Busy day ahead on Chicago-area roads

December 23, 2011 11:53:40 AM PST
If you plan on driving Friday, expect lots of company. Chicago-area roadways will be packed with people traveling for the holidays.

Friday is expected to be the busiest day on the roads this holiday season. According to AAA, 4.25 million Illinois drivers will choose to drive to their destinations. That's a 2-percent increase. The numbers are higher nationwide because of a slow improvement in the economy.

Although experts say air travel is down approximately 10 percent this year, you still need to pack some patience if you are heading to one of Chicago's airports.

"Airfares are up about 21 percent from where they were last year. They are actually at their highest for the holiday season in about five years," said AAA spokesperson Nick Jarmusz.

Crowds had already started building at a O'Hare International Airport by 6 a.m., and security lines were getting longer. Airline passengers are advised to allow plenty of extra time and to skip wrapping gifts before they go through security. Both Chicago airports provide complimentary gift-wrapping services after travelers pass through the checkpoints.

Severe weather in the West and South could also cause some air travel problems.

Thursday was the busiest day at O'Hare, and Friday will be the busiest at Midway Airport. Two point seven million people will be passing throught Chicago airports this season.

Drivers, on the other hand, are warned authorities will be conducting roadside safety checks through New Year's Day. A stop in Lincolnwood Thursday led to drug arrests and seatbelt violations.

The Gruber family is on a holiday hiatus from work. Their road trip started in Michigan. They stopped at the Des Plaines Oasis, and they'll spend Christmas in Minnesota. Then, it's off to Nashville for the new year.

"No problems so far. Actually it's been pretty smooth. Getting to Chicago was fine. It's going to be probably around 11 hours total," said Aaron Gruber.

"It is nice to have your own car, especially when you have little kids. You can pack food and movies and all that kind of stuff," Sarah Gruber said.

AAA says gas prices on average are about 20 cents higher than last year. Some prices actually spiked overnight. At some gas stations, it was a significant hike.

But people are determined to see their loved one for Christmas. Traveler Joel Tooke was on the road to meet his fiancee's family.

"It's going to be interesting," he said.

Back at O'Hare, Peter Phul Vanzendernen, an exchange student, was not in such a good mood after losing his passport on a bus. With some help from Santa Claus, American Airlines and embassy officials, he might just have Christmas dinner with his family in the Netherlands.

"I'm going to file a police report. At first they weren't so helpful but in the end they came through and changed my flight for free so that is pretty awesome," Vanzendernen said.

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