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Planning a 4th of July Road Trip? Gas Prices Will Be at Their Highest Since 2008

More people will take a road trip during the 4th of July weekend this year, but gas will be at its highest price since 2008.
4th of July sales

Red is the color of hot dogs, White is the color of paper plates, and Blue is... well, maybe it's the color of your aunt's Jell-O salad that you'd rather take a pass on. But no matter how you slice the picnic pickins, or fire off the fireworks, the Independence Day holiday brings with it special celebrations that you can count on — literally.

This year's first numeral of national importance is three, as in 3-day weekend. The holiday falls on a Friday, which makes it ready made for an extended round of celebrating — and, in turn, an extended bout of perusing best 4th of July sales.

But before we whip out our credit cards, there are other 4th of July stats that are sure to pique curious consumer minds. We may not have the skinny on how many wiry guys will don Uncle Sam beards and suits, but we have a lead on other all-American activities, including traveling, spending, and the popping of pyrotechnics.

Americans on the Road: 41 Million

The fine motorin' folks at AAA have just released their stats for the Independence Day holiday weekend, and with 41 million people ready to hit the road, that's a jump of 1.9% over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year. It's also up nearly 14% over the 2014 Memorial Day holiday weekend. Eight in 10 people (34.8 million) will travel by automobile, the highest level since 2007.

And guess what? AAA defines the holiday weekend as Wednesday, July 2 through Sunday, July 6. So if you want to cut out of the office early, tell the boss it's the AAA way.

Price Americans Will Pay for Gas: About $3.68 Per Gallon

Maybe the constant fluctuations in gas prices have you thinking that there's nothing unusual about this figure. But taking the long view, AAA says that we're looking at the highest gas prices since 2008. In 2013, gas prices stood at $3.48 per gallon. If you're wondering why, AAA says that higher crude oil costs and the fighting in Iraq have played huge roles. People may make up for this by dining out less or using credit cards more, AAA reports.

What Consumers Will Spend on Fireworks: About $611 Million

In 2013, consumers lit up cash registers by purchasing $662 million in fireworks over the course of the year. Julie L. Heckman, Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, tells us that 90% went for 4th of July fireworks, or about $596 million. If the projections of the APA hold up, we're looking at Americans spending $611 million on 4th of July fireworks; that's an explosive increase.

The Biggest Fireworks Display You Can Buy: 500 Grams

The APA's Heckman tells us that there's a particular pyrotechnic out there called the "500 gram cake." While that might sound like a carb count for dessert, this device is definitely eye candy. "These items fly off the shelves," she says. "They're in all sorts of configurations, but the most shots I've seen that one can fire off is 205." It's called the "Phandemonium," which is described as "a panoramic volley of red, white, and blue that bursts into chrysanthemums and a surprising finale." As Heckman says, "Boy, is this a performer. I have to go buy that one."

Total Spending on Barbecues, Picnics, and Cookouts: $6.2 Billion

The National Retail Federation estimates that out of more than 153 million consumers celebrating, nearly two-thirds will break out the grub family style, which is naturally conducive to cookouts and picnics. Now what if you took all the hot dog buns and hot dogs, and piled them into two separate towers? Would they reach the moon? Regardless, you'd never manage the impossible feat of getting the pre-packaged buns to match the pre-packaged hot dogs.

Your Independence Day Picnic or Cookout: $68.16

That per-household number, once again from the NRF, marks a big jump over previous years. (In 2011, it was $61.16.) Now you might find yourself getting hungry just thinking about all the goodies you'll gulp down. But please, save some room, because as everyone knows, it's kinda hard to win the watermelon seed-spitting contest on a full stomach.

Estimated Attendees for the Macy's Fireworks: More Than 3 Million

Now in its 38th year, New York City's fireworks display returns to the East River. And in a quintessential display of Big Apple bravado, the City of New York is billing it as "the nation's largest display of patriotic firepower." It will be quite the show, with about 70,000 pounds of fireworks used and the combined use of the Brooklyn Bridge and barges as launching points.

So with another 4th of July within our sights, here's to all the liberties we enjoy and the happiness we can pursue. Light up your sparklers, pass the barbecue sauce, and remember that our founding fathers, even for all their courage and patriotism, never had it so good. And if weren't for them, we wouldn't have it this good either.

Readers, how will you celebrate this year? Will you have a cookout, watch fireworks, and shop the 4th of July sales? Let us know if the comments below!

Contributing Writer

Lou Carlozo is a DealNews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth. Prior to that he was the Managing Editor of WalletPop.com, and a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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