Whether you’re a frequent flier or get on an airplane only a few times per year, getting stuck in an airport overnight or for several hours could be a nightmare.
From bad weather to missed flights and other unforeseen circumstances, sleeping in an airport may become a necessity due to one reason or the other. Other fliers may choose to spend the night in an airport as a budget measure instead of paying for a hotel.
Regardless of what the underlying reasons may be, fatigue usually sets in at some point and the individual’s circadian rhythm begins ushering in sleep when the regular bedtime comes. Thus, preparing yourself for airport sleepovers can come in handy.
Unfortunately, some airports only open for specific hours and usually close at night. This is why your first duty is to make sure sleeping over is even possible in the specific one you may be stuck in. This is common in smaller airports in small cities around the world that only receive a handful of arrivals and departures daily.
Here are the 30 top tips to enable you to have a blast when sleeping in an airport:
1. Research the Airport
Every booked air ticket comes with an itinerary that reveals the flight schedules as well as stop-over airports if any. We recommend conducting detailed research on every airport that appears on your flight itinerary well in advance.
This can give you an idea of how each airport operates as well as any facilities that can come in handy should you need an emergency overnight stay.
If you want comprehensive information about sleeping facilities in airports around the world, check out Sleeping in Airports.
2. Find the Best Spot
Airports can be quite noisy thanks to the thousands of passengers streaming in and out as well as the regularly loud announcements of arrivals and departures. Like a predator hunting for its prey, it is important to take a walk around various areas to find the best spots for sleeping.
Sometimes, you may come across other people deeply asleep in specific areas which can be a clue that they’re good spots.
Whatever you do, stay away from areas near the toilets and major routes. Also, setting up camp anywhere close to the check-in desks and other busy areas can be a bad idea.
3. Seek Help
There’s an ancient African proverb that says that “Whoever seeks directions never gets lost” and this rings true when you find yourself in an ultra-busy airport with thousands of passengers and no clear spot to get some shuteye.
Most airlines have information desks in airports where they operate so that should be the first point of call. Ask for the information desk of the airline you’re flying and tell them of the plan to sleep at the airport.
They’ll be happy to give helpful pointers that can help you find the right spot to spend the night. If that sounds like a stretch, you can always approach a friendly-looking security guard and ask for directions on where to hit the hay.
You could be on your way to La La Land by the time you know it.
4. Luggage Lockers
Many major and medium-sized airports have lockers for travelers to keep luggage securely. If you happen to be in one of those, do not hesitate to pay for the use of these lockers especially when traveling with some valuables. This can save you from waking up to stolen luggage.
Firmly secured bags and personal effects can also provide peace of mind to sleep well. It may be hard to get a restful night even in airports with designated sleeping areas when you’re worried about the fate of your personal belongings.
5. Put Bags Under Lock and Key
One of the positives of having bags and purses with zippers is the ease with which valuables can be secured with small padlocks. Make sure all bags are zipped and locked with absolutely no exceptions before hitting the sack.
Remember, sleeping may make you vulnerable to theft and the last thing you want is to wake up to stolen passports, wallets, and cash.
Laying your head on your luggage, wrapping any bag handles in your hands, and placing your legs on your bags can be good security measures while hitting the sack. The best way to secure your bags and personal effects is to make them impossible to be stolen without waking you up.
6. Pack A Travel Blanket
The open-end architectures of airports can result in significantly low temperatures overnight. The situation may get worse during winter when temperatures often dip to the 30s or below. A travel blanket cannot only keep you warm on an extremely cold flight but may also be lifesaving when spending the night in an airport.
These blankets are usually lightweight so fitting them in your luggage or carry-on shouldn’t be much of a problem. Besides, wrapping the blanket around the body can send a strong signal of security to the brain to induce sleep.
The chances of having a relatively good night can improve significantly afterward.
I always pack the BlueHills Premium Soft Blanket from Amazon every time I fly domestic or international. It provides genuine warmth and comfort especially on flights that turn out to be extremely cold. It is compact and ships with a storage bag for easy packing and transportation.
7. Layers of Clothes
Wearing layers of clothes can be a big advantage in situations where you might be forced to sleep in an airport. It may be an efficient way of staying comfortable when temperatures are freezing.
