Chances are, if you are a frequent flyer, there will come a time when you will have to sleep in or near an airport. Missed connections, delayed or canceled flights, and even oddly timed schedules can all result in an unplanned airport sleepover. Whether it’s by force or by choice, there are some ways you can prepare to make the situation as pleasant as possible.
First things first, if you do find yourself in a tricky situation where you will need to spend the night in an airport, it’s a good idea to find out if it is even possible to do so before you get yourself settled. Some airports aren’t open 24 hours, meaning you are not permitted to sleep in them once they have closed. Be sure to check your airport’s hours of operation prior to showing up. If they do close, try the International terminal as it may stay open later, and they are used to seeing sleeping travelers.
Once you have that information settled, be sure to remember this list of tips that will help you learn how to sleep in an airport!
1. Ask for Help
It seems like the obvious answer, doesn’t it! If you’re unsure and cannot seem to find the best place to rest in a busy or crowded airport, simply ask security or an information desk.
Airports often see people sleeping for various reasons, so they would know the best areas to sleep (or not sleep) whether you’re there for a few hours, or overnight. They also may be able to help direct you toward designated sleeping areas that you may not have found on your own.
2. Research Your Airport
If you know before you arrive at the airport that you will need to be there overnight, a little bit of research can go a long way. Some airports have amenities that are incredibly handy for overnighters, and a quick online search can let you know little details such as whether or not there are showers, the location of phone charging hubs, the best places to sleep, wifi options, and more.
Sleeping In Airports gives an extensive list of airports around the world that can be a useful guide for your next trip, even if your overnight stay is unplanned.
3. Enquire About Luggage Storage
Some airports that frequently have overnight guests may have lockers where you can stow away your extra bags. By securing them safely, you will have one less thing to carry around with you or worry about when you are trying to sleep.
If your airport doesn’t have lockers, check with Lost and Found. Sometimes they allow people to stash their bags when their layover time is exceptionally long.
4. Protect Your Belongings
Airport robberies don’t tend to be a significant occurrence, thanks to the cameras, security, and the number of people who are in a heightened state of attentiveness. However, you will want to ensure that your belongings are still safe, even when your eyes are closed.
If you can’t stow your luggage, sleep with your head on your bag, or your legs propped up on your bags. Additionally, loop your arm or legs through any bags that have longer handles, and angle all zippers to be as close to you as possible. On bags that you won’t need to quickly access, place locks on the zippers or luggage straps around the openings.
5. Wear Layers
Wearing layers has two benefits: Protection from the chill of the icy air conditioning system, and more storage space in your bags. When you’re sitting in the airport, you may feel way too cold, but when it’s time to sleep, our bodies do need to cool down in temperature. By being able to control and adjust your body heat, you will be much more comfortable during your stay at Hotel de Airport.
6. Bring Ear Plugs or Noise Cancelling Headphones
Depending on the day, time of day, and the size of the airport – it can be a busy and bustling place. When you only have a few hours to get some shut-eye, you’ll need as few distractions as possible. Earplugs will help to minimize the screaming children and constant overhead announcements searching for late boarding passengers.
Forgot your earplugs? Don’t fret – the airport shops will have you covered.
I recommend these Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones (found on Amazon), they provide active sound canceling which provides the quietest experience even in noisy and bustling airport terminals.
7. Pack a Blanket or Scarf
Airports can get very cold, so it’s a good idea to throw a lightweight blanket or scarf into your bag for an easy way to add an extra layer. It can also double as a small pillow for your head or extra padding to lay your head on.
8. Take A Travel Neck Pillow
These useful little travel companions aren’t just great for the plane ride; they can also prove their value if you find yourself stranded in an airport overnight. Whether you end up sleeping upright in a row of chairs, or you’re lucky enough to find a place to lie down, using your neck pillow as an actual pillow will give you the slightest bit of comfort that you might need.
It may not be the feather pillow of your dreams that will whisk you off into the best few hours of sleep that you will ever have, but it can help prevent a sore or stiff neck the next morning. It’s also better than putting your head down in a place that may not be the cleanest.
If you’re looking for the best Travel Neck Pillow on the market, I have you covered! I personally use the trtl Pillow Plus on long road trips and flights. And it works just as well for sleeping in airports. I love that it conforms to my neck and provides adjustable support, so I never wake up with a sore neck! I bought mine off amazon, I provided a link so you can check the current price.
9. Set Your Alarm!
It would be nice to believe that your body will know exactly when to wake you up since it will be out of its comfort zone. But, if you’re traveling over numerous time zones, your body and brain may be overly tired and will welcome the opportunity to rest.
Even in an unusual place, don’t rely on your senses to wake you up at the appropriate time. You do not want to be the one whose name is being called over the loudspeaker because your flight has boarded and the entire plane is waiting for you! Set your phone alarm for an hour before you need to be at your departure gate in order to give yourself time to waken, freshen, and gather yourself.
10. Tape A Wake-Up Note to Yourself
Before drifting off, place a note somewhere near or on you to request other travelers to wake you up at a specific time. In the event that your cell phone battery dies or fails to wake you, it won’t hurt to have a backup wake-up plan. You might be amazed at how helpful, and friendly other travelers can be!
Similarly, if you notice someone with a note who is sleeping and needs to be woken up, don’t hesitate to help them out! You may be able to take their place when they go.
11. Arrive Early For a Good Spot
When it comes to sleeping in airports, location is critical. If it’s a popular or busy travel hub, prime real estate can get snapped up quickly. If you know that you will need to spend the night, be sure to arrive early so that you can get yourself set up comfortably without having to squeeze in between a trash can and a heavy snorer.
