You do not want to sleep in an airport, but there may come a time in your life when an airport unexpectedly becomes home for an evening. There may be a horrendous blizzard that blocks any hope of reaching a hotel room, or your flight may get diverted in the dead of night, with all nearby vacancies already snatched up.
The truth is, if you have to sleep in an airport, you’re going to want to do it correctly, so you’re not waking up in a pretzeled mess the next day—and so that you stay safe.
How to sleep in an airport
Depending on where you are, you might start by trying to find a 24-hour lounge. If you’re in a bigger, international airport, you shouldn’t have much of a problem finding one (although many do tend to be member-exclusive). If a lounge isn’t an option, it’s important to assess the scene around you to make sure you won’t be putting yourself in any compromising situations.
You don’t necessarily have to set up camp in your arriving terminal, especially if it doesn’t exactly seem conducive to rest. As the aptly named Sleeping in Airports notes, you might want to consider the international terminal, as they largely remain open, while domestic terminals don’t. The website advises to “Consider seating, temperature, announcements, and people traffic when finding the best place to spend the night.” When it comes to finding a comfortable spot, try not to sprawl out on a bunch of seats if there are people waiting to board a flight nearby. You want to be considerate and ultimately pretty inconspicuous.
You’re also going to want to be safe, which means understanding your surroundings. Knowing where a security station (or camera) is might be helpful, as is stowing all of your belongings in a way that prevents other people from accessing them. The Frugal Travel Guy notes that you might have to defy your own inclination for comfort if you want to ensure that everything will be safe, writing: “You’re really going to want to go against your instinct to seek solitude in favor of staying near the crowds. It is simply safer to be around people if you’ll be falling asleep.”
There may be a luggage office nearby (your airport will probably have one in a different terminal) where you can store your bags overnight. If not, you’ll have to determine how to best protect your bags while you’re sleeping; there’s always the possibility of using your main bag to prop up your feet, or your backpack as a pillow.
What to bring in case you get stuck in an airport
Although this is written from the perspective of being forced to sleep in an airport because you’re bereft of alternatives, there are things you can bring on your trip so the unexpected overnight won’t catch you quite so ill-prepared. One thing you should be wary of is the temperature in an airport, which can oscillate between hot and cold without any warning. So, to that end, bring warm clothes, but also make sure you have the ability to layer to account for the fluctuation in temperature.
There are a few essentials you’ll probably want to bring, just in case you get marooned overnight in an unlikely place. The Frugal Travel Guy recommends the following, although might not need quite all of these:
- Eyeshades or sunglasses.
- Bottled water or refillable water bottle.
- Laptop or tablet
- Chargers for all of your devices.
- Toilet paper.
- Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
- Floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush
Ultimately, a lot of this will hinge on your preferences, but the overall goal is to stay safe and comfortable for the amount of time you have to be holed up in an airport. With the right awareness and supplies, you should be good to go.