CHICAGO – After a lull in vacation travel last year, Americans are packing their bags for Christmas and New Years.
Whether by plane, train or car, more than 109 million people plan to travel this holiday season. According to AAA, that’s a 34% increase from last year.
At O’Hare International Airport, travelers arrived in waves on Wednesday, with Terminal 1 reaching its peak around 5:30 p.m. Late Wednesday evening, check-in and security lines were kept short, but that will all change on Thursday – for what is set to be the busiest travel day of the season.
“Just take the kids to enjoy the hot weather and escape the cold,” Starnisha Mathis said.
Starnisha Mathis and her family were on their way to the Sunshine State on Wednesday – among the millions of flights aboard O’Hare for the holidays despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.
“Family is the most important thing, so it’s a risk we’re willing to take,” said Kira Blanchflower, who was traveling to Houston.
Between Tuesday, December 21 and Monday, January 3, the Chicago Department of Aviation reports that O’Hare will handle 2.5 million passengers, up 168% from the same period last year.
At Midway International Airport, approximately 500,000 travelers will board flights, a 50% increase from last year.
In addition, many people go far to celebrate the New Year with their loved ones.
“We are going to Lebanon to see our family,” said Christine Andraos.
“Germany,” Fabia Ziegler said. “We are all vaccinated and boosted, we tested before leaving. We have been part of the pandemic before, so everything is fine.”
“I’m leaving for Tokyo,” Mark Sugi said.
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Sugi, who will need to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in Japan, remains cautious about the high volume of travelers.
“Very, very nervous,” Sugi said.
Still, many passengers said they felt safe at the airport and took off.
“We feel great, we have all been vaccinated,” said Donna Sandall.
Masks are mandatory at airports and on planes.
The CDC recommends that unvaccinated passengers take a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel.