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How to survive flight delays at O’Hare

Written by
Grace Perry

We’re all about the holiday season in Chicago, but there’s one major downside to the most wonderful time of the year: Travel delays. As folks fly cross-country to visit family, O’Hare International Airport becomes an absolute dumpster fire of delays. Luckily, there are perks to being a massive air travel hub. If you know what you’re doing, experiencing a gnarly delay at ORD can be… Well, it’d be lying to say “fun,” but here are some ways to alleviate the pain of holiday travel at O’Hare.

Dig into a great meal

No, a fistful of Chex Mix from a Hudson News doesn’t count as a meal. A few of Chicago’s best restaurants have outposts at the city’s largest airport: Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill has three locations at O’Hare (in Terminals 1, 3 and 5); the Publican Tavern (Terminal 3) offers an abbreviated version of the West Loop institution’s meat-focused menu; Summer House Santa Monica dishes up salads and sandwiches in Terminal 2. No better way to quell your travel-induced anxiety than filling up on great bites.

Just relaaaaaax already

Get your “Om” on in the Yoga Room, open daily from 6am to 10pm. It’s located on the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, right next to the Aeroponic Garden, which grows dozens of herbs and veggies. Pop into either space for a few minutes to clear your head. Or, if you need a full-scale relaxation, make an appointment at the Terminal Getaway Spa, with four locations throughout O’Hare. Services range from 10-minute chair massages to 90-minute deep tissue massages.

Shell out for a lounge day pass

If you’re going to be trapped at the airport for a long time, consider buying a day pass for an airline lounge. Lounges include the American Airlines’ Admirals Club (Terminal 3, $59), the Delta Sky Club (Terminal 2, $59), the United Club (Terminals 1, 2, $59) and more. Amenities at clubs include complimentary food, drink and bar service, free Wi-Fi, personal travel assistance, and overall comfort you can’t get at your gate.

Boost those endorphins

Sweat out those travel jitters at the Hilton Health Club, located in the Hilton Hotel just across from Terminals 1, 2 and 3. It features a weight room, sauna and indoor pool. Day passes cost $20, and it’s open 24 hours a day.

Get your flu shot

Tick this autumnal necessity off your to-do list while killing time at the airport. The O’Hare Medical Center (Terminal 2)—and its auxiliary kiosks in Terminals 1, 2, and 3—perform flu shots during flu season, and accept most insurance. No need to make an appointment. It’s open from 8am to 5pm Mon–Fri, and 9am to 5pm on weekends and holidays.

Let the kids run around

Traveling with the family during the holidays can be super stressful—we’ve all seen Home Alone. Give the little ones space to blow off some steam at the Kids On The Fly playzone in Terminal 2. This Chicago Children’s Museum O’Hare outpost lets kids explore a play airplane, as well as a restored fighter plane from WWII. Families should also note the Mother’s Rooms (Terminals 1, 2, 3, 5), where moms have a quiet, clean space to breastfeed and change diapers. They’re open 24/7.

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