June 17, 2024

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More than 2 million Illinois residents travel on Memorial Day weekend

More than 2 million Illinois residents travel on Memorial Day weekend

On Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial “kick-off to summer,” Illinoisans are expected to hit the road in record numbers.

The American Automobile Association expects nearly 2.1 million Illinois residents to travel at least 50 miles this weekend, with a record number of about 1.9 million traveling by car. Overall, this represents an increase of about 70,000 travelers from Illinois compared to Memorial Day weekend last year.

Although the number of travelers increased, it was still short of the record set in 2005 when 2.2 million Illinois residents traveled over the long weekend.

“Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, so this is a popular time for people to hit the road,” said Molly Hart, spokeswoman for AAA’s club car group.

Across the country, AAA said this weekend is the second-busiest Memorial Day weekend on record, with nearly 44 million Americans expected to travel at least 50 miles.

“Today, the pandemic is behind us. People feel comfortable traveling and want to travel,” Hart said.

Over the weekend, O’Hare International Airport is expected to be the fourth busiest airport in the United States with more than 800,000 passengers scheduled to depart, according to Lindsay Schwimmer, a spokesperson for the travel booking app Hopper. The airport will be busiest between 4pm and 8pm

Hooper suggested travelers “take the first flight of the day,” because flights departing after 9 a.m. are twice as likely to be delayed than those scheduled between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., according to a press release.

According to AAA, popular domestic destinations include Orlando, Seattle and New York, while international destinations include Rome, Vancouver and London.

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Since airports will be crowded, Hart recommends that people arrive at the airport two or three hours early.

“We don’t want anyone rushing to the gate or missing their flights,” Hart said.

The Chicago Aviation Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gas prices in Illinois are expected to average about $3.90 per gallon, compared to $3.95 per gallon last year, AAA said.

In Illinois, the busiest route will be Milwaukee to Chicago via I-94 E, especially around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, according to AAA.

HART encourages travelers to beat the commuter rush hour and depart before 11 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

She added that travelers should check their cars before setting off on the road to ensure that things such as batteries, tires and windshield wipers are in perfect condition.

“We expect we will save approximately 378,000 motorists nationally,” Hart said. “The last thing we want to see is someone stranded on the side of the road.”

Christine Lonergan, 41, of Lincoln Square, said she and her husband plan to drive to the Indianapolis 500 auto race over the weekend.

They made the roughly six-hour round trip every year and broke down their routine.

“Every year, we drive up there and camp there,” Lonergan said. “I took Friday off, so I’ll try to leave around 10 a.m.”

While the couple travels, Lonergan’s dogs will stay at home, but will enjoy a “little vacation” of their own, she said.

“They go to a local [dog boutique called] Dog Social Club. “They love it there,” Lonergan said.

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