Midway Airport

Labor Day Traffic in Chicago is Expected to Be Busy. Here Are the Best Times to Leave, Experts Say

Goodbye summer, hello fall...and hello holiday traffic.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

And just like that, it's Labor Day weekend — and Chicago's roads and airports are expected to be filled with traffic.

According to AAA, 22% more people are expected to travel for this Labor Day weekend compared to 2021.

Here's a breakdown of what to expect, whether you're hitting the road or hopping on a plane. Either way, travel experts recommend getting out the door as early as possible.

Busiest Travel Times at O'Hare, Midway Airports

According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, approximately 1.6 million individuals are expected to travel through O’Hare and Midway International Airports through Monday.

Friday is expected to be the busiest travel day at Midway Airport, the department says, and Monday is expected to the busiest travel day at O'Hare.

And while this summer there have been numerous reports of flight cancelations and hours-long delays, American, Southwest, Delta, United and JetBlue have released new policies on how travelers will be compensated for certain disruptions:

  • Passengers will receive meal vouchers for delays more than three hours
  • If your flight is canceled and you get stuck in your city of departure, passengers will receive a hotel voucher, plus transportation to and from the airport

However, the carriers say, these guidelines apply only to problems within an airline's control.

For a more detailed look at what passengers are owed, the Department of Transportation has created a tool that breaks down different policies by airline.

As for security lines, real-time TSA security checkpoint wait times can be found on the CDA's website.

Busiest Traffic Times on the Roads

The good news: Gas prices in Chicago 46 cents cheaper than they were a month ago. According to AAA, the current average price for a regular gallon of gas in the city is $4.88. The average in Cook County is even lower, at $4.62.

The not-so-good news? Traffic is expected to be congested. According to a recent survey from the website Cars.com, 80% of people planning to travel for Labor Day are planning to drive. With that in mind, experts are recommending drivers hit the road before weekday rush hour sets in.

"Those who are traveling by car, we always recommend, getting up early and hit the road," an AAA spokesperson said. "As we know, traffic picks up during the day, especially on Fridays when there’s rush hour."

According to traffic analysis firm INRIX, drivers nationwide this Labor Day weekend can expect to experience a plenty more slowdowns, with a 41% increase in delays over normal.

Friday afternoon is expected to be one of the busiest days on the road nationwide, thanks to vacationers mixing with commuters.

"Congestion will start building in the mid-afternoon, with the peak congestion period occurring between 3:00-6:00 p.m. in most major metros," INRIX says.

Overall, the worst times to hit the road, INRIX says, is Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

On the bright side, INRIX says the best time to hit the road is Friday before 1 p.m. or after 7 p.m., and Saturday before 1 p.m. or after 5 p.m.

Sunday and Monday, "minimal congestion" is expected, INRIX says.

Contact Us