For the first time, the number of Independence Day holiday travelers will exceed 5 million statewide and 3.1 million in the Southland, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California [AAA].

Travel is expected to increase by 2.8 percent statewide and in Southern California compared to last year’ Fourth of July holiday, according to an AAA statement. An Independence Day holiday trip is defined as one of 50 miles away from home between Friday and Tuesday, July 4.

Seventy-nine percent of Southern California travelers, or 2.5 million, are expected to drive to their holiday destinations, which is a 2.7 percent increase from last year, while 395,000 are projected to fly, a 5.6 percent increase from last year’ holiday. Almost 260,000 Southland residents are expected to go by train, cruise ship, bus or other means on their trips—about the same amount as last year.

Gas prices averages are now just about 10 cents more than prices last year at this time, and most pump prices for regular unleaded are under $3 a gallon.

According to a survey of AAA Travel agents, the top five destinations for Southern Californians this holiday are, in the following order, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and Santa Barbara.

“Travelers continue to feel confident that they have the discretionary income to spend on trips because of rising wages and lower unemployment,” said Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel. “Strong growth in air travel also indicates a full recovery from the recession of 2008 and 2009.”

Nationally, an all-time record of 44.2 million Americans are expected to celebrate the Fourth of July on a trip, which is an increase of 2.9 percent over last year. Of the total, 37.5 million will go by car, 3.44 million will fly and 3.27 million will go by other means. Travelers on average are paying about 10 percent less for airfares compared to this time last year, according to the AAA.