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I am a student travelling from India to the US for my higher studies and am carrying two 23kg bags.

I have two flight options from India, both of which terminate at Chicago (ORD). My university has arranged for a bus from Chicago airport to the university (another 8 hour journey), which starts from Chicago airport at 10:30 in the night.

  1. The first flight from India reaches Chicago around 3:30 in the afternoon of the previous day, so I have to spend 7+24 hours in Chicago.
  2. My second flight reaches Chicago around 10:30 in the morning, so I have to spend 12 hours in Chicago.

I would like to know what would be the best economical (as I am a student, cannot afford to spend too much money) way to handle both these types of stopovers considering the baggage that I have to handle.

PS: I want to decide between these two flight options based on your feedback for both the stopovers.

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    Is there a regional airport closer to your university? If so, have you looked into flight options to that airport? They may very well be the same price, or even cheaper, than a flight to ORD. – fkraiem May 23 '15 at 7:09
  • Yes there is, but it is famous for flight cancellations due to bad weather. And anyway to reach there by flight there are flights available only from ORD. The problem is that these flights are not cheap and so I am opting for the University bus option. Plus the same two flight options I mentioned above still hold true even if I choose to travel by air than the bus. – Cool_Coder May 23 '15 at 7:20
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    Pick the flight with the shortest layover since it's 12h but on the same day: no need to look for hotels and such. You can simply stay in the terminal with a nice book to read and kill time. – JoErNanO May 23 '15 at 9:15
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    @LoSauer There are no baggage lockers in the United States, and have not been for a long time. – choster May 23 '15 at 16:22
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    @choster Kind-of-true, but while lockers are uncommon, baggage storage may still be available. For example, the San Francisco Airport has such a service in the international terminal. No clue about ORD, though. – DCTLib May 24 '15 at 17:30
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I would opt for the flight that arrives the previous day. Then I would look for the cheapest hotel around the airport - make sure to look just outside the airport, and it'll be a lot cheaper than one right in the airport.

Hotels usually offer free shuttle to/from the terminal. Once you get to Chicago, call the hotel and confirm the pickup time/location - go to the hotel, relax a bit, take a shower, leave your luggage in your room - then go the city. You can take the same shuttle bus back to the terminal and then go to the city, or go straight from the hotel.

The following day, when you check out from the hotel, pretty much ALL hotels will allow you to leave your luggage there for a bit longer - closer to your flight time. Go to the city again - enjoy the whole day in the city - then come back to the airport/hotel, get your bags - and onto the bus.

You should be able to utilise the hotel shuttle bus as many times as you need. Thus, coming the day before, for the price of the hotel room, you'll have a place to relax, to wash, to leave your bags - and you'll have the whole day to enjoy the city.

  • Aleks the situation has changed now. I already booked the second flight. Is it possible to book a hotel on hourly basis, say like 12 hrs? – Cool_Coder May 24 '15 at 14:41
  • Usually, no. You can try booking a place on airbnb for one night instead of a hotel. It will most likely be cheaper. – chromozonex May 24 '15 at 17:40
  • @Cool_Coder While usually hotels in the USA don't rent out rooms by hours, many hotels in the airport do provide bookings for half a day, specifically to cater to people like yourself. I suggest you call up or email a few hotels and ask them about this. – Aleks G May 24 '15 at 19:19
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There is a concise guide for a short layover in Chicago, published in Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2014/01/21/layover-guide-chicago-ohare/

The guide recommends to buy a $10 day pass on a stored-value Ventra Card. A one-way ticket is $5 from O’Hare (vending machines in the station below the airport)

Great pointers can also be found here: Can I visit Chicago during a 5.5 hour layover in O'Hare?

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    Hello Lo, Thank you for answering my question. Your answer has been quite helpful, although there is no locker facility as per the website of the airport and even the Forbes article you linked. flychicago.com/OHare/EN/AtAirport/Facilities/Pages/default.aspx – Cool_Coder May 23 '15 at 13:36
  • @Cool_Coder I see. That explains why usually cheap nearby Hotels were the prevailing recommendation. I'd say anything from hostels to friends/acquaintances which "borrow" you their car's trunk space, to malls/museums/big PoI's are good options as well. – Lorenz Lo Sauer May 29 '15 at 5:01

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