Holiday travel up as more drivers hit the roads

December 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

AAA expects 4.25 million Illinois drivers to hit the road over the holiday season.

Thursday is one of busiest travel days at O'Hare Airport. Despite gray skies at O'Hare, it was mostly green lights in the terminal.

"It was great. We had a direct flight. We didn't have any delays, got our baggage here. And we're good to go," said Kimberlee Misek, air passenger.

The Yacoub family was headed to Puerto Rico. "That's just going to be a great place. No snow, no cold weather, probably the beach every week," said Iyad Yacoub.

Compared to last year, fewer people are flying this Christmas but overall holiday travel is up as more drivers hit the roads. Police this week have increased patrols.

"If you drive impaired or unbuckled, expect to be caught. These messages and the boost in enforcement are planned in order to save lives in Illinois," said Bob Park, Illinois Dept. of Transportation.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is down 20 cents from Thanksgiving but up 20 cents compared to last Christmas.

"I might get a little bit of gas at a more expensive gas station in the neighborhood, and then I'll go out to Indiana or a little further to fill up all the way," said motorist Miyiti Sengstacke.

Gas prices and higher airfares may be why Amtrak is expecting record numbers this holiday season. The Greyhound station in the West Loop was also busy Thursday.

"I'm just going to read. I'm actually looking forward to it, gonna get some stuff done. I don't have to drive, so that's nice," said Matt Mayerle, Greyhound passenger.

Cincinnati-bound bus passenger Ian Simpson said he's saving $200 over a plane ticket.

"It's less expensive. It's less stressful than having to travel to the airport and have to deal with people flying places," said Simpson. "I've had a pretty good experience. This is my first time."

For some, however, flying is the only option. With Santa at O'Hare to spread Christmas cheer, many were in the holiday mood.

"We were looking forward to some snow. White Christmas, you know. But maybe we'll get lucky," said Misek.

Officials suggest getting to the airport early. They tell passengers not to wrap presents. O'Hare is offering free gift wrapping and Midway is offering the same service on Friday when it has its busiest travel day of the month.

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