6 Tips for Holiday Travel in Chicago

Chicago-Traffic-JamThanksgiving is Thursday (where has November gone?!) and whether you’re meeting with friends for the day or pulling out a giant roller suitcase, some form of travel is most likely inevitable.  So here are 6 Tips for traveling to, from or through Chicago.

1. Estimate the time it will take you through Google Maps , especially if you’re driving, and then add an hour.  At least. You don’t have to use Google, but I personally prefer it because I’ve found it to be the most accurate.  While Google Maps tends to be on the money directionally, traffic can change, especially at a high-volume time like Thanksgiving.  So if you are going somewhere you’ve never been that’s more than 45 minutes away, add the fact that there’s a good chance you may take a wrong turn, especially if you’re driving on any of the major high ways.  Give yourself extra time to get caught in expected traffic, get gas, or fix a blown out tire because we all know things happen and it’s usually at the most inconvenient time.

2. If you’re flying, be smart about your carry-ons.  In this article from The Washington Post, good tips included things like not wrapping gifts before going through security and double checking what food you can bring with you.  If you can, ship things ahead of time that may be a questionable item.

3. Take the train when you can.  Some people may question my logic on this, but when I thought about renting a ZipCar for Thanksgiving, even a week in advance there was not a single car to be had.  Car rentals are through the roof on holidays which adds to the traffic.  While I realize that trains, including public transit, will also be busy, the good thing is that they are on a track and run schedules so you can plan on getting where you need to in a timely manner, even when it’s busier.  Like driving, give yourself extra time to reach your destination and hopefully you may even get a good seat if they are not pre-assigned.

4. Travel lightly.  If you are not able to put everything in a car, bring as little as possible.  One of the greatest travel anecdotes I’ve heard is “take half the clothes and twice the money.”  This usually turns out to be accurate.  Don’t bring 5 pairs of jeans for a 3 day trip. I’ve been on Metra and commuter trains where there was no more room for overhead suitcases.  Try to pack enough to get by that will fit under your seat and/or in your lap.

5. Make a list of everything you need a few days before.  I’m guilty of shoving things into a bag the morning of and then forgetting stuff.  It’s usually not a big deal because whenever I go back to my parent’s house in Indiana I know I already have a back-up drawer of everything I need which is why I allow myself to do that.  However, if you do not have a back-up drawer, make a list a few days before.  Start packing ahead of time so if you think of something you’re not pressed for time to go get it.  This will also help you pack lighter because you can better prioritize what you will need to take with you.

6. Bring snacks.  Because the holidays are busy and you may get stuck somewhere, bring a snack for you and whoever you may be traveling with.  Be sure to bring a plastic bag to put your trash in so you’re not that terrible person who leaves a mess for whoever comes behind them.  This is important because if you are stuck for any reason you can be sure to at least be hydrated and not starving.  Hungry, thirsty people get more irritated and no one wants to deal with them.

Have questions about event planning, travel and all things Chicago?  Reach out to Jessica at thechicagoeventplanner@gmail.com

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