However, if temperatures happen to be unexpectedly mild, you can always remove some of the clothes to prevent sweating and other signs of discomfort from the heat.
Another advantage of wearing layers of clothes is that it frees up luggage space for you to pack other vital personal effects. Besides, the extra layers of clothes may even serve as an emergency pillow to support the head overnight.
8. Earbuds and Noise-Canceling Headphones
If you’re like me then the struggle to enjoy a shuteye can be real unless your environment is calm and quiet. However, the opposite is often true in airports, especially international airports in major cities around the world.
Earphones are a must-have as they can protect the ears from the often unbearable levels of noise in such airports. Not only can this prevent distractions while trying to nod off but the soothing music may also relax the brain to achieve and stay asleep.
The only downside is that you may have to crank the volume up a notch in most airports due to the noisy environments.
This is where noise-canceling headphones come in. They can be really handy whether spending the night in an airport is a choice or due to circumstances beyond your control. These headphones work by drowning the noise in the surroundings so the listener can focus on getting the right quality of rest.
The ability to mute background noises means you don’t need to turn up the volume too loud regardless of what you may be listening to.
I personally use the Cowin E8 Active Noise-Canceling Headphones from Amazon to doze off in noisy environments. It features amazing technology that drowns out background noises so I can focus on listening to relaxing pleasant sounds for satisfying sleep.
9. Don’t Forget Travel Neck Pillows
The fact that you may be flying doesn’t mean neck support should be neglected. Not only can travel neck pillows come in handy when you need to rest on the flight but they may also increase comfort levels when sleeping in an airport.
The majority of these pillows are small so fitting into your hand luggage shouldn’t be much of a problem. Besides, there are inflatable options that take even less space for those with packed carry-on bags. These travel pillows can be inflated when necessary and deflated during storage.
My MVLOC 100% Memory Foam Neck Pillow from Amazon has transformed my sleep during flights since I ordered it 3 months ago. It features comfortable memory foam to provide world-class support for the neck. It ships with 3D contoured Eye Masks, Ear Plugs, and Luxury Bag.
10. Wear An Eye Mask
Bright lights are a staple in every airport big and small. Not only do these lights often get in the eye when nodding off but their presence can also trick the brain into believing that it is still daytime.
This can delay the brain’s release of the sleep hormone melatonin resulting in restlessness at the airport of all places.
The best way out of this conundrum is to pack an eye mask whenever you’re taking a flight thanks to the ability to block light rays from hitting the eyes. Nodding off should be much less stressful as long as you find a spot to lay your head in the airport.
11. Set An Alarm
If you’ve been flying long-haul across many time zones then it is only a matter of time before jetlag kicks in. This is extreme fatigue that occurs as the body tries to reset itself to a different time zone.
Even if you’ve always been a light sleeper, the excessive fatigue from the long flying hours may lead to an unusually deep slumber. This is why it is critical to set your alarm to beep 2-3 hours to the departure time of your flight.
This should give you ample time to wake up, freshen up, and check into the flight. You wouldn’t want to miss the flight and be forced to spend another night in the airport, would you?
12. Write a “Wake Me Up” Note To Yourself
If you’re an extensive traveler, then you’ve probably come across other fliers sleeping in airports with various “wake me up” notes taped to their bodies, luggage, and other platforms close to where they’re sleeping.
People do this because it works. Sure, a wake-up alarm can be important but there’s always a chance that your phone battery may run out of juice or even the phone might get lost. Hence, a “wake me up” note can serve as insurance to reduce the risk of oversleeping and missing your flight. Another option may be to find a friendly security officer and offer him or her some cash to wake you up at a certain time.
This trick only works if the time you need to wake-up time coincides with his or her shift so find that in advance during the negotiations.
13. Arrive Early to Take Your Pick of Spots
If spending the night at the airport is a plan thought-out in advance then it is important not to wait until the last minute to begin searching for the right sleeping area. This can help you find the most comfortable sleeping spots with the best security for your luggage and personal effects.
Even if you’re forced to spend the night due to an emergency, you should come to terms with the situation quickly and start looking for sleeping spots immediately. Spending time to complain and throwing tantrums can rob you of a good sleeping spot.
