how to sleep in the airport

Airport Sleeping Tips
How to Sleep in an Airport: 101

So you've come to realize this site is not a complete joke and people DO actually sleep in the airport to save money on hotels or just to make sure they don't sleep in and miss their flight. 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 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 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 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:  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 pool raft or travel mattress (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 for obvious reasons.
  • Sunglasses. In a few airports, they do not permit laying down or closing your eyes (seriously!?!?) so a few airport sleepers have reported that they slept sitting up in a chair wearing a pair of sunglasses. I'm sure no one is fooled, but they are also handy to have when you don't have the eyeshades and you need to block out the light.
  • 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. I try to mention if there are 24 hour food concessions in each airport's guide.
  • Books/magazines/diary
  • how to sleep in the airport 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!!!) or bring your own sleeping bag. For unexpected overnight stays (bad weather, cancelled flights), did you know that some airports actually have cots and blankets for passenger use?  Ask and you may receive.
  • 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 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. 
  • Your camera to document your stay.
  • Entertain yourselves.  More and more airports are providing WiFi (either free or for a fee). Bring your laptop and your favourite DVDs. If these are unavailable to you, luggage cart and airport wheelchair races have also brightened a few faces around here. Try to behave though, you don't want to make it difficult for the next airport sleeper to stay in the terminal without problems.

3. 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 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 I recommend that you sleep near other travellers. 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!

4. 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 or curved seats. These seats are uncomfortable and could probably cause permanant lumbar damage if sat in for too long. 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.

5. 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

6. 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 national terminal, you may discover that the national terminal closes down 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!  

sleeping in car rentals

7. 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.

8. 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 the airport guides on the site to see 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 gone 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

9. 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." 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.

10. 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.

11. It's sometimes better to arrive than depart: The Arrivals lounges are sometimes more comfortable than 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. 

12. 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. 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. 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.

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

13. 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. airport bribery

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.  Act incredibly dumb 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.    

15. 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 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

16. 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!

airport cots17. 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. I`ve added an Airports with Cots page dedicated to airports that offer stranded passenger services.

18. 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. I now have an Airport Lounge 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".

19. Showering: After a night in the airport, you may not be feeling so fresh. Fortunately, there are a few ways to clean 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. Another option is to use a pay-in lounges. Many 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, head over to the public washroom and give yourself a sink shower. Just try not to make too much of a mess, so that the rest of us don't slip when we enter the bathroom!

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

20. Still bored and can't sleep?  Take photos of the airport to pass the time!!! - Have you seen some of the photos on the site's Google + and Facebook pages? Well, if you haven't, head over there to have a look at some of the fun photos.  These photos may inspire you to try to come up with similar (or better) photos. If you would like to be a guest blogger and create an airport photo diary such as the one I recently published for a layover I had in the Lima Airport, please email me

airport hotels21. 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 hotels 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 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.

22. Write us and give us the Lowdown: Share your story with us by letting us know about your night 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!

23. 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 fun and it just adds an extra element of strangeness to your trip. After 15 years online, thousands of airport reviews and millions of site visitors, I'm probably not the only freak to think so!

"I really appreciate the sleeping tips on this site" -fules

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