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Beating Business Travel Stress and Finding Tranquility at O’Hare Airport

September 26th, 2016 /

I’ve  wasted more days of my life in airports than I’d like to admit, thanks to delays and good old-fashioned layovers. It’s one of the hazards of business travel. And being jittery about an important meeting or antsy about getting home makes relaxing a challenge.

But doing so is important, and if your trip takes you through O’Hare, you’re in luck: Here are a few sure-fire ways to find tranquility, courtesy of a traveler who knows the airport a little too well.

business travel stress

Image credit: Flickr user Chad Kainz (CC BY 2.0)

Get Your Savasana on

Because it’s so out of the way, tucked discreetly into the Mezzanine level of Terminal 3 at the end of a hallway that appears to lead nowhere, the Yoga Room at O’Hare is one of the airport’s most under-utilized secrets, especially for business travelers—if you’ve had a big week of client meetings, you’re due for some zen.

Make sure you have at least an hour to spare since it takes a bit of time to walk to and from the Yoga Room. If you’ve only got thirty minutes, your time might be better spent with a good drink. But for everyone else, the space is open from 6am to 10pm and comes complete with everything you need, save for a change of clothes. Mats are provided, the room is equipped with a TV for easy instructions if you don’t have a personal routine, and there’s a bathroom across the hall for quick changing. Don’t worry about space—every time I’ve been to the O’Hare Yoga Room, I’ve been the only one in it. If you meditate, you also couldn’t ask for a more conducive spot.

Hit the Gym

If you’ve just gotten off a long flight, sometimes all it takes is a shower to feel like a new person. This kind of luxury is normally hard to come by at an airport, but not O’Hare. The O’Hare Hilton is located inside the airport and offers amenities like free wifi in the lobby and access to a full-blown fitness center, including both swimming pool and whirlpool, for a reasonable $22.

At minimum, you’ll want to make sure you have two hours to commit to the Hilton gym. It takes time to get there and back, and you have to account for meandering through the hotel to get to the gym, plus changing and showering before you head out again.

If you’ve got a really nightmarish layover, you can also spring for one of the Hilton’s super quiet day use rooms, which come with gym access and complimentary wi-fi. This is a better way to spend the day than sitting on a terribly uncomfortable  chair and watching the seconds tick past, especially if you’re trying to stay productive and need some privacy to finish a report or prep for a meeting.

Escape the Noise

It seems counter-intuitive, but posting up in the least busy restaurant, bar, or coffee shop you can find is also a pretty great way to relax. Airports are  filled with an incessant level of background noise that can become maddening after an hour or two, and quiet music and a corner table offer a respite. I’ve had particular luck with the Starbucks in Terminal 1, just outside gate G17—it’s less busy than other locations and also has plenty of chargers to power up your devices.

If you’ve got morning hours to kill, I’d also suggest Bubbles Wine Bar in Terminal 3. They open at 5 AM but don’t usually get busy until much later in the day. The bar itself has a number of hidden outlets, and there’s sometimes a live pianist playing on the baby grand in the corridor outside.

You can try the lounge area beside the aeroponic herb garden in Terminal 3, Concourse G, too, but it’s become a fairly popular spot, and I haven’t always had luck finding an open seat.

Have a Spa Day

In Concourse B of Terminal 1, near gate 12,  you’ll find the Terminal Getaway Spa at O’Hare. From 6:30am to 9:00pm you can pamper yourself with services designed specifically for flyers. If you’ve suffered a chip in your manicure or want to appear less jet-lagged before meeting a client or colleague, this is a good option for quickly refreshing yourself—no massive time commitment necessary.

Full body massages are also offered in 45, 60, and 90 minute increments. Swedish massage is the most typical option, but if your back muscles are in particularly rough shape after  long flight, I’d suggest opting for a Deep Tissue massage instead. If you’re pressed for time, chair services are also available and require as little as ten minutes.

Try Some Retail Therapy

Just two miles from the airport, you’ll find some of the best therapy money can buy: the retail variety. For those of us who can’t resist the lure of our credit cards when bored (pretty much everyone with a layover), the proximity of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago is a godsend. Call yourself an Uber and you’re just six minutes away—or 15 minutes if you’d rather go via the Airport Shuttle Express, which will run you $18 round trip—from brands like Gucci, Burberry, and Coach, as well as culinary offerings that are a sight more appealing than airport food, like the Lindt Chocolate Cafe or NS Macaroons. If you have young children waiting for you at home, you can also check out Lolli and Pops candy store—it’s been a big hit in my household.

You can be there in back in as little as an hour if you’re on a mission and have a particular store in mind. (Tie stuck in a missing checked bag? Problem solved.) Otherwise, you’ll generally want to have at least a few hours on hand to leisurely enjoy your shopping.

Get Some Sun

A small dose of sunlight is linked to all kinds of health benefits and can help reset your internal clock if your body thinks you’re still in Taipei. When you’re particularly short on time but longing to feel human again, look for a sun-filled spot near a window. Terminal 2 faces the perfect direction for sunsets and highlights them wonderfully, and Concourse G is especially nice. It has large “sky vaults” overhead that are designed to let in as much natural light as possible.

If you’re in Terminal 3, you can also check out Facades, a bar near Gate 15. They’ve got a lot of windows, and you can get a quick sunlight fix while you enjoy a beer.

This is far from a comprehensive list, of course. There are plenty of ways for smart business travelers to minimize stress, from knowing how to keep electronic devices charged to always getting the best corporate rates at hotels. We’d love to hear your own secrets.

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