Nearly 1.7 million passengers are expected to pass through O'Hare and Midway international airports this Thanksgiving, contributing to a 1.8 percent increase in fliers nationwide.
O'Hare's anticipated busiest Thanksgiving travel day? Wednesday, with a projected 217,000 passengers, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Midway likely will hit its peak on Sunday with about 75,000 fliers expected.
It marks the first significant rise in travel in 2011, says AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Moser. Translation: Expect packed flights, airports and roads.
"Thanksgiving really is that time of year when people are going to travel," Moser said. "It's so important for them to be with family and friends."
Security lines ebbed and flowed Wednesday morning at Chicago's airports, but Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride advised travelers to be in touch with their carriers.
"If you're traveling, make it easy on yourself for parking and for picking up your passengers," Pride said.
For those picking up arriving guests, she suggests using free cell phone lots located at North Mannheim Road near O'Hare and 61st and Cicero near Midway. When your passenger arrives, have them call your cell.
"You're just minutes away ... and then you won't get asked to move," Pride said, referring to packed arrivals areas at both airports.
On the roads more than two million people plan to hop in their cars and travel over the river and through the woods to Thanksgiving destinations.
AAA estimates most people will drive about 200 miles.
If that's you, here are gas prices in each direction: $3.37 per gallon in Green Bay, Wis.; $3.15 in Wauseaon, Ohio; $3.34 in Olney, Ill.; and $3.31 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.