How to Sleep in an Airport: 101

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How to Sleep in an Airport: 101

If, for some strange reason, your browser has been acting up again and you ended up on this site (that’s how most of our visitors arrive), you may now be curious about this odd idea of sleeping in airports. You are probably asking yourself one (or all) of the following questions: How do I do it? What should I bring with me? What tips do you have to share with us airport sleeping newbies? Well, here are some ideas that will help you get started in your airport sleeping adventures.

Tips

1. Always Have a Backup Plan: This is the most important tip for anyone who voluntarily sleeps in airports. Some airport officials are not totally supportive of the airport sleeping idea. Although in 95% of the airports you won’t be kicked out, you will be asked why you are there, why you are not in a hotel like normal people and they will ask for proof that you are flying out the next day. So BE PREPARED to answer those questions! They seem to not appreciate us using these massive wastes of space as our personal hotels — go figure!?!?

“Thankfully (and thanks to this site), we were fully prepared to sleep at the airport with our blankies and pillows.” -Janet

2. Expect your flight to be cancelled and be prepared:  If weather or a schedule delay cause you to be stuck in the airport for longer than you had expected, it would have been better to be prepared, wouldn’t it?  Your emergency airport survival kit could include:

* A cheap inflatable pool raft (they fold up nicely and make the hard floor a lot more comfortable).  Keep in mind that in some airports sleeping on the floor is a no-no.
* Eye shades and ear plugs
* Bottled water and snacks (many dining facilities and shops close down at night, so be sure to bring or buy food before the airport shuts down)
* Books/magazines/diary
* Personal music device with large headphones.  Place it under your coat/in your pants….whatever turns you on. There have been cases of people waking up with just their headphones, so be sure you don’t make it easy for someone to walk off with it. Headphones that cover your ears will help block out loud announcements.
* An alarm clock or a pen and post-it pad.  If you are travelling solo, write a “Wake me at 5:00 AM” note and stick a few on yourself and the seats around you — it works.  People will wake you.
* An airline blanket and/or pillow (borrowed – NOT STOLEN!!!).
* Disinfectant wipes.  Cleanliness is a problem in some airports, so these handy wipes will make your “bed” for the night a little less germ and grease covered.
* Tissue/toilet paper.  In some third world airport bathrooms, you will be forced to pay a King’s ransom for two single ply sheets of toilet paper.
* Tipping money if you forgot to pack aforementioned toilet paper
* Vick’s Vapour rub.  Place a dab of this under your nose to block out bad terminal odours. It works for people who work in morgues, so it should work in the airport.
* Power bar – energy supplies are short in some airports.  You will make friends for life if you bring a multi-outlet power bar to recharge cell phones, laptops and ipods.  Instead of waiting for the other person to finish recharging, whip out the power bar and offer to share the outlet.  Now, the challenge will be finding a live outlet that works.  Airports have made quite the effort deactivating a lot of outlets.  And what’s up with the employees who take personal offence to us recharging our electronics.  Does it come out of their salary?
* Your camera to document your stay.
* Entertain yourselves.  A Twister mat and spin card are light and take up little room in your carry on.  Cards always come in handy.  If these are unavailable to you, luggage carts and airport wheelchairs have also brightened a few faces around here.

“Thanks to a tip from the sleepinginairports website I found the reclining padded wheelchairs and slept in one of them.” -BRValentine

3. Bring something comfortable to sit on: If you have read any of the entries on this site, you’ll probably have read about those pesky chairs with the arm handles and curved seats. These seats are not only uncomfortable, but also unfair to airport sleepers’ rights (we have a right to be comfortable when we sleep, don’t we?)! Not everyone has a sleeping bag with them, so if you have the aforementioned inflatable raft, a towel or something else that is cushiony throw it down on the floor and try that method. In some airports bringing out your sleeping bag is a no no. Remember that if you take advantage of the free lodging too much, the airport officials will “crackdown” on airport sleepers making it more difficult for us to obtain reasonable sleepage.

4. Get there early:  If you are staying at a busy airport overnight, you’ll have to get there early if you want a good spot, especially during the summer season (peak airport sleeping season).  Airports such as London’s Stansted are so popular they can look like refugee camps on an average night.  Consider that many people complain of limited seating when they arrive at 10PM.

“Thanks for this homepage we found the nice comfortable bench at the restaurant where we spent the night.” -kmaja

5. Scope it out: finding a good spot may be your biggest challenge.  If the situation looks dismal, explore the airport and various terminals (take the terminal shuttles – that’s what they are there for). Even if you are flying out of terminal A, you may discover that terminal C has nice digs. Consider seating, temperature, announcements and people traffic when finding the best place to spend the night.  You may need to be creative such as sleeping behind ticket counters, in wheelchairs and on luggage conveyor belts. Your best source of info will be security, airport and airline staff.  If you are nice, these people will likely direct you to a nice spot!

