5 tips to make Thanksgiving travel easier - and a little less pricey

Ten days until Thanksgiving - have you made your travel plans?

If not, it's time to stuff that turkey. Here's what to know about driving and flying over the November and December holidays.

1. Priciest holiday ever?

Gas prices are still in flux, but on Sunday the average in the Chicago region was $4.39 for a gallon of regular compared to $3.68 a year ago. That could mean the most expensive Thanksgiving gas on record, AAA's Molly Hart said.

Any chance of a reprieve? The crystal ball is murky.

"Rising oil prices fueled by worries over Russian oil production cuts have renewed concerns about global supplies," Hart said. "But the rise could be short-lived as reports of new COVID-19 restrictions in China signal a potential economic slowdown for the world's top oil-consuming nation."

2. Slow down, save money.

To conserve fuel, Hart advises dumping the junk in your trunk, mapping the route, properly inflating tires and using AAA's app to track the cheapest gas stations.

Also, "reducing highway speed by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%," she noted.

Heading out of Illinois? Neighboring Wisconsin is averaging $3.62 for a gallon of regular, Indiana stands at $4.05, and Michigan is $4.04.

Meanwhile, DePaul University transportation Professor Joseph Schwieterman predicts "traffic on the highways and expressways will be worst on Sunday, Nov. 27.

"Unlike years ago, there will also be heavy truck traffic over the holiday weekend, in part due to the growing online shopping with next-day delivery," he said.

3. Stop procrastinating.

Given that "leisure travel has fully rebounded," said Scott's Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes, "the worst time to book is at the absolutely last minute. A flight booked a day before travel almost certainly is going to be more expensive than a flight booked a week before travel."

If you need a further incentive, the Christmas holidays are "the single most expensive two-week period to fly," he said.

Currently airfares are starting to normalize after sinking in 2020 amid COVID-19 and spiking last spring.

"What normal fares mean is you have expensive flights during the most popular times to fly, especially if you're booking last minute, but it also means a lot of cheap flights are available during the off-peak season," Keyes said.

The latest inflation report, for October, showed airfare was down 1% compared to the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

4. Less turbulence.

"Flight operations will go much more smoothly than this summer, assuming we don't have unusually bad weather," Schwieterman predicted.

But, "airport volumes will be unusually heavy on Thanksgiving Day due to limited availability of seats on peak days and pent-up desire for leisure travel."

And, the "surging number of airline passengers coupled with the growing tendency for flyers who arrive several hours before their flight will create a stressful environment in waiting areas at airport gates."

5. Turkey en Francais?

Want to get away but can't afford domestic airfares? Consider crossing the pond, Keyes suggested. "If you want to fly over Thanksgiving, you could fly to Shreveport round trip for $596 or Paris for $594," he said. "It's not a holiday in France, Italy or Spain."

Got any travel tips or comments? Drop an email to

You should know

If you're heading to O'Hare International Airport's Terminal 5, be advised parking at Lot D has shrunk as the city begins building a new six-story garage. The pedestrian bridge linking Terminal 5 and the Lot D is closed with a temporary walkway in place. Drivers are advised to use Economy Lot F, the Kiss 'n' Fly, or the free Cell Phone Lot.

One more thing

Come hang with IDOT engineers from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at an open house to learn about major improvements to Route 20 and Shales Parkway. The project, which will affect Elgin, Bartlett and Streamwood, involves installing an interchange at Shales Parkway and Route 20, plus improvements on Route 20 east to Route 59. The forum is at Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way.

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  Sunday, Nov. 27, may be the busiest day of the holiday season for roads. Paul Valade/, February 2022
This year could bring the highest Thanksgiving gas prices on record in the Chicago region. Associated Press
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