O'Hare Airport

Busy Holiday Travel Season Kicks Off Friday

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The holiday travel season kicks into full gear Friday, with crowded airports and roadways expected.

The American Automobile Association, known as AAA, began tracking the holiday season 20 years ago - and the group is predicting more Americans than ever on record will travel this holiday season.

AAA estimates 115.6 million Americans will travel between Saturday and Jan. 1, marking a 3.9% increase (or 4.3 million more people) over last year. The group says more than 104 million people will drive to their destinations, with traffic predicted to be the worst on Dec. 26.

One positive element to road travel? AAA says gas prices are expected to down by 10 to 15 cents per gallon by the end of the month. Right now the average price in Chicago is $2.72 per gallon.

"We've seen the ongoing trade between us and China depressed expectations around crude demand and that has depressed prices," said AAA spokesman Devin Gladden.

But he added that gas won't be as cheap as last year, because the price of crude oil is higher.

Chicago officials also say the city's two airports - O'Hare and Midway - will be among the busiest in the nation for the holidays. Nearly 5 million passengers are expected to pass through during the Christmas and New Year's travel period, the city says, which represents a more than 2% increase compared to this time last year.

Of the 19-day travel period, Chicago officials expect Friday to be the busiest day at the airports, encouraging travelers to allow for plenty of extra time: two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international travel.

City and airport officials scheduled a news conference for 9:30 a.m. Friday to discuss holiday travel tips.

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