6. It’s sometimes better to arrive than depart: The Arrivals lounges are often more comfortable than the Departures lounges.  It’s amazing how different the two areas can be in some airports.  Of course airport logic seems to be that people who are departing immediately go to their gates, they don’t sit around the ticket counters for hours.  While the arrivals lounge aims to make all those family members, who are waiting for your flight to finally arrive after a four hour delay, a little more comfortable until you and your bags finally show up.

7. When sleep is Impossible: In Geneva (one of those airports with plastic, arm handle, bucket seat chairs) I could not sleep. There was absolutely NOTHING to do and nobody around to talk to. If I didn’t have my journal, walkman (that’s how long ago that stay was…the days of the “walkman”) and book with me I would have died of boredom. If you bring something to entertain yourself, the night will go faster.  See entertainment ideas listed at the end of item # 2.

“I arrived at Sea-Tac last night with a printout from this webpage under my arm.” -Ray

8. Act Innocent: Even if you sleep in airports on regular basis — Do Not Act Like A Professional!!! Act like you REALLY do not want to be there and that there is absolutely nowhere else to go.  I find crying helps.  Remember, in the airport officials’ eyes “the airport is not a motel.” Ha, little do they know….

9. Single Travellers Listen Up: Travelling solo can be a pain in the ass, especially when you are an airport sleeper. Remember that in the airports where few, if any, other people camp out in, you will have to take your luggage with you wherever you go. Even though you don’t have to worry about people stealing your belongings, you can’t just leave your stuff sitting there unattended. If you do you may see the bomb squad taking apart your bag by the time you return from the washroom.  For unexpected overnight stays, did you know that some airports actually have cots and blankets for passenger use?  Ask and you may receive.

“Thanks to the warnings from your site I organised to visit the Qantas Club which is a haven in an otherwise horrible experience.” -Ron

11. Still bored and can’t sleep?  Take photos of the airport to pass the time!!! – Have you seen some of the photos on the sleepinginairport.com blog?  Well, if you haven’t, head over there to have a look at some of the fun photos people have sent to me.  These photos may inspire you to try to come up with similar (or better) photos.   PLEASE don’t forget to send them to me when you get back.

12. Just Park It! – Ok, so whether you are stuck in the airport overnight or choose to be their voluntarily, there may be a chance that you will be uncomfortable and unhappy with your surroundings in the terminal. If you are travelling on a budget and do not want to fork out for one of the airport hotels, head over to the car rentals hall to find out the cost of a car rental and (assuming you can keep the car in the lot at no cost) sleep in the car. The great part about this is that you can recline on padded seats and there will be no annoying security announcements or rattling luggage carts whipping past your head throughout the night. On the negative side, car horns and screeching tires may jolt you from your slumber. Sure the car rental staff may look into your car wondering if you’ve had a stroke and the bathroom may be an issue depending on the location of the nearest toilet, but hey, you’re saving money here! Very important – remember to check the drop-off hours to ensure a staff member will be there when you “drop-off” the car before your flight the next morning! This is easier at larger airports.

13. Dress for the occasion:  Dress in layers.  Have clothes that will make you comfortable if it is unbearably hot or sub-arctically cold in your airport. We beg of you to please apply deodorant and we recommend you to pack a surgical mask to wear when the travellers around you have not applied deodorant.  The stench from the heat in some airports can be traumatizing.

14. Dealing with airport bribery: In some airports you will be asked for a bribe just to pass through a metal detector, enter an airport or to use the bathroom.  When approached by the unscrupulous individuals, suddenly speak a new language.  Learn Klingon if a real language doesn’t interest you.   Although you understand you are being asked for money, be bubbly and happy, but confused by your tormentor’s actions.  When the offender holds out his/her hand for money, thank him, bow out of respect, shake his hand and smile.  Be incredibly dense and show no fear, unless the individual has a gun or other weapon pointed at you.  The object is to drag it out as long as you can until he hopefully gives up.  Unfortunately, this does not always work and it’s better to just pay the damn “fee” – with lots of coin.

“I called my friend earlier about missing my original flight and he said I should sleep here overnight, and he read me some of the reviews on sleepinginairports.net” -Tetsu

15. Write us and give us the Lowdown: This is actually THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to do! Share your story with us by letting us know what the airport you camped out at was like. By submitting your experiences, good or bad or just general good to know information, you are helping to keep this site as up to date as possible.  Chances are you’ll be thankful for other traveller’s reviews the next time you need to know about an airport.

16. Have Fun: While there are times when you can’t sleep, sleeping in airports is not only extreme budget travel, it is an adventure. Enjoy it! Have fun. Explore your inner homeless person. Most importantly make the most of the situation. The best memories of travel are the experiences you return home with, and trust me, there are quite a few adventures to be had in airports. From someone who has done it to save money or as a result of a layover, let me tell you that it can be fun and it just adds an extra element of strangeness to your trip.

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