Nov 19, 2023 - News

Best times to travel for Thanksgiving in Chicago

Illustration of a turkey pulling a suitcase.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

This year we could see one of the busiest-ever Thanksgiving seasons for travel.

Why it matters: With TSA expecting a record 30 million passengers and the reality of Kennedy construction closings, you'll need to plan ahead if you want to avoid any headaches for the holiday.

State of play: Traffic will be heaviest on Wednesday, but it may be worse than usual this year, because IDOT just began inbound Kennedy ramp closings that are in effect for two weeks.

  • Take the new traffic patterns into account.

Here are the best times to drive this holiday weekend, according to Inrix.

  • Wednesday: Before 8am or after 8pm
  • Thanksgiving Day: Before 11am or after 6pm
  • Friday: Before 11am or after 8pm
  • Saturday: Before 2pm or after 8pm
  • Sunday: Before 11am or after 8pm

The worst? Traffic is expected to be 11% higher between 2pm and 6pm on Wednesday and 3pm and 5pm next Sunday.

Be smart: Peep those gas prices. They are currently hovering around $3.65 in the Chicago area, but that could change quickly because of holiday demand.

If you are flying out, O'Hare and Midway are expecting massive crowds. AAA is predicting almost a 7% increase in travel over last year. If that happens, it will be the busiest Thanksgiving since 2005.

The intrigue: You can track waits for TSA checkpoints at O'Hare at


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