Coming & Going: O'Hare at Thanksgiving? Pass the Wild Turkey

Friday, November 12, 2010; 2:24 PM

Airports: No holiday

Stressful travel is one of the Thanksgiving traditions we observe each year. And the best way to handle the stress is to be prepared. You wouldn't buy a turkey without knowing the head count for dinner, would you?

The Air Transport Association estimates that 24 million travelers will fly domestically in the last two weeks of November, a 3.5 percent rise from 2009. That translates into insanely crowded airports - some more than others. A new report warns us which ones.

Orbitz's Insider Index ranked the 10 busiest airports between Nov. 23-29, based on flight data from the top 100 U.S. airports. Chicago O'Hare takes the inglorious No. 1 spot, followed by Los Angeles, Boston, New York's LaGuardia, San Francisco, Denver, New York's JFK, Newark, Atlanta and, lastly, Reagan National. The D.C. airport is a newcomer this year, bumping Seattle-Tacoma. Other changes: Boston is busier, Atlanta slower.

Conversely, travelers flying in and out of Akron, Ohio, or Nashville will find fewer crowds. Same deal at airports in Oakland, Orange County and San Jose, Calif.; Madison, Wis.; Chicago Midway; Providence, R.I.; Palm Beach, Fla., and Hartford, Conn.

The lesson CoGo learned: When possible, fly to second-tier or alternate airports (Midway instead of O'Hare, for instance, Providence for Boston) or find new relatives.

Germs can fly

At airports, it's so easy to pick up someone else's belongings - specifically, their germs. Ick, but also preventable.

"Airports have a high volume of people," said Peter Sheldon, vice president of operations at Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, "and a lot people who are sick travel anyway."

Sheldon finds the highest germ counts on food court surfaces, escalator handrails, elevator buttons and security bins, as well as in the c oncourse waiting area.

To eradicate the unloved microbes, he suggests, travelers should maintain their own sanitation department, including frequent handwashing (with soap), employing disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, and keeping your hands away from your face and mouth. As a last resort, call in the mittens.

Travel ticker

From Nov. 20 to Jan. 2, passengers flying domestic on AirTran, Delta or Virgin America can access the in-flight Internet service for free. You can address your thank-you cards to Google. Info: . . . . Humane Society International now offers travelers an inside look at its animal rescue programs with Humane Travels. The inaugural trip is to SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa, with one trip each in January and February. Info: . . . . In response to the recent terrorist threat involving cargo packages, passengers can no longer fly with toner and ink cartridges weighing more than 16 ounces. The ban applies to carry-on and checked bags on domestic flights and international flights into the United States.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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