It’s a clean sweep: Travel is down for all major holidays this year. About 63.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the Christmas holiday, AAA Chicago said, a 2.1 percent decrease from last year. It’s the fifth straight major holiday to see a decline and the first time Christmas travel has dropped since 2002.
It’s a clean sweep: Travel is down for all major holidays this year.
About 63.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the Christmas holiday, AAA Chicago said, a 2.1 percent decrease from last year. It’s the fifth straight major holiday to see a decline and the first time Christmas travel has dropped since 2002.
“Earlier this year, it was gas prices that kept people home,” AAA Chicago spokeswoman Nicole Niemi said. “Now it’s the economy.”
Those who do travel will face low temperatures and an almost-guaranteed white Christmas, although no snow is predicted for Rockford on the big day. They’ll also see a mixed bag of travel costs.
On the roads
More than 52.4 million Americans will hit the roads, down 1.2 percent from last year. But that’s still a lot by historic standards. And with chances of ice and snow, drivers are urged to use caution.
“With that stuff, if people slow down, they tend to have a lot better luck on the road,” Illinois State Police Trooper Brent Massingill said. “Give yourself time to get where you’re going.”
Police will be watching for impaired drivers because DUIs tend to increase during the holidays, he said.
Gas prices are down around $1.20 from this time last year, according to AAA’s fuelgaugereport.com. Prices have jumped around a bit recently, but falling crude-oil prices are expected to keep what you pay at the pump low for the foreseeable future.
In the skies
About 8.1 million Americans will fly during the holidays, an 8.5 percent decrease from last year. But with reduced flights, planes are expected to be packed.
Because of lower fuel costs, airfare is on average 9 percent lower during Christmas week, jumping by about 3 percent around New Year’s Eve.
The busiest travel days at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago are expected to be Tuesday and Dec. 28, with about 200,000 passengers.
At Chicago Rockford International, there are one to four flights in each direction a day during the holiday season, but flights should be full, Executive Director Bob O’Brien said. Travelers should plan to get to RFD at least an hour before departure time and two hours at bigger airports.
The Transportation Security Administration advises travelers to not bring wrapped gifts in their checked or carry-on luggage because security personnel might have to open them during screening.
Most airlines have fees for checked luggage and may have changed their size limits on carry-on luggage. Allegiant Air at the Rockford airport charges more for luggage checked in at the airport than for bags checked in advance.
In your wallet
Besides lower gas prices and mixed airfares, travelers will face lower hotel rates during the holidays. They’ll be down an average of 3 percent during Christmas week and 16 percent around New Year’s, AAA said. Niemi said that’s likely because of decreased demand with travel numbers down.
Car rental rates, though, are on average higher — 2 percent around Christmas and 8 percent around New Year’s.
Thomas V. Bona can be reached at (815) 987-1343 or email@example.com.
For highway conditions in the Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee corridor: gcmtravel.com/gcm/maps_chicago.jsp
For highway conditions around Illinois: gettingaroundillinois.com/wrc.htm
For highway conditions around Wisconsin: dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/road/winter-roads.htm
For general information about airport delays around the country: fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp
For information about airline ticket refunds or changes caused by weather, contact your individual airline.