Remember, there could be hundreds of other passengers on your scheduled flight so the coveted overnight sleeping spots can be snapped up fast.
14. Sleep Close to Other Travelers
Isolating yourself from other travelers could be a terrible idea when sleeping in an airport. Not only can this make you the target of robberies but it may also draw unnecessary attention from airport officials.
Sleeping close to other travelers makes it harder for you to be booted out. But don’t just set camp close to others, be friendly, and have a quick chat with those in the same predicament as you.
Being friendly means you can look out for others while they also look out for you. You may even take turns sleeping so somebody will always stay awake to keep an eye on your luggage and personal effects throughout the night.
Have you read the article we wrote on Sleep vs Resting? Click the link to check out the distinct differences between the 2 states.
15. Blend In With Other Sleepers
The last thing you want when spending the night at the airport is to be the center of attention. Not only can this draw wicked stairs from others but it may also put a target on your back. Wearing the trendiest clothes with lots of jewelry and other stuff that make you stand out can be a bad idea.
Additionally, you should avoid any actions that may attract unnecessary attention such as talking loudly on the phone or listening to blasting music. Always be respectful of other people’s rights and avoid doing anything that others may find disturbing. Talking in your sleep may be an issue, but only if you do it a lot.
Going contrary to that can even get you kicked out of the airport and ruin your plans.
16. Pack Enough Snacks And Water
Going to bed hungry and thirsty can be a nightmare even in the comfort of your home. So imagine the feeling of getting stuck in a foreign city airport with nothing to eat or drink.
This is why travel experts recommend packing enough food and drinks that can last you at least 24 hours when flying. Sure, many airports have restaurants and fast food joints with food and drinks available. However, the majority close at some point in the night when traffic slows down.
Besides, packing enough food and drinks eliminates the stress of dragging your luggage through the airport to look for food.
Thinking of going to bed on an empty stomach? Click the link to read the article we wrote on Sleeping When Hungry: 7 Reasons Why It is Bad For You.
17. Know Where to Find Security
Situations may get out of hand quickly when sleeping in open spaces such as an airport. This is why you should always know where to locate security whether you’re traveling alone or have company.
Not only can this calm the mind and allow you to sleep much more peacefully but it may also come in handy in the event of a physical attack or robbery.
There are times when fights break up in such settings and you may need security to step in to defuse tensions before something tragic happens.
A good tip is to look out for security cameras and try to sleep in spots that are not on the blind side of those cameras. Many thieves avoid striking in the full view of cameras for fear of being tracked so such areas might be a safe bet.
Lastly, be vigilant and prepared to walk away from provocations that can result in heightened tensions.
18. Entertain Yourself
Spending the night in an airport can be extremely boring and often, you’ll need to find ways of passing up the time.
Listening to music may be an easy way to turn an otherwise bad situation on its head. Not only can the music lighten up your moods but its calming effects on the mind may promote good sleep as well.
Low tempo music is usually the best for airport slumber parties as their soothing properties can relieve pain and put anyone to sleep. Just make sure you’re iPod or Smartphone is hidden from plain sight as you don’t want to wake up to earphones with missing iPods.
19. Have an Explanation
Do you know that you’re not the first person to cheapen out on a hotel by spending the night at the airport? This is why you should be prepared to get interrogated at any time during the night by an official who may not be happy with the sight of a traveler lying down at the airport.
Also, many homeless folks use airports as their sleeping bases at night, and airport officials in different cities are trying to clamp down on the practice.
Explain the reasons for spending the night at the airport politely and be prepared to show your flight itinerary as well as passports and other forms of identification. Once such pieces of evidence are provided, you’ll likely be left alone to venture back into Dreamland.
20. Sleep in a Rental Car
Are you being forced to sleep at the airport on a chilly night and don’t want to shell out on a hotel? Why not hire a rental car to pass the night in the airport parking lot?
Firstly, sleeping in a reclined car seat is much more comfortable than lying down on the direct floor in an open space with large foot traffic and constant public announcements over loudspeakers.
This can also be a great way to save money as long as you’re not charged the cost of parking as well. Sleeping in a rental car also keeps you at the airport’s premises and eliminates the cost of booking a hotel as well as traveling to and from it.
