Beating the Thanksgiving Crowds at Chicago’s ORD Airport

Beating the Thanksgiving Crowds at Chicago’s ORD Airport

2018 marked one of the busiest Thanksgiving travel weeks ever in the United States. With over 55 million people traveling away from their current residence, whether by flying or some other mode of transportation, to spend the holiday elsewhere, airports all over the nation were jam-packed with passengers. However, none of them were quite as busy as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. ORD Airport saw over 2 million passengers alone over the 7 days of Thanksgiving week travel.

If last year was any indication, Thanksgiving 2019 will be just as busy for travelers, especially in the Chicago area. In the event that you will be flying on Thanksgiving weekend into or out of O’Hare Airport, or will be helping someone who will, here are a few tips that may help you keep your sanity.

  1. Know Your Route

The second most popular route for Thanksgiving travel is between Chicago and New York. As major international hubs that also serve a lot of domestic flights, it’s no surprise that these airports can become quite congested. Since this is a popular route, there are a huge number of flights, many more than most other American airports. With so many flights, there are bound to be more disruptions. Indeed, this route suffers from a lot of delays and cancellations during Thanksgiving week.

If your Thanksgiving plans include these two cities, you may want to consider changing your route slightly to limit the possibility of disruptions. Flying into or out of different airports may help with this if you’re ok taking the scenic route to your destination. Alternatively, you can divide your trip into different one-way flights to avoid this major route. For example, fly from Chicago to Boston, and then from Boston to New York City. You’ll be taking more flights, but there will be less risk of your flight being disrupted.

However, assuming this isn’t a possibility, take into account the time of day that you’re flying out. Flights that depart in the morning, between 6 am and noon, experience the least disruptions.

  1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Getting to the airport always seems like a daunting task. The recommended amount of time to arrive for your flight is at least 1 hour early for domestic and 2-3 hours for international. You’ll usually know what time you want to arrive at the airport; the tricky part is knowing how long it will take you to get there in the first place. After all, traffic can be unpredictable, especially during a holiday week. You may expect there to be less traffic during peak rush-hour times because everyone is on holiday, but do remember that there will be lots of people like you who are trying to get to the airport to enjoy the Thanksgiving vacation.

On the day of travel, make sure to check out what the traffic is like. The best way to do this is to use your GPS or Google maps to input your destination and see what the estimated time of travel will be. Many services will show you any slow-downs, accidents, or other traffic incidents. Once you have that estimated time, add another thirty or so minutes, just to be safe. This way, you won’t be too affected by any accidents that may occur when you’re already en route.

If flying from ORD on Thanksgiving weekend is your airport of choice, you’ll have the longest travel time to get to the airport. AAA predicts that residents of Chicago city itself will need upwards of an hour and forty minutes to arrive.

  1. Avoid O’Hare Airport Parking

With ORD Airport expected to be so busy during Thanksgiving week, you can bet that the ORD airport parking will be more packed than usual. Even on a normal day, you might have to search much longer than you’d like for a good parking spot. Considering that travel time is so long to get to the airport and that lines inside the airport will be longer than usual as well, you’ll want to avoid the mayhem of onsite Chicago Airport parking as much as possible. In this case, your best bet for cheap, convenient parking is to choose one of the many hotels nearby.

Luckily for many travelers, local airport hotels understand the parking conundrum and will offer their parking lot services whether you’re a guest of the hotel or not. Here are a couple of our favorite hotels for offsite O’Hare airport parking in Chicago:

  • Hyatt Place – As a 2018 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the Hyatt is a modern hotel with all of the amenities. It’s located a mere two miles from the airport itself and offers outdoor self-parking 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The cost of the parking is under $9 per day, and there is a convenient and free shuttle that runs all day. The hotel does suggest that you allow yourself quite a bit of extra time to use their services: 30 extra minutes for parking, and 15-20 for the shuttle bus to arrive and drop you off at your terminal.
  • Sheraton Suites – Like the Hyatt, the Sheraton offers alternative O’Hare Airport parking for passengers, without the need to stay at the airport. However, if you live further away from the airport and need to arrive for an early flight, consider the ParkSleepFly package. It includes a fabulous hotel room with high-speed Wi-Fi, onsite parking, and a free shuttle to the airport. The hotel is only a mile and a half from the airport, so the shuttle will only take a few minutes. Do keep in mind that the shuttle runs once an hour from 6 am to 10 am and from 4 pm to 8 pm Monday to Saturday, and only runs on Sundays by appointment.

For a Thanksgiving trip, it’s best to call ahead to make sure that your chosen hotel’s parking lot has enough space for you. Even better, book your spot online in advance. This will shorten any wait time for paying and checking in with attendants. If you decide to change your mind, you can cancel your reservation at any time and get your money back 100%.

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