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Navigating Chicago’s Airports

13 Feb

Airport travel can be a tedious endeavor with potential delays, commuting options, layovers, all within an airport that nearly resembles a city in itself.  We’re here to provide you with the right direction for making the most of your travel experience.  Starting with the commute, we’ll go over some tips to make navigating Chicago’s airports a bit easier for our travelers.

Airport Travel Tips

Navigating Chicago's Airports O'Hare picture

O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

O’Hare International Airport is the third largest airport in the United States and the fifth busiest worldwide.  It is located in the northwestern-most corner of Chicago.  O’Hare contains four numbered passenger terminals with nine lettered concourses and a total of 182 aircraft gates.

*Commute:  An average taxi to most Chicago neighborhoods range from $30-$40 and the drive can take 30 minutes to 1.5 hrs depending on traffic.  However, this cost can be negated by taking public transport through the use of CTA trains: the blue line train runs from O’Hare and connects to any other major train line: brown, red, orange etc.  The cost of a train to the city from O’Hare is $5, and going to the airport is only $2.25.

*Food Tips:  If you have some time, and you’re looking to fill your stomach, you can get a taste of Chicago at O’Hare Airport.    Check out famous Chicago chef Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera (Concourse B) for fresh and delicious Mexican cuisine, their guacamole is a perfect snack .  Also, local brew master Goose Island Brewery has a  restaurant at Concourse L where you can have a tasty 312 Wheat Ale and some pub food while you await your flight.  O’Hare also has Garrett’s Popcorn stands, so you can try a real Chicago novelty.

*Waiting Tips: Check out apps like GateGuru or tripit where users can view and submit security wait times.  We’ve learned if flying out of O’Hare in the early morning (which is recommended), especially on Mondays, give yourself some extra time, as security wait times of 20 – 30 minutes are normal. Take this into account when figuring what time to leave for the airport. Also, each of O’Hare’s terminals has several checkpoints and once past a checkpoint, a user can walk freely throughout the terminal. Based on GateGuru user submitted results, it is clear to us that the shortest security wait time is almost always at the far right checkpoint for each terminal. So when flying out of O’Hare, especially in the mornings, we recommend using the far right checkpoints, even if your gate is towards the middle or left of the concourse.

*Bonus Tip:  If you have a few hours to spare, and you’d like some daily exercise, check out  Hilton Hotel’s full-sized gym located in Terminal 2 for a $15 daily pass. Enjoy their wonderful facilities, including a steam room, sauna, lap pool with Jacuzzi, and full-service locker rooms.  This may be that excellent alternative to sitting around a terminal on the internet.

Midway Airport (MDW)

Chicago’s Midway Airport  is considerably smaller than O’Hare and was originally constructed in 1923 for airmail flights, it is now dominated by the high ranking Southwest Airlines.  Midway is named after the historic Battle of Midway which took place in 1942 during the Second World War, and was a crucial deciding factor in weakening Japan’s hold on the Pacific Ocean.  The primary airports for flights departing or origin for flights arriving to MDW are Denver (DEN), Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis (MN) and Orlando, FL (MCO).

*Commute:  Instead of a cab that can cost $30-$40, Chicago’s CTA system runs into Midway: the orange line train can be taken into the city center and it also connects to red, brown, and other trains as well.  The cost from Midway is $5 and to the airport is $2.25.

*Food Tips:  Midway also boasts some Chicago favorites like Gold Coast Dogs for your Chicago Style hot dog fix, Manny’s Deli is known to serve an outstanding corned beef sandwich.  Potbelly Sandwich Shop is also a safe bet for a delicious sandwich and ranks high among food court reviews.  Also, check out Red Mango for a yogurt, parfait, or smoothie treat.

*Waiting Tips: There are complimentary charging stations at Gates A3, A10, and near Gates B-10 and B-12 and of course there are several Wi-Fi kiosks available.  Midway has a USO center (Concourse C), 40 decorated rocking chairs, and more than a dozen temporary and permanent art and history exhibits, including The Battle of Midway Memorial, an SBD Dautless Dive-Bomber recovered from Lake Michigan, and a glass mural honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. Statues of the Blues Brothers are located on Concourse A, near the House of Blues concession.

Blue Line Station at O’Hare Airport

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