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How to Sleep in an Airport

Airport Sleeping Tips

You may now be curious about this odd idea of sleeping in airports and you may be asking yourself one (or all) of the following questions: Can I really sleep in an airport? 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 a few tips that we have gathered over the years. We hope these help you get started in your airport sleeping adventures.

Got your own tip to share? Share your tips with us on our Facebook page or write an airport review!

Here are a few tips:

 
back-up plan
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 you won’t be kicked out of a large majority of the airports listed on this site, you will be asked why you are there, why you are not in a hotel like a normal person and they will ask for proof that you are flying out the next day. So BE PREPARED to answer those questions and present your outbound airline ticket! They seem to not appreciate us using the airport as our personal hotels — go figure!?!? Our airport guides provide you with information such as the availability of airport lounges, WiFi, transit hotels, 24-hour food options, showers and much more at over 800 airports around the world. And you can also read airport reviews from travellers just like you.

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

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be prepared
Be prepared

When reports of an upcoming snowstorm, hurricane or erupting Icelandic volcano are in the news a few days before your trip, you really have no excuse but to go to the airport prepared for a longer than expected airport stay. Here are some recommended items for your airport survival kit:

A cheap inflatable raft • eye shades (or sunglasses) • ear plugs • bottled water and snacks • Entertainment: personal music device, laptop, books, magazines, travel diary • headphones • alarm clock • tissue/toilet paper • disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer • An airline blanket and/or pillow (borrowed - NOT STOLEN!!!) or a sleeping bag.

Final Tip: If you are travelling solo take a pen and some post-it notes. 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.

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airport sleeper safety
Be safe

Whether you are sleeping in the airport by yourself or with friends, it is good to know where security is. Know where their office is located and look for video cameras in the spot you decide to stay the night. They’ve probably seen many airport sleepers before you and they will direct you to a safe spot. If you are travelling alone we recommend that you sleep near other travellers. Make sure they are actual travellers and not homeless people – it is sometimes hard to tell in certain airports. While there have never been any reports of attacks against airport sleepers, there have been a few bum fondlings. A few ipods and laptops have also gone missing! Be smart and be safe!

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get there early
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. 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

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scope it out
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 and go terminal hopping. Even if you are flying out of terminal A, you may discover that terminal C has better accommodation. In airports where there is an international and a domestic terminal, you may discover that the domestic terminal closes at night. Don’t panic, head over to the international terminal as it may remain open. 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, under and behind seats, 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!

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late night snack
Just park it!

Whether you are stuck in the airport overnight or choose to be there 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 pay for a room at 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.

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protect your bags
Protect your bags

A major concern when sleeping in the airport is obviously getting robbed while you sleep! If you can’t keep your bags in the left luggage office overnight (check our airport guides to find out if your airport has one), you’ll need to come up with a way to make sure someone can’t access your bags. How you do this really depends on where and how you sleep, so there is no right answer. In my experience, I have always slept with zippers facing either myself, the ground or the wall. This makes gaining access more difficult and potentially noisy. There have been times when I have slept with my arm or leg over or on top of the large bag, so that if it moves, I will wake. Some people have chained their bag to their leg. I’ve never had to go that far, simply because I’m generally a light sleeper and usually wake up if I sense someone near me.

I have to thank everyone who has provided reviews because it certainly helped me make a well researched decision - mc60

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act innocent
Act innocent (and behave)

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. We find crying helps. Remember, in the airport officials’ eyes “the airport is not a motel.” On the other hand, don’t abuse the system and abuse the airport’s tolerance of sleepers hospitality. This site was created for people who wanted to save money on the cost of one night accommodation at an airport hotel. Staying at an airport for days, hanging your laundry in the terminal and cooking on a gas stove only ruins it for others who really need to sleep in the airport.

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late night snack
Late night snack, anyone?

As many food concessions shut down at night around the time of the last flight, you’ll want to stock up on supplies (water and late night snacks) before everything closes. There have been reports of a few generous vendors giving away their unsold food to airport sleepers. If you are travelling in a group, send out the most desperate looking person to wander aimlessly around the food court area when staff are starting to shut down. Who knows….they may come back with some burgers and fries.

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arrivals
It’s sometimes better to arrive than depart

The Arrivals lounges are sometimes more comfortable than seating near the Ticket Counter area. 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. 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. Downside: the jubilant cheers for arriving family members can get noisy.

