Before the turkey can be stuffed, the potatoes can be mashed and the belts can be loosened, many Notre Dame students must first face a long journey home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
But Notre Dame students are not alone. This year, an estimated 55.4 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, of which 4.7 million will travel by air, the highest number since 2005.
Notre Dame students have many methods of traveling 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.
While the rush and traffic can’t be avoided, here’s what to know to get 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 returning students.
“We recommend arriving 90 minutes to two hours before departure. You will want to make sure you check your flight status directly with the airline you are traveling on before heading to the airport,” Curtis said.
However, Curtis reassured students flying home through South Bend that they won’t face the same traffic as those heading to O’Hare or Midway in Chicago.
“The nice thing about flying out of South Bend is that it’s a smaller airport, so we don’t see the long lines that you’ll see at other airports,” Curtis said. “But when you fly to those connections, those big hubs, there will be a lot of people traveling. The planes will fly full.”
Curtis explained how to ensure efficiency at security checks. If students are unsure whether a certain item can be brought, Curtis said, they can use the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website’s “What Can I Bring?” tool.
“Anyone traveling with a carry-on needs to remember the 3-1-1 liquid rule,” Curtis said. “All liquids must be 3.4 ounces or less, in a one-liter bag, and each person can only have one bag. This is where the 3-1-1 comes from. If you travel with checked baggage, you can hold liquids of any size.”
Above all, Curtis advises students to simply “pack their bags” and remember that everyone is eager to celebrate the holidays with their family.
Buses and traffic
While those driving home can avoid TSA checkpoints and flight cancellations, Thanksgiving traffic is hard to avoid.
Students traveling on the Indiana Toll Road can view the route status for lane closures in advance.
For Notre Dame students headed to O’Hare or Midway in Chicago, a popular transportation method is to book a ticket on Royal Excursion buses, which take passengers directly from Hammes Bookstore to both airports.
Royal Excursion partners with Notre Dame, offering rides at the beginning and end of each academic break.
Jennifer Gregory, general manager of Royal Excursion, explained that, this year, the buses will serve approximately 1,000 students between Tuesday and Sunday. As of November 16, ticket availability for the Thanksgiving holiday was less than 2%.
Gregory offered two pieces of advice to students taking Royal Excursion buses over Thanksgiving break. First, Gregory said students should keep in mind that the departure time is always listed in the departure time zone. This means that the return times for this Sunday are listed in Central Time.
Second, according to Gregory, students using Royal Excursion should always ask airport security for assistance in finding their bus pickup location.
“I would suggest to all travelers, if they haven’t been to O’Hare or Midway, that the quickest way to find your pickup location is to ask the airport security guards,” Gregory said. “At Midway we pick up the vehicle on the lower level near baggage claim, right outside door six. At O’Hare, students must walk to the Shuttle Bus Center which is near the Hilton Hotel.”
Additionally, Gregory said Royal Excursion advises students to be prepared for holiday traffic.
“O’Hare has been repeatedly voted the busiest airport in the country for Thanksgiving, I think just because it’s centrally located and it’s also international,” Gregory said. “This year, according to news channels, they say they expect traffic and travel to increase by about 13%, so we are definitely getting back to pre-pandemic numbers.”
However, holiday traffic isn’t the only concern for students traveling to Chicago. Gregory said Royal Excursion has ongoing construction projects on the route to O’Hare and Midway airports.
“The weather has been so nice this November compared to some Chicago winters that I think the construction crews are taking advantage of it,” Gregory said. He highlighted the sections of the route that Royal Excursion believes will be supported.
“There’s a part of the toll road when you come from the Chicago side that’s one lane, so that’s a big deal. And then Route 294 is also being built at the Illinois-Indiana state line and further into Illinois as well,” Gregory said. “And from what I understand there is construction going on at Midway, near the entrance, and also near the entrance to O’Hare.”
Gregory said it is possible that some construction projects will be put on hold due to Thanksgiving traffic, however, nothing is guaranteed.
“Give yourself more time, give yourself more and more time. You just don’t know,” Gregory said. “It’s better to sit in a Starbucks inside the airport, than be on the bus afraid of missing your flight, right.”
A final form of transportation used by many Notre Dame students is the South Shore Line train to Chicago. With a station less than five miles away at South Bend International Airport, the train offers a more affordable option for students headed to Chicago.
The South Shore Line will follow a typical weekday schedule on both Wednesday, November 22nd and Friday, November 24th. Thursday, November 23 – Thanksgiving Day – will follow a weekend and holiday schedule. All timetables are available online.
The South Shore Line website notes that passengers should be aware of ongoing construction projects that require some passengers to use buses between stations.
“Bus service will make all scheduled intermediate stops at stations and passengers will be transported between the following stations according to the new train schedule: Dune Park, Portage/Ogden Dunes, Miller (temporarily located at 6121 Melton Rd.) and Gary Metro Center ” the website says.
According to the South Shore Line, these projects affect both eastbound and westbound passengers.
“Westbound passengers at those stations should be prepared to board buses in front of the station and reboard WB South Shore trains at the Gary Metro. Eastbound passengers will alight at Gary Metro to board buses to their destination stations and/or reboard scheduled EB trains at Dune Park,” the website states.
Additionally, the website advises all South Shore Line passengers to be prepared for possible bus delays. Travelers can get schedule information, purchase tickets, stay informed about delays and activate their tickets from the South Shore Line mobile app.