Need ideas for stuff to do in Chicago during a 3-hour layover at O'Hare

I feel like this should be a spinoff of the Why are you always late? thread. There are two types of people in the world: those who think arriving at a large, busy airport three hours early is right on the edge of comfortable… and people like the OP.

Funny, I have to really struggle not to be late - apparently my brain doesn’t have the appropriate time-sense - and this is exactly why I like to get to airports ridiculously early and I wouldn’t dream of leaving during a layover. When I lose track of time, I want to be at the gate, not on the El.

Last month I flew out of SFO. I got to the airport about two hours before my flight, thinking I had plenty of time. Well, it took forever to find a parking space in the long-term lot, and then security was really long. I barely made it to the gate in time.

This is really the issue.

As somebody who deals with airports for a living, the variability in how long it takes me to get from my front door to the gate varies from 50 minutes to 2 hours and 50 minutes depending on time of day, day of week, and random luck of how many people crash on the freeway and how hard it is to find a parking space. And I bypass security, so that mongo variable is removed from my personal experience.

IMO/IME, the folks who’re always late never decompose the problem. And never consider variability. IOW their thought process is more or less …

It’s 20 miles to the airport and there’s a freeway between here and there which means it will take 20 minutes to get to the gate since we drive 60mph on the freeway, right?

The list of what’s wrong with that simple logic would be a 2-screen post.

Security is a big variable also. We try to take the first flight of the day for long trips, and get there early. At 4:30 am the security line is short. But we talked to someone on the same flight who got there an hour after us (still plenty of time) and had to wait forever.

I can recommend TSA PreCheck if you want to speed your way through security. It costs about a hundred bucks but I think it’s good for five years.

When they just started the program we got Pre-check often, so I’m aware of it. We don’t travel enough to make it worthwhile, and there are plenty of other reasons to take the first flight, like getting in at a reasonable time flying east, not having to deal with Bay Area traffic and having your plane already there.
SeaTac has a program where you can make a TSA reservation, for free. My daughter used it, but when they flew the line was so short it didn’t matter.

You can reserve a time to go through the security checkpoint? Never heard of such a thing.

Here you go

I haven’t seen it anyplace else. It’s a great idea. Not available at Precheck, but you don’t need it there, I suppose.

And some credit cards (and other programs, I think) will cover the cost.

Plus, PreCheck isn’t just shorter lines, it’s not taking shoes off, laptops out, etc.

The last time my parents came to visit they booked a 6am flight for their return trip. Being relatively infrequent fliers, when discussing when we would need to leave to go to the airport they were like “We probably won’t need to get there that early; surely the airport won’t be very busy that early in the morning.” I had to explain to them that, no, that’s actually one of the busiest times at the airport, since that’s when most of the flights to the east coast depart. If you show up at 5:00 the security line will be seriously long.

And at least early in the program, you were in the line with pro travelers. Not the kind of folks that have to repack half their shit when they get up to the X-Ray machine.

TSA PreCheck, $100 for five years? Sounds like a bargain to me.

It cost me $73 today, not $100.

When I did it, TSA PreCheck was, I think, $85 but Global Entry was $100 and it automatically included PreCheck, so that’s what I applied for.

Dang, I wish I’d read this a day ago.

Doesn’t the Dominican Republic offer pre clearance? In that case, you’d get off the plane like it’s a domestic flight.

Anyway, as most others have said, you don’t have time to leave the airport for just three hours.

Speaking of drink prices at airports (again) I was waiting for a flight at Da Nang airport to return to Hanoi after a day jaunt to DN. I ordered a double vodka and orange, not a combo I think the staff were used to hearing. So I got a LONG glass of vodka (much more than 60ml, more like 100). And THEN they actually squeezed me some fresh oranges into another glass of equal size and a glass of ice cubes on the side. Cost me 120k VND or about $7.50 AUD. I was well and truly grateful for that drink as the flight was delayed by an hour, and it took me that long to drink it :stuck_out_tongue: