Coloradans continue to travel in high numbers, despite a sharp increase in costs from a year ago. Compared to a national increase in travel of 1.2 percent, Coloradans will be taking to the skies, highways and waterways at a rate of 29 percent higher than last year during the July 4 holiday weekend (June 30 - July 4).
The Fourth of July is traditionally the biggest travel weekend of the summer because it's the first major weekend after schools close. This year the holiday falls on a Tuesday, so people may make it a five-day weekend.
Six percent more people in Colorado will fly to their holiday destination compared to last year, reflecting a higher number (estimated 80 percent) of travelers opting to drive or stay in locations closer to home.
"A lot of people in Colorado are taking advantage of package deals to places like Las Vegas or Disneyland - 38 percent more than last year," said Sandra Barnes, Director of Travel Services for AAA Colorado.
Hotel bookings are down 6 percent and car rentals are down 41 percent, which suggests people are still looking for ways to cut vacation costs by driving their own cars to offset gas prices and by staying with family and friends, according to Barnes.
Holiday auto travelers will find an average gasoline price of $2.86 nationally and $2.84 in Colorado, up about 67 cents from a year ago. Gasoline prices, which have so far resisted the broad decline in stock and commodity prices of recent weeks, could soon be moving a bit lower, according to AAA.
AAA's Leisure Travel Index shows other vacation costs up from last Fourth of July. Hotel rates are averaging 10 percent higher, airfares are up 7 percent and car rental rates are up 5 percent.
All travelers heading into Colorado's mountain destinations should be aware of fire bans in most locations due to extremely dry conditions.
"So far, we don't see a correlation between the five current wildfires in our state and people's plans changing," said Alexa Gromko, Manager of Public Relations for AAA Colorado. "It's best for travelers to be aware of the conditions, pack and plan accordingly, and be careful."
As of Thursday afternoon, there were no wildfires in Grand County.
So, where are Coloradans heading this holiday weekend? The top in-state destinations are mountain markets including Summit County, Steamboat Springs, Aspen and Vail.