Amidst impending finals, projects and assignments, many students make a mad-dash home for Thanksgiving break, arriving just in time for a piece of pumpkin pie before rushing back to campus to spend hours in the library cramming for exams that were briefly forgotten over a turkey dinner.
Starting Tuesday, students will depart Notre Dame in planes, trains and cars and disperse across the country — along with everyone else on some of the busiest days of holiday travel.
With such a short time to get to their destinations, each minute spent traveling cuts into time with family and friends, but traffic delays, lines and cancellations are inevitable.
Here’s what to know to help streamline your Thanksgiving travel plans and ensure you don’t miss a minute of the holiday celebration.
Many students utilize rideshare services to get from campus to O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. Royal Zoom offers shuttles from Notre Dame and the Chicago airports. There are also private drivers who are available to drive students to the airport, and students who have cars on campus organize their own rideshares.
Brandon Arizpe, the owner of Blue & Gold Transportation, said that his company is driving between 300 and 400 students over Thanksgiving.
Arizpe keeps a record of all of the rides Blue & Gold completes to see how travel times vary from year to year so they know how much time to plan for. According to Arizpe, it usually takes between two to two-and-a-half hours to get to O’Hare, but on Tuesday and Wednesday, it will likely take four hours.
He explained that traffic getting into Chicago will be especially bad this year due to highway construction near O’Hare and snow on the ground from the past week.
“With planes having delays every day and the lack of workers, I see Thanksgiving and Christmas being very hectic this year. I think people should plan accordingly and give themselves leeway” to account for extra travel time, Arizpe said.
Arizpe also said that students trying to get a Uber from campus to the airport during peak travel times will likely see prices surge. In the past, prices have reached $1,600 for an Uber from Notre Dame to O’Hare during Thanksgiving traffic.
In addition to regularly scheduled rides, Blue & Gold also has an on-call driver available in case of cancellations or if other plans fall through.
“Everybody deserves to get home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We try to attend to as many people as we can,” Arizpe said.
Julie Curtis, the vice president of marketing and air service development at South Bend International Airport, said travelers should arrive 90 minutes to two hours before their flight.
According to Curtis, it is convenient for students to travel out of South Bend because it is close to campus and a smaller airport than O’Hare or Midway, which makes it easier to navigate during peak travel days, like the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“The airports across the country are going to be busy, so if there are connections and you’re stopping in one of those hubs, those airports will be really busy. The great thing about flying from South Bend is that we are much easier to get in and out of,” Curtis said.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that travelers arrive at the airport early during Thanksgiving travel. They recommend arriving two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
Delta removes flights from South Bend to Detroit
Although South Bend is generally less crowded during Thanksgiving, it is a smaller airport with fewer flights, and many flights connect to larger airports, making it difficult to avoid busy national hubs.
One of South Bend’s most popular routes was Delta Airlines’ South Bend to Detroit flight. However, according to Curtis, beginning Nov. 9 Delta Airlines removed the South Bend to Detroit flight from its schedule.
The previous direct flight to Detroit now re-routes passengers to other hubs including Atlanta and Minnesota, increasing travel time.
Curtis explained that the flight was removed due to shortages that have been impacting the airline industry.
“There is a pilot shortage going on in the industry, which is impacting airports across the United States in terms of service,” Curtis said.
Since fewer planes are flying, it is more efficient to service larger hubs as opposed to smaller airports like South Bend.
Due to the airline shortages and lack of workers, Curtis said travelers should expect full or overbooked flights this Thanksgiving.
“There are fewer airplanes that are flying and as a result, all of the planes that are flying are flying much fuller than they historically ever have,” Curtis said.
South Shore Line construction
The South Shore Line is a popular way to travel from South Bend to the heart of Chicago. A one-way ticket from the South Bend Airport to Millennium Station costs $14.25, as opposed to more expensive ride services. However, construction on the South Shore Line has interrupted service and caused delays recently.
The Double Track Northwest Indiana Project spans over 26 miles on the South Shore Line from Gary to Michigan City. The goal of the project is to install a second mainline track, make safety improvements in Michigan City, expand parking lots and improve platforms at various station stops.
The project is expected to double South Shore Line ridership and greatly reduce travel times. Currently, the ride from South Bend to Chicago takes about two hours, but the Double Track project aims to reduce travel time to just 90 minutes.
For the foreseeable future, trains will continue to run on a modified schedule with busing between Carroll Ave. and Gary Metro Center stations on all weekday and weekend trains.
The Double Track project is expected to be finished in 2024, but until then, students traveling on the South Shore Line should expect longer travel times due to the busing.
Contact Caroline Collins at email@example.com.