O’Hare Parking: Protest-Proofing My Thanksgiving Weekend Trip

Flying from Chicago to New York this past Thanksgiving weekend, O’Hare parking was a major consideration for me. I wanted to be at the airport with as much extra time as possible, parking at a safe and convenient place nearby and be in line at the gates early. I was a bit apprehensive about the astroturfer’s threat of a so-called “national opt-out day” where protesters will refuse the full body scans and demand pat-downs by the TSA instead.

I dropped off my car at the O’Hare parking facility and arrived at the airport a full three hours early prepared for the worst. You see, pat-downs take an average of four minutes as opposed to the 10 seconds it would take for someone to go through the body scan. If a large number of these people would opt-out, the resulting long lines will create havoc in the travel schedules of hundreds of thousands of people. Fortunately, Americans are more sensible than that – the planned protest action fizzled out at ORD from what I’ve seen (as well as in other airports, thankfully). As it turned out, it was the inclement weather that actually threatened flight schedules not some crank on Speedo demanding a pat down.

While waiting for my flight at the airport (two more hours to go) with my third cup of coffee, I was thinking about how much worse it could have been, something as nightmarish as the long lines we all went through in late 2001 and early 2002. At least, O’Hare parking today is decidedly much better than it was back then.

O’Hare Airport parking on-site is expensive and I rarely use it these days even for very short (2-3 days) trips. Daily parking here costs $31 per day both in the garage and the nearby A, B, and C lots and these tend to fill up to capacity easily on peak days. Economy Lot E has a lower rate of only $17 per day while Economy Lot F off Mannheim Road has the cheapest rate of only $9 per day. Both economy lots run excellent shuttle services and Lot F rarely fills up to capacity isn’t too bad even for long-term parking.

Off-airport, there are several O’Hare parking options to choose from. The outdoor valet parking lot run by AviStar on N Mannheim Rd is an excellent choice for people wanting to try out parking options outside the airport. Parking here costs about $74 for 7 days. The Park N’ Jet lot nearby on Belle Plaine Ave has a much cheaper rate at about $61 for the same number of days. Other facilities in this vicinity such as the Thrifty and Pride lots have comparable rates to the previous two and all are served by frequently running shuttle vehicles.

Hotel parking is also a good option for parking at O’Hare Airport. The ‘park, sleep, and fly’ packages in these airports are in fact highly cost-effective for family or groups traveling from 10 to14 days. InterContinental, for example, offers a room rate starting at $99 with 10 days of parking. Close by, Crowne Plaza has rooms available starting at $109 with 14 days of free parking. I haven’t experienced bad service in these hotels, but a couple of friends are not too thrilled about their shuttle services. In any case, it’s also possible to park in these establishments without availing of the ‘park, sleep, and fly’ packages.

For the Thanksgiving trip, I used the Lot F economy O’Hare parking lot for 3 days of parking. The New York trip went smoothly as planned and I had a great time with the family. One more Thanksgiving weekend, I guess, to be thankful about.