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July 4th Weekend Sets New Record with 3M Travelers

The numbers don't lie: More Americans are traveling than ever. 

Summer 2024 continues to smash travel records. As expected, the Fourth of July holiday weekend set another daily passenger record with more than 3 million passengers moving through U.S. airports for the first time, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

It's not just a one-off busy day: All 10 of the busiest days in U.S. travel history have occurred within the last year – and over half of them within just the last few weeks. Travel demand doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon, either. 

What does sharing the skies with 3 million or more fellow travelers mean for you? Airlines and airports alike swear they're ready to handle the continuing crowds – and they've done a good job of keeping millions of travelers a day moving so far, without the meltdowns we saw in summers past.

Still, it pays to be prepared. Here's what to expect if you're heading to the airport later this summer – and how you can get ahead.

 

Prepare for Crowds, Arrive Early

We've said it before but we have to say it again: We're in the heart of the busiest stretch of travel yet.

Heading into the always-hectic Fourth of July weekend, the TSA's data shows that seven of the top 10 busiest days in travel history took place in June 2024. And Sunday's new record high of 3,013,413 people screened at airport security checkpoints nationwide smashed the previous record set just a few weeks ago, on June 23. 

 

 

 

TSA top 10 busiest travel days
Data provided by the TSA

 

Whether you're heading to the airport in the next few days or not until later this summer, give yourself plenty of time. It's better to have more time at your gate – or to relax in an airport lounge – than risk missing your flight and ruining your trip.

Read next: Get Into an Airport Lounge Faster with These Tips!

Airport security checkpoints inevitably get backed up during busy travel periods – and having TSA PreCheck or CLEAR isn't always a guarantee for a speedy trip through security. To be safe, add at least 30 to 45 minutes to your typical airport routine. 

Is TSA PreCheck not showing up on your boarding pass? Here's what you can do

 

Travel with Only a Carry-on Bag

Save yourself even more time at the airport by packing in just a carry-on bag. Queues to check or drop off luggage have been a major pain point lately, and there looks to be no relief as the summer wears on. 

Especially during peak travel seasons like summer, opting not to check a bag means you won't have to wait in line to drop it off, wait for it at baggage claim, or worry about the airline losing your luggage. Plus, by packing in just a carry-on bag, you can easily check in for your flight online. Then, just pull up your boarding pass on your smartphone and head straight for the security line.

Not convinced you can fit it all in one suitcase? Follow our tips for how to pack a carry-on bag for any trip!

 

Watch Your Airline & Track Your Flight

Fortunately, the recurring airline meltdowns we suffered a few summers ago seem to be a thing of the past … but you never know. 

Schedule changes and bad weather can strike without warning. When you're traveling over busy periods like summer – and especially over a holiday weekend, it pays to be vigilant. 

“We're more than ready,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian promised in an interview with CBS last week, saying the almost equally busy Memorial Day travel weekend proved the airline industry was up to the task for the busy Fourth of July holiday weekend. “COVID was pretty bumpy, getting the airlines back up … but our team is back, they're stronger than ever.”

Still, you should start keeping tabs on whether there have been any changes to your reservation ASAP. Downloading your airline's app to monitor your flights is a must, but one tool is even better to track your flights: Flighty Pro. You'll get instant push alerts about any schedule changes, delays, or cancellations to any flights in your queue.

Read our full review to see why the Flighty Pro app is our favorite travel tool right now!

It also pays to monitor FlightAware.com‘s daily dashboard of delays and cancellations to scope out your airline in the days leading up to your departure for potential warning signs. If you're flying on Monday and FlightAware shows your airline is struggling on Saturday and Sunday, there's a good chance those disruptions are going to continue.

 

Flight Aware delays and cancelations July 8

 

If the worst happens and your flight is delayed or canceled, don't just stand in a long line to speak with a gate agent or employees at check-in. Call up your airline while you wait and slide into their DMs on social media, too. If you've got airport lounge access, it's also worth heading to the Delta Sky Club, American Admirals Club, or United Club to see if a lounge agent can help you.

Remember: If an airline cancels (or significantly delays) your flight, you can cancel your reservation and get a full refund – not just a voucher or credit that expires in a year, but your money back. You can use that money to rebook a last-minute flight to get where you need to go or pocket it for a future trip.

 

Plan Ahead for Summer Travel

Even if you're not planning to travel until later this summer, there are still things you can do now to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

  • Book your flight for as early in the day as you can. Data shows the earlier your flight departs, the better odds you have of getting on and off the ground on time. That's because airlines' (or airports') problems can stack up throughout the day, resulting in disruptions in later flights.
  • Monitor your flight and rebook if the price drops. We're seeing flight prices, especially domestically, drop as summer closes in. Now's the time to set a Google Flights price alert for your flights (if you haven't already) so you can rebook and save.
  • Sign up for TSA PreCheck or CLEAR. TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are two programs that make the process of getting through airport security faster and far less stressful. And they can be invaluable during busy travel periods like the summer months.

 

security checkpoint at msp airport 

See all our tips to travel like a pro this summer

 

Bottom Line

Heading to the airport soon? You won't be alone – not even close. 

The Fourth of July travel weekend smashed records yet again, but summer travel demand shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. That's a recipe for some longer lines, full planes, and more issues at airports all around the country, no matter when you hit the skies next.

 

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