LOS ANGELES -

In spite of high gas prices, 2.88 million Southern Californians -- an increase from last year -- are expected to travel for the Fourth of July weekend, starting Thursday.

The Automobile Club of Southern California says the number of Southlanders who'll travel away from home, mostly on road trips, is up 1.5 percent compared to last year.

The Independence Day holiday comes as gas prices are expected to reach levels not seen since 2008. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline has risen 4.4 cents over the past eight days, including one-tenth of a cent on Tuesday, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service. It is 3.5 cents more than one week ago, 2.1 cents higher than one month ago and 12.2 cents greater than one year ago.

Across California, 4.64 million people are expected to travel over the holiday weekend, which is also a 1.5 percent increase last year. Nationally, 41 million are expected to travel, which is up 1.9 percent over last year, according to AAA's forecast.

According to a survey of AAA Travel agents, the top five destinations for Southern Californians this holiday are San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco and California's Central Coast, from Santa Barbara to Monterey.