Spending the night in a rental car can also provide warmth from the chilly breeze while ensuring that your luggage and personal effects are secure. In many cities, you can even strike a deal with the rental company for a generous discount when your intentions are made known right from the start.
Do you struggle to gain the utmost comfort sleeping in a vehicle? Click the link to discover the article we wrote on Car Camping 101: The Ultimate Guide To Sleeping In Your Car.
21. Sleep in the Arrivals
The Arrivals section is usually less busy than the Departures. This is because the majority of fliers arrive tired from their trips and quickly dash out to their hotels or homes. Since most people hate arriving in the dead of the night, this section also experiences relatively little foot traffic compared to the Departures.
Besides, security is usually more stringent in the Departures coupled with the presence of check-in desks and other departments.
Arrival lounges also typically feature comfy seats you can quickly lie down on and place your luggage for a good night. Just be on the lookout for the noises that may emanate from the cheers of friends and family during those often happy reunions.
22. Take Your Bags Everywhere You Go
Sleeping in an airport can be terrible when you have just lost an important personal effect or document. The pain of the loss can make you restless and stressed to the point where getting any shut-eye becomes impossible regardless of how hard you try.
As such, make sure to take all bags and personal effects everywhere you go. Even when you need to visit the bathroom, you cannot afford to leave bags unattended. You could come back with the whole bag stolen or picked apart with several items missing.
The only way out is when you’re traveling in a group and have somebody to watch over your bags.
23. Book A Transit Hotel
Just as the name sounds, transit hotels provide sleeping space for those who may be stuck in airports for layovers or due to canceled flights. Such hotels are popular among short-staying guests and usually charge moderate prices compared to those outside the airport.
Transit hotels can be a great way to save money on a budget without compromising on comfort.
They may also come in handy in airports with strictly forbidden overnight sleeping rules. Even in the absence of transit hotels, many airports have hotels attached to them. However, be prepared to go through security checks again before being allowed to board your flight in the morning since such hotels are usually found on the landed side.
24. Airports With Cots
Are you stranded at an airport due to bad weather or emergencies that have resulted in mass flight cancellations? You could bag a comfy sleeping cot.
Some of the busiest airports around the world have cots on site that are brought out during emergencies. These cots can offer an amazing airport sleeping experience due to their elevation from the ground and comfortable sleeping surfaces.
Throw in your travel pillows and you could have a blast similar to spending the night camping or in other outdoor environments.
But how do you get access to such cots during emergencies? Well, talking to officials of your airline can be a great start. They’ll likely do all the tracking until they find a sleeping cot for you. Another option may be to ask about them from security officers at the airport.
Some of the most popular airports where emergency sleeping cots are available include:
- AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AMS)
- BOSTON LOGAN, USA (BOS)
- CHICAGO MIDWAY, USA (MDW)
- CHICAGO O’HARE, USA (ORD)
- DALLAS-FORT WORTH, USA (DFW)
- DALLAS LOVE FIELD, USA (DAL)
- DENVER, USA (DEN)
- DES MOINES, USA (DSM)
- FAYETTEVILLE, USA (FAY)
- FRANKFURT, Germany (FRA)
- HOUSTON, USA (HOU)
- MIAMI, USA (MIA)
- MILWAUKEE, USA (MKE)
- MINNEAPOLIS-ST.PAUL, USA (MSP)
- MUNICH, Germany (MUC)
- NEWARK, USA (EWR)
- NEW YORK CITY JFK, USA (JFK)
- OSLO GARDERMOEN, Norway (OSL)
- PARIS Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG)
- PARIS ORLY, France (ORY)
- OTTAWA, Canada (YOW)
- WASHINGTON DULLES, USA (IAD) (Sleeping in Airports)
25. Shell Out To Use The Lounge
Found yourself stuck in an airport overnight? Why not pay extra to use the lounge? Well, the days when comfy lounges were the preserve of First and Business Class flyers are long over. Many airports take a small fee to allow access to lounge use for everyone including those of us who fly coach.
The good news is that upgrading yourself to lounge use typically costs less than booking a decent hotel. The level of comfort in airport lounges can be staggering, thanks to the fewer people you have to deal with, unlimited food and drink options, and access to shower facilities in most cases.
