-popping given the declines of the last two years.

"That's up significantly, and really shows you where we are in terms of people's comfort level regarding COVID," she said.

Those planning to fly away for the long weekend make up less than 10% of New Jersey vacationers, and represent smaller than a 3% bump from last year.

But given recent snags with flight cancellations and delays, the vast majority of travelers plan to get to their destinations by car — 1.1 of the 1.3 million across the state, virtually unchanged from 2021.

Noble said that's not necessarily surprising, despite gas prices that even with a recent decrease remain around $4.90 per gallon on average in New Jersey.

"People are not going to be discouraged from taking their summer vacation," Noble said. "They've planned for it, they've booked it well in advance, and despite the gas prices, they're still going."

And although the average price is half again as much as it was one year ago (around $3.13), hopping in the car is still the most cost-effective choice, according to Noble.

"Even adding the higher gas prices, if you're a family of four or five that needs to get to a destination, car travel is still the cheapest way to do that," she said.

If going by car, Noble said the time is now to inspect vehicles and make sure everything is in working order before the weekend.

She also suggests exploring planned routes and figuring out back ways that may avoid crowded highways, and arriving safely by limiting distractions and telling everyone to buckle up.

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