Layover in Chicago International airport: what to do and where to sleep in O’hare

transit in Chicago airport O'hare connecting flight hotel United States

When we talk about O’hare International airport or simply Chicago airport (ORD) in the United States, we are actually referring to one of the biggest hubs in America, with over 150 domestic scheduled operations and more than 60 regular routes to destinations abroad. This comprises many connecting flights handled by carriers that are members of the One World and StarAlliance programs, linking cities across the US with Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, something that accounts for the large number of passengers who need to stay overnight in Chicago O’hare airport before resuming a long-haul journey.

Navigating the airport: the four terminals of ORD

If you are taking an international flight to Chicago airport, chances are that your plane will land in Terminal 5. Only Etihad Airways and Aer Lingus flights whose passengers have already gone through preclearance and some Iberia and Lufthansa flights may be assigned a different arrivals terminal. It is advisable that you know your terminal of arrival in advance, since you will need to allow extra time to transfer between buildings and clear security again if you are flying again to reach your final destination.

Terminal 1 is almost exclusively dedicated to United, as it not only accommodates the boarding gates of the airline company, but also the check-in counters, information desks and frequent-flyer lounges.

Air Canada and Delta flights are normally operated from Terminal 2.

American Airlines and Iberia flights, as well as other ones handled by carriers belonging to the One World Alliance take off and land in Terminal 3. You will also find operations for lowcost airlines, Admirals Club lounges and one American Air Flagship Lounge here.

How to make a connection in Chicago

When travellers land in Chicago airport to take a connecting flight to another destination, they usually feel like they have to start the whole journey all over again. However, if you remember these simple steps, it will be a breeze:

1-Upon arriving on Terminal 5, you will be required to clear US customs and immigration, especially when you are entering the United States with an ESTA travel authorisation. In case you are a Global Entry approved member, just go straight to the automated passport control kiosks.

2-Proceed to the baggage claim area. In many cases, even if your bags have been checked through to your last stop, you will have to collect them and drop them off again at the counter designated by your airline. Make sure you confirm this before making your connection.

3-Check the terminal of departure for your next flight on the information screens, then using the Airport Transit system (ATS rail network) to transfer between buildings in Chicago airport.

4-After you drop off your bags again and/or collect your new boarding pass, head to a security checkpoint and go through the X-ray screening again.

Now you are ready to board your flight! Train shuttle rides from one terminal to another should not take longer than 10-15 minutes; nevertheless, when calculating your travel times, always consider that there may be queues at security or passport control, or that you might even have to wait to collect your luggage. You must be at your next boarding gate from 30 to 45 minutes before the flight takes off.

Advice for a long layover or staying overnight at O’hare airport in Chicago

During long layovers in the middle of a long-haul journey, sleeping in Chicago International airport is a way to ensure that you will arrive well-rested and refreshed to your final destination. The Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel is within short walking distance of terminals 1, 2 and 3, and can be reached after a short ATS train ride from T5. Other recommended hotels near Chicago O’hare airport where you can spend the night before early morning flights are the Best Western O’hare and the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Chicago-O’Hare.

Business travellers may also find it convenient to book a work space at the Hilton Chicago O’hare airport hotel to catch up with work or meet up with potential clients, located next to Terminal 2. They even have conference facilities with maximum capacity of 400 people.

If you have between 3 and 6 hours to spend at O’hare International

When you have more than 3 hours to spend before departure and would not mind to take a dip and relax, you can enjoy the swimming pool and wellness centre at the Hilton for a nominal fee. Other Chicago airport services include barber shops (like the one in T2), the massages of the Getaway Spa in T1 or the luxury beauty treatments by XpressSpa in T5 (concourse M).

Yoga lovers will be delighted with a space specifically conceived for them on the mezzanine level of T3, right by the urban gardens and open from 6:00 to 22:00 every day of the year.

When your layover in Chicago International airport is less than 3 hours long

No time for a dip in the pool or a haircut in O’hare airport? No problem! You can still do some duty free shopping or grab a bite to eat at the restaurants. These are our recommendations:

For the best last-minute purchases, go to the Duty Free Store in concourse B of T1, Mac Cosmetics in the public hall of T2, the Harley Davidson store of T3 or the “I love Chicago” gifts and souvenirs shop in T5. Hungry? Our top picks are Brioche Doree in T1, La Tapenade Mediterranean Cafe in concourse F of T2, Argo Tea both before and after security in T3 and Wow Bao next to gate M10 in T5.

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