‘Pack your patience’: What to know about Thanksgiving travels
Kelsey Quint | Monday, November 20, 2023
Before the turkey can be stuffed, potatoes can be mashed and belts can be loosened, many Notre Dame students are first faced with making a long trek home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
But Notre Dame students are not alone. This year, it is estimated that 55.4 million Americans will be traveling this Thanksgiving holiday, including 4.7 million traveling by air — the highest air numbers since 2005.
Notre Dame students have many methods of departing from campus: plane, train, car and bus. Some will find themselves at the South Bend airport, while many others will face Thanksgiving traffic in Chicago.
Though the busyness and traffic cannot be avoided, here is what to know in order to make it home for turkey day as efficiently as possible.
Julie Curtis, vice president of marketing and air service development at South Bend International Airport, offered her advice to students traveling home.
“We recommend that you arrive 90 minutes to two hours prior to your departure. You’re going to want to make sure that you check their flight status directly with the airline that you’re traveling on before heading to the airport,” Curtis said.
However, Curtis reassured students flying home through South Bend that they will not have to face the same traffic as those headed to O’Hare or Midway in Chicago.
“The great thing about flying from South Bend is that it is a smaller airport, so we don’t see the super long lines that you’re going to see at other airports,” Curtis said. “But, when you fly to those connections, those big hubs, there’s going to be a lot of people traveling. Planes are going to be flying full.”
Curtis explained how to ensure efficiency at security check-points. If students are unsure of whether a certain item can be brought, Curtis said, they may utilize the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website’s ”What Can I Bring?” tool.
“For anybody that is traveling with a carry-on, they need to remember the 3-1-1 liquid rule,” Curtis said. “Any liquids must be 3.4 ounces or smaller, in a one-quart-size bag and each person can only have one bag. So that’s where the 3-1-1 comes from. If you’re traveling with your checked bag, you can have liquids of any size in those.”
Above all, Curtis advises that students simply “pack their patience” and remember everyone is eager to celebrate the holiday with their family.
Buses and Traffic
While those headed home by car may avoid the TSA checkpoint and flight cancellations, Thanksgiving traffic is difficult to evade.
Students traveling on the Indiana Toll Road can preview their route status for lane closures beforehand.
For Notre Dame students headed to O’Hare or Midway in Chicago, a popular method of transportation is to book a ticket on the Royal Excursion buses, which take passengers directly from the Hammes Bookstore to both airports.
Royal Excursion is partnered with Notre Dame, providing rides at the beginning and end of each academic break.
Jennifer Gregory, general manager of Royal Excursion, explained that, this year, the buses will be servicing about 1,000 students between this Tuesday and Sunday. As of last Nov. 16, ticket availability for the Thanksgiving holiday was at less than 2%.
Gregory offered two recommendations for students taking the Royal Excursion buses this Thanksgiving break. First, Gregory said students should note that the departure time is always listed in the time zone of departure. This means that the return times for this Sunday are listed in central time.
Secondly, according to Gregory, students using Royal Excursion should always ask airport security for assistance in finding the bus pick-up location.
“I would suggest to all travelers, if they haven’t been to O’Hare or to Midway, the quickest way to find the pickup location is to ask the security guards at the airport,” Gregory said. “At Midway we pick up at the lower level near baggage claim, right outside door six. At O’Hare, the students have to walk to the Shuttle Bus Center which is near the Hilton Hotel.”
Additionally, Gregory said that Royal Excursion advises students to be prepared for the holiday traffic.
“O’Hare is repeatedly voted the busiest airport in the country for Thanksgiving, I think just because it’s centrally located and international as well,” Gregory said. “This year, according to news channels, they’re stating that they expect traffic and travel to be up about 13%, so we’re definitely returning to pre-pandemic numbers.”
However, the holiday-related traffic is not the only concern for students on their way to Chicago. Gregory said that Royal Excursion anticipates ongoing construction projects on the route to both O’Hare and Midway airports.
“The weather has been so nice this November compared to some Chicago winters that I believe the construction crews are taking advantage of that,” Gregory said. She highlighted the sections of the route that Royal Excursion anticipates will be backed up.
“There’s a portion of the toll road when you get to the Chicago side that’s down to one lane, so that’s a big deal. And then also Route 294 has construction at the Illinois-Indiana state line and also further into Illinois,” Gregory said. “And it’s my understanding that there’s now construction at Midway near the entrance, and also near the entrance of O’Hare as well.”
Gregory said that it is possible that some construction projects will pause for Thanksgiving traffic, however, nothing is guaranteed.
“Give yourself more time, always give yourself more time. You just don’t know,” Gregory said. “It’s better to be sitting at a Starbucks inside the airport, than be on the bus worried that you’re going to miss your flight, right.”
South Shore Line
A final mode of transportation that many Notre Dame students utilize is the South Shore Line train to Chicago. With a station fewer than five miles away at South Bend International Airport, the train provides a cheaper option for students headed into Chicago.
The South Shore Line will follow a typical weekday schedule on both Wednesday, Nov. 22 and Friday, Nov. 24. Thursday, Nov. 23 — Thanksgiving Day — will follow a schedule for weekends and holidays. All schedules are available online.
The South Shore Line website notes that riders should be aware of the ongoing construction projects which necessitate some passengers to use buses between stations.
“Bus service will make all intermediate scheduled station stops, and passengers will be bused between the following stations on the new train schedule: Dune Park, Portage/Ogden Dunes, Miller (temporarily located at 6121 Melton Rd.) and Gary Metro Center,” the website said.
According to the South Shore Line, these projects affect both eastbound and westbound passengers alike.
“Westbound passengers at those stations should be prepared to board buses in front of the station and re-board WB South Shore trains at Gary Metro. Eastbound passengers will detrain at Gary Metro to board buses for their destination stations, and/or board their scheduled EB trains again at Dune Park,” the website said.
Additionally, the website advises all South Shore Line passengers to be prepared for possible delays due to busing. Travelers can get schedule information, purchase tickets, stay informed of delays and activate their tickets from the South Shore Line mobile app.