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Phoenix 101: Planes, Trains and Buses Tips For Traveling During the Holidays

Aidan Cahill | The PhoenixWith Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, The Phoenix looked into how to get home for the holidays.

The holidays are almost upon us and students may be looking to get home and see their families. 

However due to The COVID-19 pandemic, travel might be different than the last time many students packed their suitcases and hit the road home.

With this in mind, The Phoenix put together some things to note before you hit the trail. No matter how you decide to get back in time for the holidays, The Phoenix has you covered. 

From planes to trains to buses, here’s the 101 on how to get home.

Getting to transit hubs. 

Students taking mass transit will most likely need to go through one of four main mass transit hubs around Chicago: Union Station, Midway International Airport, O’Hare International Airport and the Greyhound Bus Station. 

For students using Amtrak and Metra lines to get out of the city, Union Station (255 S Canal Street) is where you’ll need to go. Located just West over the River the Willis Tower, there are a few options for getting there via public transit. One option is to take the Red Line to Monroe and then take a bus from Adams & State to Adams & Canal.

Another option is to take the Red Line, transfer onto the Brown Line at Belmont, get off at Quincy and walk a few blocks to the station. Depending on the time of day, both routes will take students about an hour to get to Union Station from Loyola’s LakeShore Campus (LSC). 

Of Chicago’s two airports, Midway is the older and smaller one, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). Built in 1927, Midway is located on the Southwest side of the city. Getting there on public transit is relatively straightforward. Hop the Red Line, transfer to the Orange Line at Roosevelt and take it to the end of the line. Depending on the time of day this route will take about an hour. 

Chicago’s other airport, O’Hare, is a different story. Located on the Northwest Side of the city, it’s about 12.6 miles West of Loyola and opened in 1955 according to CDA.  To get to O’Hare from Loyola, students have several options. One option is to hop on the Red Line to Lake, get off and walk over to the Washington CTA station and take the Blue Line to O’Hare. 

Another option is to take the Red Line to Addison, take a bus to the Addison Blue Line station and take the Blue Line to O’Hare. 

A third option is to take the Redline North to Howard, transfer to the Yellow Line, take it to Dempster-Skokie and take the Pace 250 bus to O’Hare. Pace is the bus service that serves Chicago’s suburbs with connections to CTA. Students can use their U-Pass on Pace buses, according to the CTA.

All options take about an hour and thirty minutes, depending on time of day. 

To get to the Greyhound Station, students can take the Red Line to Lake, walk to Washington and take the Blue Line to Clinton. This rout takes about 50 minutes depending on the time of day. 

Another option is to take the Red Line to Monroe, and hop on the number seven bus at Adams & State and take it to Harrison & Jefferson. This route takes about 55 minutes depending on the time of day. 

Ella Thompson, a sophomore finance major said she previously took the train to get to O’Hare but found the process to be too long and inconvenient. 

“You have to take the Redline and then downtown and then get on the blue line to go to O’Hare,” Thompson said. “It’s just a very, like, long process of switching trains and like, it’s very out of the way in the way that it takes you.” 

Thompson said she now relies on Uber for getting to the airport. 

George Almaraz, a junior film and digital media major who lives in Rosemont, IL said taking the Blue Line is very convenient for him as he only lives one stop away. Almaraz recommended if you are taking public transit that you use the Transit Stop CTA Tracker app.

“I use it every day whenever I use the train,” Almaraz said. “Wherever you are, if you need to find a time, which train will be at what platform or station, that app will tell you exactly when and where.”

When to arrive. 

Depending on what method of transportation will determine what time you should arrive at your chosen transit spot. 

Greyhounds start boarding 20 minutes before departure; however if you’re storing a bag under the bus, Greyhound recommends giving yourself extra time, according to their website.

For trains, Amtrak recommends arriving at least 30 minutes before your train is set to depart, earlier if you have to check luggage. 

Finally for air travel: Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines all recommend arriving two hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. 

Both Almaraz and Thomspon said they typically like to get to the airport about an hour and a half before their flight. Thompson also said it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the airport before you get there so you don’t get lost. 

“Look at a map before and figure out where you’re going, because there’s a lot of different terminals and it can be stressful,” Thompson said.  “There’s definitely been some moments where I’ve called my dad in the middle of the airport like, ‘what am I doing?’”

Almaraz’s main piece of advice was to give yourself enough time to get to the airport and make it to your gate. 

“I just think it’s very important to take your time when it comes to planning a trip,” Almaraz said. “Especially the day of; when it comes to arriving at the airport, going through security and then eventually boarding your flight because no one wants to be late, especially for a flight.”

Kaltak meanwhile suggested arriving three hours before your flight. 

It’s worth mentioning airports and other transit hubs tend to be crowded around the holidays. According to data from the Transportation Safety Administration, the days leading up and after Christmas and Thanksgiving tend to see an increase in passengers screened. 

In 2019 TSA screened an average of 2,359,751 travelers  per day during the Thanksgiving holiday and 2,362,039 travelers per day during the Christmas holiday. This was up from the total daily average in 2019 2,308,749 passengers screened by TSA. 

COVID-19 

Whether students take Greyhound, Amtrak or fly, they will still be required to wear face masks while on the mode of transit or in waiting areas. 

It’s recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who are unwell refrain from traveling.

The Chicago Department of Public Health has issued an orange travel advisory due to COVID-19 for 41 states and the U.S. territory of Guam. Those who are unvaccinated should after visiting isolated for seven days and get tested 3-5 days after they arrive in the city. Those who are vaccinated are exempt from the recommendation. 

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