Local

Chicago roads, airports busy with travelers

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Most Chicago-area travelers are experiencing a smooth takeoff to their Thanksgiving holiday.

They are part of the more than 42 million people expected to fly, drive and ride the rails across the country this week. According to AAA, that's the biggest number since the start of the recession.

But they will be paying a higher price. Fuel prices are pushing up the cost of holiday travel.

Despite the bad economy, travel experts say Thanksgiving is the one holiday where people are willing to spend the money to go see their families, and thanks to good weather Wednesday in Chicago, things have been going smoothly at O'Hare Airport.

From sailors to skateboarders, it's time to go home. On leave for the first time since joining the Navy, Justin Uzzle is headed to San Diego for 10 days.

"I'm just thankful to have a home to go home to," said Uzzle.

And so is professional skateboarder Kristian Svitak. After completing a Midwest tour, he and his buddies are going their separate ways.

"I got the rental van returned and everybody has their tickets to get home...now all I have to do is get on the plane and go to sleep," Svitak said.

Sleep is exactly what Dan and Natalie Nadler hope their 9-month-old daughter will do. This is their baby's first trip on plane.

"Just hoping that she doesn't cry, that she stays calm, that our fellow passengers like us," said Natalie.

Over 200,000 passengers are expected to pass through O'Hare Wednesday, making it the busiest day for the airport during the holiday weekend, and despite higher airfares and a lousy economy, there is actually a 4 percent increase in the number of people traveling.

"Thanksgiving is that holiday that tends to defy the economics in that people are going to travel to see their family and friends no matter what," said Beth Mosher, AAA Chicago.

There are a few things that are making it much easier for passengers this year. The TSA is no longer making kids take their shoes off, which is making security lines a bit quicker.

Travelocity is tracking the lines and tweeting about it to passengers.

"We had a big rush early this morning&What we are seeing is the waits have been around 10-12 minutes," said Travelocity's Jel Stewart.

And if you don't want to wait in line for food at the airport, HMSHost has developed the "B4 you fly" app. With a click of a few buttons on your phone, airport restaurants will deliver your order for free.

"It's on the iPhone and all Android phones, and it's free," said TSA expert Justin Oberman.

Free is important, especially since airfares have gone up this year. However, there is one city in the top 10 destinations where it does not cost more to fly to: Chicago.

While most people are choosing to fly or drive this holiday season, others are relying on trains and buses. Amtrak says Wednesday is its busiest single travel day of the year. The rail line is operating every available passenger rail car in its fleet to meet demand.

Greyhound has also seen an increase in customers. The bus service says it expects to transport more than 1.4 million people home for the holidays.

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