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Five tips to help navigate your Thanksgiving travel plans

The Buffalo Grove Woodman's on Deerfield Parkway was selling unleaded gas for $2.99 a gallon on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022.

Whether you’ve strapped that frozen Butterball into the passenger seat for a cross-country drive or tucked it into your carry-on, we’ve got your back.

Here are five tips for the busiest travel season of the year.

1. Be prepared for bustling airports. The Chicago Department of Aviation expects its biggest crowds Sunday at O’Hare International Airport with an overall 2.7% uptick in passengers. Midway International Airport’s heaviest day will be Wednesday with 24% more people flying this holiday than in 2021.

That means -- get to the airport in plenty of time because of potential long lines at TSA checkpoints. The CDA has a handy new tool showing estimated wait times for security at flychicago.com/ohare/myflight/security/Pages/TSA.aspx.

Drivers should know that parking is limited at O’Hare’s Terminal 5 but there’s plenty of space in Economy Lot F. For picking up or dropping off, the CDA recommends using the Kiss n’ Fly or cellphone lots. To learn more, check out flychicago.com.

Flyers also should consider transit, such as taking the CTA’s Blue Line to O’Hare or Orange Line to Midway, the CDA suggests. Metra’s North Central Service Line has an O’Hare Transfer Station stop with service weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush.

2. Is gas really dipping in price? AAA reports that nationwide the average for a gallon of regular has dropped by 11 cents in the past week to $3.66.

Currently, gas costs $4.14 a gallon on average in the Chicago metro region compared to $4.35 a week ago, AAA reported Tuesday but some stations are charging less with prices around $3.90 in the Arlington Heights area, according to GasBuddy.

“The national average has fallen sharply since the June peak of nearly $5.02,” AAA spokeswoman Molly Hart said. “But this Thanksgiving will be about 20 cents higher than a year ago, and a dollar more per gallon than a pre-pandemic 2019. However, we can be thankful that gas prices are moving in the right direction for now.”

3. When will traffic be worst in Chicagoland? The Illinois tollway predicts a 300,000 spike in trips Wednesday with 1.8 million vehicles predicted to hit the road compared to averages of 1.5 million.

To keep your holiday zen, aim for off-peak hours, experts advise.

4. Can I really tuck that frozen turkey in my carry-on? Yes, the TSA says. However, if you’re bringing ice packs along, be sure they’re frozen solid not drippy.

As a general rule of thumb, solids like pie and stuffing are good to go through security checkpoints. Liquids such as gravy and cranberry sauce should be carefully stowed in luggage. For more tips on food rules at 30,000 feet go to tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/food.

5. Book your train trip now. The Thanksgiving week is the busiest of the year for Amtrak.

Across the system “ridership has recovered to up to 80% of normal and we’ve seen sold-out conditions on some Thanksgiving-season trains in the Amtrak Midwest Network,” officials said in a statement.

The passenger railroad has added more trains on Thanksgiving morning and over the holiday through Nov. 28. For info, go to amtrak.com/home.