Statistics from the Chicago Department of Aviation indicate that 66,906,017 passengers flew through O’Hare Airport in 2013 and another 29,474,552 traveled through Midway. That averages to more than 264,000 passengers per day between the two airports. Even if you figure half are coming and half are going, that’s still a whole lot of passengers going through security and a big percentage of them parking in the parking lots that can cost up to $35 per day. If you live in the city, there is no doubt that despite the congestion and cost, O’Hare and Midway are the most convenient airports to fly from, especially if you take public transportation. However, if you live outside of Chicago and are flying to specific destinations, driving a little farther to an alternative airport may save you time, money and frustration in the long run.
Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee WI
With 90% fewer passengers flying through Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport than O’Hare, far north suburbanites may find it more cost effective and convenient to drive to Milwaukee. In fact, from some suburbs, like Antioch, the drive time is the same. Parking starts at $6.50 per day in Mitchell Airport’s Super Saver lot, up to $22.50 per day in the hourly garage.
Indianapolis International Airport, Indianapolis IN
Even from the southernmost towns in Northwest Indiana, the Chicago airports are closer in mileage and time than Indianapolis International Airport, but the drive to Indianapolis is generally less stressful, and once you arrive, getting around the airport is much easier than getting to your departure gate in the Chicago airports. Parking runs $9 per day in the Economy lot and $18 per day in the terminal garage.
Rockford International Airport, Rockford IL
Northwest suburbanites traveling to a vacation destination may consider flying from Chicago Rockford International Airport. Allegiant Air flies to three Florida cities, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Parking is free.
Central Illinois Regional Airport, Bloomington IL
American, Delta, Allegiant and Frontier Airlines all serve the small Central Illinois Regional Airport (CIRA) with limited flights. Parking is free, making the approximate extra 45 minute drive from Joliet to CIRA versus O’Hare or Midway appealing.
One would assume that airfare from a smaller airport would be higher than it would be if flying from a major airport. In some cases, that’s true, but not always. You'll be pleasantly surprised to find fares to some destinations cheaper from smaller airports than from O’Hare or Midway.
Before you make your next flight reservation, check airfare, mileage and parking fees at alternate airports. The extra driving time may be made up with shorter check-in and security lines, and you may save money on parking and airfare, too.
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