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what to wear
Dress for the occasion

Dress in layers. Have clothes that will make you comfortable if it is unbearably hot or arctically cold in your airport. Pack a hat, gloves and fleece blanket in your carry-on! You may think it sounds silly now, but the airport can be a cold place day or night.

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

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single travellers
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, 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.

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be quiet
Shhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Be considerate of your fellow airport sleepers! Just because you can’t sleep, that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be able to as well. Take a hint when sleepers raise their heads off the floor and look directly at you with their death stares. You’re too loud! Keep it down or move!

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

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airports with cots
Perks of being a stranded traveller

Did you know that some airports have a supply of cots that they bring out for stranded travellers during snow storms and other weather delays? Some will even throw in a pillow, blanket, toiletries and food vouchers. We've added an Airports with Cots page dedicated to airports that offer stranded passenger services.

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airport lounges
Lounge around

You no longer need to be flying first class to receive first class service and comfort. There are now some wonderful pay-in lounges that economy ticket travellers have access to – for a relatively small fee. The fee includes buffet style meals, drinks (including alcohol), wifi, showers and comfortable chairs. Some lounges even offer massages. A few lounges are open 24 hours, but most are open early morning. Visit our Airport Lounges section. One thing to keep in mind is that most lounges (even the pay-in lounges) have a dress code, of sorts. You don’t need to be dressed in suits or fancy clothes, but if you show up looking like a homeless person with a “just slept on the airport floor” look about you, don’t be surprised if they tell you the lounge is “full”.

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showers
Showering

After a night in the airport or a long travel journey, you may not be feeling so fresh. Fortunately, there are a few ways to freshen up the next morning before boarding your flight and stinking up the plane. First, there are actually a few airports that have shower facilities. Most of these facilities can be used for small fee that will cover the cost of the towel rental and shampoo/soap. Check our airport guides to see if your airport has them. If your airport doesn’t have its own shower, head over to the airport hotel attached to the airport to see if they will let you use their gym/pool area for a fee. Again, in our airport guides, we list hotels that are attached to the airport and whether they offer showers, pool and gym facilities for a fee. Another option is to use a pay-in lounges. Some of these lounges offer shower facilities, so for a reasonable fee you can shower and have a good breakfast before boarding your flight. And finally, as a last (and FREE) resort, some less modest travellers have been seen in public washroom washing themselves in the sink. If you choose this option, try not to make too much of a mess!

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

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wake-up call
The early morning wake-up call

As sleeping in airports becomes more popular, the airports are becoming less tolerant about traveller’s sleeping on floors and prime airport seating once the airport starts up in the morning. We’ve received reports of airport security doing the rounds to wake-up overnight sleepers around 5:00AM when travellers start to arrive for early morning check-in. If you are sleeping on the seats or if you are in the way of airport traffic, you should expect to receive an early morning visit from an officer who will ask you to get up. If you are in a less conspicuous location, they may not bother you.

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airport hotels
Have your credit cards ready!

While one of the objectives to sleeping in the airport is to save some money on hotels, there may come a time when you will just want to bite the bullet pay for a room. Sure a hotel will be more comfortable and you’ll get to take a shower, but where is the adventure in that? Before you go, it is good to know where the nearest airport hotels are located. If you decide to book a hotel room, you will save some money by booking it online rather than just showing up at the hotel and asking for their rate. During snow storms, some hotels get greedy, so if you are in line at the hotel’s front desk pay attention to what people in front of you are paying. If you have a laptop or “smart” phone start shopping for the best rate while you are in the terminal or as you are sitting in the airport shuttle on the way to the hotel.

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write a review
Write us and give us the Lowdown

Share your story with us by letting us know about your layover or overnight sleepover in the airport. By submitting your experiences, good and bad or just general good to know information, you are helping to keep this site as up to date as possible. Please pay it forward and help future airport sleepers!

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have fun
Have fun!

While there will be times when you can’t sleep, sleeping in airports is not only extreme budget travel, it can be 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 we 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 and as a result of layovers, let me tell you that it can be adventure and it just adds an extra element of strangeness to your trip. After 18 years online, thousands of airport reviews and millions of site visitors, I’m probably not the only freak to think so!

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The Guide to Sleeping in Airports has been online since 1996

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