CHICAGO (STMW) — Nearly 35 million U.S. drivers will be taking road trips this Fourth of July holiday weekend — the highest number since 2007 — and they will be paying the price for it.

Nationally, gas prices were at a six-year high for this time of year, hitting a U.S. average Tuesday of $3.67 a gallon for unleaded regular, according to AAA officials and the travel company’s daily fuel gage report. That’s up 18 cents from a year ago.

READ MORE: Kyle Lowry Scores 19 Points, Heat Beat Bulls 107-104

Average regular gasoline prices were even higher Tuesday in Illinois, at $3.83; in the Chicago area, at $3.98; and in Chicago, at $4.23.

And all those prices were up from a year ago — just as AAA predicted that more Americans would be journeying 50 miles or more by car this Independence Day than on any other Fourth of July in the last seven years.

Across all modes of travel, 41 million Americans were expected to venture at least 50 miles this holiday, 80 percent of them by car.

In Illinois, 2.3 million Independence Day weekend travelers were expected, up 2.2 percent from last year, said Charlene Sligting, a AAA-Chicago spokeswoman.

And 2 million of them were expected to hit the road in a car, Sligting said.

READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Breezy With A Little More Sunshine

Despite the pain at the pump, travelers are cutting corners in other ways, said Sligting.

“They are not eating out as frequently, packing meals, maybe staying with relatives,’’ Sligting said. “People also are going to national parks.’’

With kids out of school, Sligting said, families are heading to campgrounds because it “provides something fun for the family to do.’’

Americans seem more ready then in past years to hit the road and put it on the charge card, said AAA national spokeswoman Heather Hunter.

“As the overall economy continues to improve at a slow but steady pace, we’ve also seen an increase in consumer spending that outpaces the increase in income, so people are more comfortable taking on debt because they are more optimistic about their future financial situation,’’ Hunter said.

MORE NEWS: 'Success Absolutely Means Survival At This Point': Local Shops Inch Toward Recovery On Small Business Saturday

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)