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Tips for making the best of O’Hare from local business travelers

By April 4, 2024No Comments

(This column originally appeared in The Daily Herald)


Arrive early.

O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the world, with an estimated 74 million passengers passing through it every year. That can sometimes cause long lines and potential delays in getting through security.

Robert Irsuto, an attorney in Schaumburg, travels about five to six times per year but always recommends getting to O’Hare early and using curbside check-in when bringing bags, “although if you can get away without bringing any luggage do that instead.”

Personal chef Heath Schecter, who is based in Buffalo Grove, travels frequently and also recommends checking bags at O’Hare.

“But you better make sure you get to the airport with plenty of time, at least an hour if you’re checking a bag,” he said. “I never knew that they cut off the bag check-in 45 minutes prior to the flight.”

Get your security clearances.

Any frequent traveler will agree that making the effort to get security clearances — TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear — is very much worth it.

“Signing up for Global Entry is a must for those who travel internationally — it’s valid for 5 years and it already comes with TSA PreCheck included,” said Csilla Dali, a luxury travel adviser and founder of Evyssa Vacations in Hoffman Estates. “I also find Clear an even faster option at O’Hare than Global Entry, but it does not come with TSA PreCheck. I’ve had both for a year, and in some airports around the U.S., especially where Global Entry was not used, Clear came in handy.”

David Kolssak, who owns Turnkey, an IT service firm based in Wheeling, travels for work anywhere from one to three times a month and also uses Global Entry. But he also warns about the machines the Transportation Security Administration uses at its security checkpoints.

“I do not ever go through the imaging machine where you hold your hands above your head as they scan you,” he said. “That machine emits more than 800 times the radiation of a cellphone. It is not good for you, and you should always ask for a manual pat down in its place. It might take a few moments longer, but protecting your health is important.”

For business travel, the lounges are worth it.

Travelers at O’Hare tend to gravitate toward the United (Terminals 1 and 2) and American Admirals Lounge (Terminal 3) when they can and, though crowded and not always the best place to rest, the experience is generally worth it. Dali, for example, strongly believes that business travelers should always have lounge access.

“It provides a comfortable environment to wait for boarding and offers the opportunity to catch up with work,” she said. “Having food and drinks included and easily accessible in the lounge also saves time. The Admiral’s Lounge itself is spacious, with nice views, and clean bathrooms — a big step up from sitting in the terminal and waiting at your gate.”

Kolssak is a fan of the United Club in Terminal 2.

“It’s probably my favorite,” he said. “It is less crowded than the others in Terminal 1 and I find it to be a very nice place to relax before a flight.”

Finally, make sure to check out these cool places.

Everyone has a favorite place to stop in O’Hare. I like the Billy Goat Tavern in Terminal 1. Chef Shecter recommends the Bubbles Lounge in Terminal 3. So does Andres Basso. And he should know as the president and general manager of Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois’ oldest continually operating family-owned winery located in Roselle.

“It’s my favorite O’Hare stop when traveling with my wife,” Basso said. “It also happens to be right across from Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera! Vosges Chocolate is always a great last-minute Chicago gift to grab for those we are visiting.”

If you have a sweet tooth, Dali recommends the Garrett Popcorn Shop in Terminal 3 where she says the popcorn is “not only delicious, but they are packed well and easy to travel with. It is a present that the recipients can enjoy themselves or share with their friends, family, or colleagues.”

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