A near-record 3.4 million Southern California residents are expected to travel over the Fourth of July holiday period, just 1% below the all-time high set in pre-pandemic 2019, the Automobile Club of Southern California predicted this week.

The anticipated number of travelers is up 4.4% from last year, according to the Auto Club.

“Travel demand has been steadily increasing since 2020, and this summer is poised to be one for the record books,” Heather Felix, the Auto Club’s vice president of travel products and services, said in a statement. “The most significant change we are noticing this year is the surging interest in international destinations. Travelers are booking their dream bucket-list trips, and due to the increased demand, we are advising them to plan well in advance and work with a trusted travel adviser.”

According to the Auto Club, roughly 2.7 million Southern Californians are expected to travel by automobile over the holiday, with 517,000 traveling by air and 253,000 relying on some other means, such as bus, train or cruise.

Nationally, nearly 51 million people are expected to travel, surpassing the 2019 record.

With the Fourth of July holiday falling on a Tuesday, the holiday travel period is defined as beginning Friday and ending on July 4.

For Southern California travelers, the top destinations are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, the Central Coast, Mexico and the Grand Canyon.

According to the traffic-analytics firm INRIX, the worst traffic congestion over the holiday period in Southern California is expected to occur Sunday evening on the 15 Freeway heading toward Las Vegas. The company estimated that the usual four-hour drive is likely to take six hours during that peak travel period.

Auto Club officials noted that gas prices are about $1.50 per gallon lower in Southern California that they were last year, but the average price is still at the second-highest level ever for the Fourth of July period.

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