I'll be the first to admit: Airport hotels aren't sexy. But for certain types of itineraries and travelers, they can make a lot of sense. Earlier this year, I stayed at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport (the only hotel on the actual grounds of the airport) the night before an early flight. This was a way for me to avoid dropping loads of cash on a cab in the morning. Plus, the underground concourse connects the hotel directly to the airport terminals.
But just how much is this convenience worth? Let's take a look.Rates at Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport start at $99-$199 for a standard room, including weekends. During the week, when business travelers are in town, rates tend to be higher -- starting at around $199 during the winter months and $229 to $259 during the rest of the year. For a comparison, the Hilton Chicago downtown offers roughly the same, if not slightly lower rates over the same periods.
So while the airport hotel doesn't offer significant savings, this was what made a huge difference for me: If I were to stay downtown, for example, a taxi ride would cost around $50 -- and the trip could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, or even two, depending on traffic. Even a shared ride like the Super Shuttle is around $30, with longer travel times.
Plus, there's the timing factor. As someone who hates spending more time waiting at the airport than absolutely necessary, I likely would have spent half the evening calculating exactly when to leave, and then spent the rest of the night worrying about making my flight. For peace of mind alone, staying at an airport hotel was worth it.
Speaking of sleeping soundly, rooms at the airport hotel are equipped with blackout curtains and specially enforced windows that reduce exterior sound. The hotel offers allergy-friendly options with hardwood floors, hypoallergenic bedding, and an air purifier, too. And though I got there past 10 p.m., the late-night dining options didn't leave me hungry. (Anyone else who can't sleep on an empty stomach out there?)
Of course, airport hotels can be most helpful in the case of a flight delay. If you're already at the airport, as I was during a two-hour delay, you can spend the extra time sleeping, catching up on email, or just watching TV. If I'd been staying downtown, I'd have already been en route to the airport by the time I learned about the delay.
Final word: If you're game to stay in multiple hotels during a single trip, booking a hotel for your final night can be a helpful, sanity-saving option. For someone who'd rather stay in one place, you can always consider booking an airport hotel for your entire stay. In this case, the Hilton Chicago O'Hare is connected to downtown-bound trains, and it's a 45-minute ride. This option isn't for everyone, but in this case, I was able to get home in one piece -- and in a good enough state of mind to go to the office for the rest of the day.