More than 1.4 million passengers will travel through Chicago’s airports during the 2005 holiday season, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. This translates into long lines, congested traffic and stress, particularly for those traveling with small children.
Continental Airport Express, Chicago’s top ground transportation service, offers a number of holiday travel tips to make the journey as pleasant as the destination.
Call the airlines before you leave for the airport.
Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at the airport and discovering that your flight has been delayed or cancelled.
Avoid rush hour.
Try to avoid departing during rush hours, 6:45 to 9:30 a.m. and 3:45 to 6:30 p.m. “It’s not the traffic to O’Hare, but the traffic at O’Hare that slows you down,” says John McCarthy, president of Airport Express.
Domestic and international passengers should arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure during the holidays when crowds and security are greatest. If you have time afterward, you can eat at a restaurant or food court, shop for holiday gifts or read a book.
Bypass the boarding pass line.
If your airline has the option, print your boarding pass online so you do not have to wait in line.
Bring at least one photo I.D. for domestic travel and a passport for international travel. If you do not have a driver’s license, you can obtain a state I.D. at the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles. Keep your boarding pass and forms of identification within easy access for security checkpoints. A badge-holder worn around the neck is a great idea when you have carry-on luggage in tow.
Double-check luggage guidelines.
Follow weight and quantity guidelines for luggage and carry-on bags. Keep sharp items such as scissors, nail files and razors in your checked-in luggage. Pack the night before your flight so that you can double-check your travel checklist.
Lock your luggage.
Despite previous security regulations, travelers can now use certain luggage locks. One approved model is Travel Sentry Luggage Locks. Recognized by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), these locks allow airport security to examine your luggage quickly.
Make time fly by for your children.
If your flight is delayed and you have little kids in tow, O’Hare Airport boasts an interactive exhibit called “Kids on the Fly.” Located in Terminal 2, children 12 and younger can pretend to be pilots or baggage personnel. “Kids on the Fly” also features “Centennial of Flight,” an exhibit celebrating aviation history. International Terminal 5 has play areas for younger children provided by the Chicago Fire Department and Rotary International. To keep children busy on the plane, pack small carry-ons complete with books, puzzles, headphones, toys and hand-held video games.
Look for travel deals.
Finally, many travelers find discounts for flights, hotels and ground transportation during the holiday season by booking online. Airport Express fares for transportation to and from the airport can be up to 40 percent cheaper than a taxi. Customers won’t need to drain their wallets by filling their own gas tanks or waste valuable time trying to find parking spots at airport lots which are rapidly filling up.
Additionally, with door-to-door service, passengers can be picked up and dropped off at their homes, eliminating the need to navigate turnstiles and buses with numerous bags, presents and holiday goodies. Airport Express offers discounts for ground transportation by booking online at www.AirportExpress.com.
Founded in 1853 as the Parmelee Transportation Company, Continental Airport Express currently transports more than one million passengers annually to and from Chicago’s airports. Its services are offered to and from downtown Chicago, as well as Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Bucktown, Near North, West Loop and South Loop neighborhoods. It also offers O’Hare service to and from most Western, North and Northwest suburbs.