More N.C. residents planning to travel for July Fourth weekend
By Catharin Shepard and Laura Collins
Published in News on July 1, 2010 1:46 PM
Gaby Blalock places American flags at the Tabernacle Pentecostal Church in Goldsboro. July 4th is this Sunday. Ms. Blalock plans to spend this holiday weekend with her family, giving thanks for God and her country. Many other residents are planning to travel to mark this Independence Day weekend.
Fourth of July travel has a slightly different meaning for Jim and Bonnie Rinehart this year.
"It means celebrating independence and freedom. And now that the kids are grown, we have even more freedom," Mrs. Rinehart said, laughing with her husband.
The couple celebrated the Fourth of July with their family in a local way in previous years, they said. But this year, with the children out of the house -- and more money in the bank -- they will be trying something new.
"We're going to go down to the beach and fish off the pier. That was our plan," Mrs. Rinehart said.
Usually the couple go to Pine Level for the Independence Day fireworks, but a slowly improving economy made them decide to pack their bags and hit the road.
"We have the money," Rinehart said.
"To get away from family," Mrs. Rinehart added.
They join other North Carolinians expected to take advantage of stable gas prices and travel out of town for the holiday weekend -- in greater numbers than reported since before the 2008 recession, according to AAA Carolinas motor club.
Fourth of July travel in North Carolina is expected to be up by 12 percent compared to last year. More than 930,000 residents are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home over the weekend. Increased consumer confidence and pent-up travel demand are behind the increase, AAA Carolinas president and chief executive officer David E. Parsons said.
"Gas prices are stable compared to last year. A lot of people chose not to take an extended July 4th vacation last year, and this year are showing increased economic optimism," Parsons said.
The average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.627, up two cents from last July 4th weekend.
The number of travelers flying to their destinations is also expected to increase by 3.8 percent from last year. About 37,500 N.C. residents will take to the state's airports, still a significant decrease from the 86,000 plane passengers on average who traveled over the Fourth of July holiday before the 2008 recession. Average round-trip airfare from airports in the state is $237, compared to a nationwide average of $192.
The most popular destinations for North Carolina travelers are Myrtle Beach, Washington, Atlanta, Charleston and Charlotte, according to AAA Carolinas.
Tony Hicks, of Goldsboro, isn't wasting any time this holiday weekend. He, along with his wife and another couple, plan to use the long weekend to spend some time camping. They haven't finalized the destination, but said he plans to head east toward the water for the holiday.
"My dad used to make sure that we all went camping a couple times during the summer when we were younger, and I'm just trying to get back to that," he said.
He added that he hopes his wife, who is not an avid camper "to say the least," won't want to end the trip early.
"I'm trying to make sure I have everything to make it as comfortable as possible," he said. "Once she realizes that it's going to be very different than staying in a hotel, she might come to enjoy it."
Another Goldsboro resident, Scott Beamon, was filling up his tank Wednesday night so he would be ready to hit the road right after work today. Beamon was meeting friends in Myrtle Beach for the holiday.
"Last year, I decided to stay close to home (for the Fourth of July), but we decided a couple months ago that this year we were making the trip," he said.
He said the guys' weekend, "which unfortunately includes some girls," will be a nice and much-needed break.
"We're pretty much just going to hang out on the beach and hopefully catch some fireworks before the weekend is over," he said.