Travelers pack Chicago airports during busiest holiday travel day

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Holiday travelers pack Chicago airports and roads on the busiest holiday travel day of the season. (WLS)

The holiday rush is on Tuesday in what is expected to be a record-setting travel day in the air and on the roads in the Chicago area.

At O'Hare International Airport Tuesday morning thousands of travelers packed the terminals, many literally pushing their way through the crowds. By the afternoon the crowds had thinned but many people weren't taking any chances.

"I knew it was going to be busy so I'm two and a half hours ahead today," said Ariel Martens. "You have to. It's one of the busiest days, right?"

The Chicago Department of Aviation expects more than 4.2 million passengers to travel through O'Hare and Midway airports through Tuesday, Jan. 6.

"At O'Hare, it's up 3 percent over last year as far as the holiday travel period. It's up 9 percent at Midway," said Karen Pride, of the aviation department.

For an added layer of security, the Transportation Security Administration deployed more than 800 canine teams nationwide. The dogs sniff the air through the terminal to detect explosives. TSA says the canine units also help speed up security lines during a particularly crowded time.

Passengers can also help to keep TSA lines moving by waiting to wrap Christmas presents until after they are through security.

"If you bring your presents and you're taking them home to family and friends, you don't want to have it wrapped because it's likely than when you go through security all that wrapping and effort will be for naught," said Pride. "We have complimentary gift wrapping at both airports."

To help spread the holiday cheer, there will be live music at O'Hare during the day on Tuesday and free hot chocolate at Midway on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are also a record number of travelers who are driving. AAA expects 98.6 million Americans to travel 50 miles or more during this holiday season - about 4 percent more than last year. AAA attributes the upward trend in part to an improving economy and lower gas prices.

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