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High expectations for Fourth of July holiday weekend

Fourth of July fireworks displays are scheduled throughout the region on Saturday. In this photo from last year, pyrotechnics are seen over the bridge leading to the Port of Miami as people watch from the Museum Park in Miami.
Fourth of July fireworks displays are scheduled throughout the region on Saturday. In this photo from last year, pyrotechnics are seen over the bridge leading to the Port of Miami as people watch from the Museum Park in Miami. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

All signs point to celebrations — and packed highways, full hotels and crowded beaches — this Independence Day.

According to a projection from AAA, this holiday period between Wednesday and Sunday is expected to be the busiest since 2007, with an estimated 41.9 people traveling 50 or more miles from home nationwide.

In South Florida, tourism promoters say they expect to see plenty of that business.

According to an early survey of Miami-Dade hotels, occupancy is expected to be higher than last year, at about 81 percent between Thursday and Sunday. On Miami Beach, that figure is 88 percent, according to William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“It’s all good,” Talbert said. “Gas prices are down, the economy’s doing better. The destination couldn’t be hotter.”

On Monday, AAA said gas prices will likely be the lowest in five years for a July 4th holiday.

Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said lower gas prices will be just one of the factors that gives Broward a boost. Sports events, competitions and conferences in town for the weekend have increased hotel demand. And several hotels have reported that they are hosting destination weddings on Independence Day — “which makes perfect sense in this country right now,” Grossman said.

“Straight and gay, there’ll be weddings galore,” she said.

Grossman said nearly 40 hotels in Broward have sold out and another 25 expect to sell out.

“It’s a glorious fourth,” she said.

For those traveling afar or staying close to home, here are some tips for making the most out of the holiday:

▪ Still seeking a place to go for the long weekend? Personal finance site Wallet Hub crunched some numbers — duration of fireworks shows, average gas prices, weather forecasts — and ranked the best and worst cities for the Fourth of July at http://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-cities-for-july-4th/4651/. No. 1 pick: Minneapolis. In Florida, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Miami and Orlando were all in the top 40.

▪ For those whose holiday plans involve air travel, the Transportation Security Administration offers a reminder: “Fireworks are prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.” That includes bottle rockets, poppers, sparklers and snaps.

▪ AAA projects that 35.5 million people around the country will drive 50 miles or more from home between Wednesday and Sunday — and the travel club expects to rescue nearly 360,000 motorists on the side of the road during that stretch because of dead batteries, flat tires, locked doors and other reasons. The agency urged drivers to inspect their vehicle and check the condition of their battery and tires before hitting the road for the holiday.

▪ For last-minute hotel stays, travelers can search options such as the “Book Tonight-Only” feature on Priceline’s app or the HotelTonight app.

▪ Locals have plenty of reasons to stick around South Florida with parties, concerts and other events scheduled throughout the holiday and fireworks displays all around the region. Although beach hotels seem to be capitalizing on holiday demand, a search of off-beach hotels over the weekend shows bargain prices including $189 a night at the Viceroy Miami and $164 a night at the Sonesta in Coconut Grove.

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