12. Stock Up on Snacks and Water
Even though the airport may stay open for 24 hours, the stores and restaurants usually do not. When you’re getting ready to settle for the night, be sure to buy any snacks or drinks you may want late into the night before all the stores close. You also don’t want to have to take all of your things with you if you get hungry after you have settled into a perfect spot for the night.
13. Sleep Near Other Travelers/Sleepers
This one applies to anyone, but it is especially helpful for people who are traveling on their own. For the most part, the nomads for the evening tend to stick together and will provide a bit of comfort and security while you are asleep.
Say hello to your night neighbor, and perhaps you’ll make a new friend in the process. It will also be a relief to have a temporary travel buddy if you need to get up to use the bathroom. You can take turns watching each other’s (less valuable) bags – but remember to always keep your important documents and identification on you at all times, no matter how trustworthy someone looks.
14. Read the Room
Let’s face it – no one really wants to make an airport their home for the night. A bed, privacy, and the freedom to do whatever you’d like to do are typically preferential over a transient bunker. While you’re there, though, try to give your fellow airport dwellers the same common courtesy that you would expect in return.
If your music, phone conversations, or Netflix binge is resulting in dirty looks from the people nearby, lower your volume or move to an area that is a little more forgiving with noisemaking.
15. Walk Around First
Before deciding where to set yourself up, familiarize yourself with the airport itself. By taking a few minutes to do a lap and have a look around, you may find a gate or section of the terminal that is less crowded than others.
Make sure you have a quick look at the departures and arrivals that will be coming in wherever you choose to lay down so that you can avoid an area that seems quiet at the moment, but will become packed after you’ve already set up camp. Try to avoid areas that are near bathrooms, walkways, or restaurants that will have a steady flow of people coming and going.
16. Know Where Security is Located
Sleeping in public can be daunting, and being surrounded by strangers while you sleep is not exactly ideal. To give yourself a little bit of comfort, make sure you know where the nearest security desk is located, just in case you need help or should anything happen to go awry. For even more comfort, sleep near security cameras as they help to deter any potential problems.
17. Be Prepared to Explain
It happens all the time, all over the world, however, you may come across airport staff who do not take too kindly to people sleeping in the airport. Don’t be too surprised if you are wakened by someone who wants to know why you are sleeping there rather than in a hotel. In this instance, it’s best to cooperate and have your flight documentation and identification readily available. They are likely to be more understanding once they can see that you have reason to be there.
Do be aware that some airports don’t permit extended naps at all. Keep in mind that it is generally for your safety and best interest; some airports in the past have had homeless people who take advantage of their facilities. If you ask the information desk and are informed of an unknown No Sleeping policy, be sure to let them know that you were unaware and ask if there may be somewhere where you are permitted to sleep for a few hours without having to leave.
18. Inquire About the Airport Hotel Options
As we mentioned above, some airports do not allow travelers to sleep in common areas while they wait for their next flight. They may, however, have a hotel that is located within the airport, called a transit hotel. These hotels are designed for short stays, such as a long layover, and are located on the airside of the airport. This means that you won’t need to leave the airport or go through security all over again just to have a peaceful rest.
If they don’t have a transit hotel, they may still have an airport hotel which may be attached to the airport, but it will be located on the landside, so you’ll have to go through security again. Both of these options are helpful when all else fails, but you’ll have the benefit of still being close by. When looking into hotel options, ask whether the hotel is on the airside or the landside.
19. Pay Extra for the Lounge
These days, the lounge isn’t just for Frequent Flyer Members, First class, or Business class ticket holders. For less than the cost of even a cheaper hotel, you, too, can enjoy the benefits of luxe lounge living. Not only will it be much more comfortable, but you will also likely have better food and drink options, fewer people to deal with (meaning less noise), and some locations even include the use of a shower.
A lounge has the added benefit of employees frequently roaming through, so you will be able to feel a bit more secure. And if you need a wake-up call, be sure to ask the staff.
20. Opt for the Sleep Pods
Some larger airports have flown straight into the future by providing pods that weary travelers can comfortably sleep in. There will be a fee, but if you only need it for a few hours, the pods will be cheaper (and closer) than a hotel room and will be worth the security of keeping your bags close.
They also help to keep the noise out and prevent other travelers from being in your personal space. Not to mention that some of these capsules are seriously impressive. They can range from single sleeper sized all the way up to mini-suites. Some locations even have showers as an added amenity.
21. Try Arrivals Instead of Departures
If you aren’t having a lot of luck finding a comfortable place in the Departures, or if you know beforehand that you won’t, try spending some time in the Arrivals section. They tend to rotate a bit more because people don’t need to be there as long, so you may find that you will snag a better spot if you give it a few minutes.
They also can be slightly more comfortable as the area is usually smaller, and some airports tend to splurge a little more on waiting family members versus an entire departing concourse.
22. Ask for Vouchers
Sometimes it absolutely is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. If it’s inclement weather or a fault of the airline that has caused a missed or delayed flight, trying asking the ticketing desk for a hotel voucher.
These can be limited and dependent on availability, but if you ask nicely, they often will be happy to oblige with a hotel credit or may give you lounge access. After all, no one wants you to have a miserable night’s sleep!
23. Have a Good Attitude
The age-old saying of appreciating the journey (not just the destination) can significantly improve your view on sleeping in an airport if it wasn’t your first choice for the night. Initially the thought of sleeping on the floor or in an uncomfortable chair while protecting your valuables and ensuring you don’t miss your next flight may seem like an adventure you’d prefer not to have. However, being able to look on the bright side will make the experience much more bearable than you know.
By allowing yourself to surrender to the elements, it’ll go by faster, and you will feel more equipped to handle the situation or reason you’re there in the first place.