Five things you should know about travel for Thanksgiving and beyond

  • There are deals out there if you want to fly this Thanksgiving, but experts advise taking precautions if traveling through O'Hare and other airports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      There are deals out there if you want to fly this Thanksgiving, but experts advise taking precautions if traveling through O'Hare and other airports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/9/2020 6:42 AM

Can I still book a cheap flight for Thanksgiving? Should I book a cheap flight for Thanksgiving given the COVID-19 pandemic? Will a gallon of regular still cost $2.35?

The COVID-19 plague continues to roil travel this fall and likely well into 2021. Here are five take-aways from experts about what to expect in the near and short term.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

1. We gather together -- not

Stay at home this Thanksgiving, advises Illinois Department of Public Health Health Director Ngozi Ezike, because crowded airport security lines and hours in an enclosed space are breeding grounds for infections. If you do travel, book a direct flight, as "layovers may be cheaper but pose more risks," she said.

Driving in your own bubble/car to visit family and friends is safer than a bus or train, but avoid unnecessary interactions by packing drinks and snacks, experts say. Bring masks for gas station stops or bathroom breaks and wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

2. Take the path less traveled

Expedia's Christie Hudson scrolled Thanksgiving airfares last week, finding some deals to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, although "prices are trending up as the holidays get closer."

"If it were me, I would book as soon as possible because the prices look reasonable and I wouldn't want to risk paying more," Hudson said. And, try to "avoid the Wednesday through Sunday itinerary. If you fly Monday through Monday instead, you're looking at saving between 25% to 50% depending on the destination."

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3. Gas prices to remain low

"Those who decide to hit the road for Thanksgiving will find cheaper gas prices," AAA spokeswoman Molly Hart predicts. "The cost of a regular gallon of gas in Illinois today is $2.26 compared to a year ago when it was $2.68."

In Indiana, rates are even lower at $2.06 a gallon and in Wisconsin, it's $1.91 a gallon.

4. No kidding about mask rules

Major airlines are getting serious about enforcing mask rules in cabins. Delta, for example, announced last month it added 460 people to its no-fly list for refusing to comply with mask requirements.

And why tempt fate when many carriers are booking flights to full capacity? "On an aircraft, social distancing is not viable even if middle seats are blocked," American Airlines spokeswoman Gianna Urgo said. "Instead, American has focused our efforts on making the travel journey as safe as possible."

5. 'Bargain central' in 2021

Will airfares tank, soar or stabilize next year?

"Expect 2021 to be 'bargain central' for flyers, particularly on routes linking major airports," said DePaul University aviation expert and professor Joseph Schwieterman. "Airlines will find it preferable to keep planes flying, even if they are half empty. That means more aggressive price-cutting."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Have a comment about holiday travel during these unusual times? Drop an email to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

Your voice

Metra rider Travis Weidman of Island Lake disagrees with comments in a recent column that Union Pacific is lax about checking tickets at Ogilvie Transportation Center. UP employees "are, in fact, punching tickets wherever you buy them and they are also having you touch your phone screen to prove they are real," said Weidman, a UP Northwest regular. "It isn't as nonchalant as you describe it to be and I think that's important for your readers to understand. Additionally, those buildups of people standing in line to have their tickets checked -- an issue which I thought to be a risk to the customers' health -- are almost nonexistent."

Gridlock alert

Think twice before hopping onto the eastbound Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) from northbound Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora. The Farnsworth ramp will be closed now through 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, to allow work on the toll plaza. Detours will be posted.

Contactless transit

There's one more thing your iPhone and Apple watch can do -- get you aboard Pace and the CTA. Riders who add the latest Ventra app to their devices can use it to access transit by tapping their screens. For more information, go to ventrachicago.com/applepay.

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