Holiday travelers will get a mix of good and bad news

As the Christmas holiday season hits its stride, travelers will be greeted by good and bad news.

The bad news is that a winter snowstorm is pounding the Midwest, interrupting plans for thousands of travelers.

At least two Tampa-bound flights out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had been delayed by mid-morning Thursday.

Anyone flying out of Tampa International Airport over the next two weeks should check their flight's status with the airline, said airport spokeswoman Christine Osborn.

That goes for people picking up passengers as well, particularly after the airport's recent change to "active loading only" for the area outside baggage claim.

Passengers must be ready to board waiting vehicles with any luggage. Airport officials ask people waiting for travelers outside the airport to head for the waiting lot south of the post office, where an information board will provide updates on incoming flights.

Travelers are advised to arrive at least 90 minutes early at the airport, which expects a steady flow of increased business through New Year's.

Despite the higher volume, airport customers should have no problem finding a spot among 20,000 parking spaces available in short-term, long-term or the $9-a-day economy parking, she said.

The good news is that anyone foregoing planes and traveling by highway will see the lowest gas prices in several months.

That's why AAA has predicted this to be the busiest Christmas travel season in the last six years.

Gas prices in parts of the Tampa Bay area have recently dipped below $3 a gallon, including at least four locations on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater offering $2.97 a gallon and $2.99 at six stations on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park.

While usually not as heavy as Thanksgiving traffic, a large volume of cars are still expected to be on the road just before and after Christmas and New Year's.

"Gas prices have dropped and lower prices typically equate to more people being willing to travel," said Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins. "As a result, the FHP will step up its presence on roadways throughout the state."

Holiday travelers will get a mix of good and bad news 12/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 2:18pm]

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