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Travel Tales from Chicagoland 2013

Michael Kurshenbaum fills his gray Kia Rio with gasoline at a station in Chicago. Gas prices have fallen nationwide since last Thanksgiving. (Photo by Ke'yanna Johnson)
Michael Kurshenbaum fills his gray Kia Rio with gasoline at a station in Chicago. Gas prices have fallen nationwide since last Thanksgiving. (Photo by Ke’yanna Johnson)

Travelers will save more than a few pennies at the pump when traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

The national price for gasoline this Thanksgiving will average $3.67 a gallon, down 7 cents from last year, according to Beth Mosher, a spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association (AAA.)

Traditionally, the Thanksgiving holiday is the most heavily traveled part of the year.  AAA estimates that during the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, more than 37 million people in the United States will travel by car an average of 50 miles from home.

Crude oil prices are down at a time when there is ample supply, accounting for the decrease at the pumps.

“We can certainly see we’re doing much better this year than last year,” said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com. “An energy boom in the USA contributed to a huge increase to domestic production.”

Laskoski said they expect gas prices to decrease between now and Christmas.

In Chicago, travelers flocked to the train and bus stations and lined up at the gas pumps to fill their tanks.

Amber Hope, an Olivet Nazarene University student, booked bus tickets home to Detroit on Tuesday after debating if the lower gas prices would make carpooling with a friend the better traveling option.

“Even though it takes longer, it’s more financially feasible,” Hope said. “It’s relaxing, and you can do other things like read, watch movies or use Wi-fi,” she said.

Michele Lowell clutched her cup of hot Dunkin Donuts coffee as she stood in the freezing temperatures waiting for the Megabus to arrive on Tuesday.

“Even if I would’ve drove with a friend I would’ve paid her more in gas prices than my tickets were,” said Lowell, 24. “Out of all the options, I’d say this one is the cheapest. My trip back was only $5, and I don’t have to pay for my luggage.”

Megabus.com spokesman Michael Alvich said the discount bus company saw a 20 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel versus last year, with 40 percent of travelers being between the ages of 18 to 39.

Greyhound also expected an increase in travelers this year. The company had 530,000 passengers last Thanksgiving.

“A decrease in gas prices has not affected Greyhound’s business at all,” said spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson.

Union Station was noticeably busier on Tuesday. Crowds of people briskly walked to the waiting areas, pulling large rolling suitcases behind them or traveling with only a backpack.

Wearing an aqua-colored down jacket, 19-year-old Erin Lyons texted on her phone, her bright pink nails quickly tapping her phone screen.  Lyons, a college student, said she is a regular Amtrak passenger.  She said she has taken Amtrak trains 10 times in the past year.

And some airline travelers have not noticed decreases in prices.

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At O’Hare International Airport, Bea and Gordon Poppen, who regularly travel on the holidays, sat just inside the doors of Terminal 1 across from the United Airlines check-in counter. They were on their way to Boise, Idaho, to see their son.Bea Poppen said the couple typically gets their tickets early to assure they get the day they want to travel. She said the tickets were more expensive this year even though she got them back in August.

Security check points were also moving with the fluidity of a well oiled machine as Transportation Security Association (TSA) officers were at every step preparing travelers for the next point in the process.

“It took like 10 minutes,” Palmer said. “They didn’t even ask us to take off shoes or anything.”

Near the Division Blue Line stop on the corner of North Ashland Avenue and West Division Street, a young man got out of his taxi and ran down to the trains.

“It’s easier to take a taxi to the subway,” Derek Byler said. Byler is from the Gold Coast neighborhood and takes the short trip by taxi because it would be too hard to take a taxi all the way to the airport.

Fui Tomakloe, 32, sat in his Globe Taxi outside of the Hilton Chicago typing furiously on his smartphone waiting for a customer to drive to their destination.

Tomakloe said he’s been driving his taxi since April and has noticed that gas prices have lowered, but not enough to make a difference for his costs.

Alex Curiel, 29, waiting for his wife with his son outside the Gap at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora said he hasn’t noticed a difference on his bottom line either.

“I mostly shop in stores as opposed to online, but gas prices haven’t been an influence on my shopping habits,” Curiel said.

Steve Dorzas said he doesn’t plan to travel much during the holiday. He said gas is expensive, and he tries not to use his car that often.

“It’s very expensive, and it shouldn’t be,” Dorzas said as he shook his head in disapproval.  “It’s a commodity,”

Danielle Dwyer, Sydney  Lawson, Brittany Delk, Veronica Rios, Christa Janine, Ke’yanna Johnson, Jessica Lynn, Michael Syndel, Jasmine Browley, Shelia Headspeth and Sylvia Obén contributed to this story.