Who says you have to lie down on the bare floor just because you’re sleeping in an airport overnight?
26. Book A Sleep Capsule
Are you laying over or spending the night in a futuristic airport? Why not book a sleep capsule for the duration of your time?
Sure, these sleeping pods are not free and travelers are typically charged by the hour. But their costs can be quite cheap compared to transit hotels. The fact that they charge by the hour also means you can sit around and distract yourself for hours until the body cannot withstand the sleep deprivation anymore.
Then you book for a few hours of rest to save money when you’re on a tight budget. Some of the popular airports around the world where you can book a sleep pod includes:
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport – Terminal D (Minute Suites)
- Singapore Changi Airport – Terminal 3 (The Haven By JetQuay)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport – Gate 35 (Terminal 3)
- Dubai International Airport – Marhaba lounges at Emirates Airline Concourses A and B (Terminal 3)
- New Delhi Airport Terminal 3 (SAMS Snooze At My Space)
- Helsinki-Vantaa airport – Gate 28 and 18
- Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport – Terminal E, between the gates 36 & 37
- London Heathrow Airport – the Terminal 4 public landside area, on the mezzanine level.
- London Gatwick Airport -in the public landside area of the South Terminal, next to international arrivals.
- Amsterdam Schiphol Airport – in Lounge 2 (after the security control).
- Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport – in the transit area of Terminal 2E.
- Istanbul Airport – IGA Sleep Pod- International Departures Area
- Munich Airport – Terminal 2: Level 05, Gate H32; Level 04, Gate G06; Level 05, Gate L04; Level 03.
- Berlin-Tegel Airport – Terminal B, at Tegel Sky Conference, Level 03.
- Milan Bergamo Airport – between the Arrivals and Departures halls. (refundor), (Traveller Australia), (Flight Center Australia)
27. Request a Hotel Voucher
If you’re being forced to sleep in an airport through no fault of yours such as a canceled flight then do not hesitate to seek a hotel voucher.
Speak to the airline staff about your needs as a traveler and explain to them that sleeping rough can be of immense discomfort to you. Be ready to inform them of any medical conditions that can be aggravated when you fail to get proper rest.
Also, be polite during your interactions with the airline staff and avoid being rude even when provoked. You may just bag yourself a voucher to sleep in an airport hotel or another one located a few miles away.
28. Avoid the Early Morning Security Wake-Ups
It is not uncommon for security officers to crack down on those who sleepover at the airports as morning approaches.
This is because many airport officials view overnight sleepovers as physically unappealing and order security staff to begin waking up stranded travelers around 5 am.
Lying down in a conspicuous area can put you at the mercy of these security guards just when you’re about to shift into 5th gear in Dreamland.
This is why we recommend lying down in less conspicuous spots whenever you’re forced to spend the night in an airport.
29. Stake a Claim in the Prayer Rooms
Many airports around the world have private rooms where you can practice yoga, meditate, or pray. While these rooms can get busy during the daytime, they’re usually empty at night.
If you’re lucky to be stuck in one of such airports, dashing to a prayer room with your luggage to sleep may be a smart idea.
Not only can these rooms be more comfortable in terms of temperature but they may offer unmatched privacy. This can improve the quality of your slumber throughout the night so you can wake up fully recharged and ready for the next flight.
Just make sure not to oversleep especially if you do not want to wake up to glaring stares from those who may want to use those private rooms in the morning.
30. Sleeping Aids
Catching some ZZ’s in Hotel de Aeropuerto can be extremely difficult due to the intimidating foot traffic, loud noises, and unfamiliarity of the surroundings. The situation can even get worse for first-timers and those who’ve never slept anywhere else apart from the comfort of the bedrooms or hotels.
Sometimes, the situation can get so terrible that you may have to take sleep aids such as Benadryl to get any shuteye.
Sleeping in an airport could be a great way to save money when traveling on a budget. Our 30 epic tips above may offer relatively great nights and allow you to wake up energized and ready to resume traveling.
Feel free to choose a combination of any of these tips that may apply to your situation and pay particular attention to your security as well as that of your luggage.