Sleeping in Airports

Sleeping in New York JFK Airport

Sleeping in JFK Airport
Photo by SleepingInAirports.net / 07Jun2012

If you’re dealing with a long layover or an early morning flight departure at New York JFK airport, you might wonder if sleeping in the airport is possible. Our guide to sleeping in JFK airport provides essential information for seasoned airport sleepers and newbies to help travellers arrive prepared for the experience.

We keep this guide up-to-date with the help of airport sleepers who have generously shared their experiences and airport reviews. If you have any tips or photos to contribute, please take a moment to write a review. Your feedback will help us stay informed about the latest advice for future sleepy travellers.

Sleeping in New York JFK Airport

Locations & Seating

Sleeping in JFK Airport
Terminal 1, Landside. Photo by SleepingInAirports.net / 07Jun2012

New York JFK Airport is notorious for its crowds and lack of decent seating, adding to a not-so-comfortable sleeping situation. You’ll mostly find cold, hard metal benches with armrests if you can grab a seat. Overnight campers should be prepared to spread out on the cold concrete floor, so a travel mat, blanket, or sleeping bag is a must-have for cushion and warmth. Note that some security checkpoints close overnight, so you may only be able to access the airside areas three hours before your flight.

Here are good sleep spots that travellers have reported:

  • Terminal 1 – Try snagging a few chairs or a table in the food court and push them together for a makeshift bed.
  • Terminal 2 – There is carpeted flooring upstairs from the café and eateries.
  • Terminal 4 – Near the Norwegian Air check-in counters, a metal mesh bench has a couple of dividers, making the middle section a decent five-foot length for stretching out.
  • Terminal 7 – The terminal has tall, high-back chairs – more comfortable seating than elsewhere in the airport, even if you can’t sleep in them.
  • Terminal 8 – As you exit the AirTrain, two steel banks provide privacy for a few people willing to spread out on the floor. It’s a little quieter thanks to its out-of-the-way location.

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Rest Zones

There are no designated rest zones within the airport.

Airport Conditions

If you plan to spend the night at the airport, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Temperature – Travellers report cold temperatures all year round, so dress in layers and bring a blanket for a chance at decent sleep. Arrive prepared with a blanket or even a sleeping bag. A hoodie and gloves provide extra warmth if the terminal gets colder.  
  • Lighting – The lights seem to stay on and brightly lit all day and all night. Come prepared with eyeshades or something else to cover your eyes, such as a shirt or towel.
  • Noise – No matter the time of day or night, noise is a significant factor here. Depending on your location within the terminal, cleaning crews can be loud. Come prepared with earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones – though beware: one traveller reported that his noise-cancelling headphones were no match for the noise levels here!

Weather Delays

New York JFK Airport sees more than its fair share of flight cancellations due to bad weather (hurricanes and thunderstorms in the summer and snowstorms in the winter), but this means they are generally more prepared than other airports. When mass cancellations happen at New York JFK Airport, cots are available for stranded passengers who opt against getting a hotel room. To find them, ask an airline or airport employee or use a courtesy phone to reach someone with access to this information. Keep in mind that these cots cannot be reserved in advance and are unavailable except for mass cancellations. That means you cannot access them simply because you chose to stay the night in the airport instead of getting a hotel room.

Showers

Freshen up (and loosen those stiff muscles) with a shower before your flight. Shower facilities are available inside the following pay-to-use lounges: the Air France Lounge, the KAL Business Class Lounge, and the Swiss Business Class Lounge (currently closed for renovations). Please review our New York JFK Airport Guide for locations and entry details.

Food & Drink

When you get the midnight munchies or give up trying to sleep and need a coffee to stay awake, 24-hour food concessions are available. Check out these vendors: Dunkin Donuts (Terminal 1, airside), McDonald’s (Terminal 4, landside) and Central Diner (Terminal 4, landside, Arrivals Hall). Otherwise, stock up in advance or keep your eyes peeled for vending machines.

Hotels

jfk airport hotelsDo you prefer the privacy and comfort only a hotel room can provide? There are several hotel options both at and near the airport. At Terminal 5, you’ll find sleep pods (Airside) and the TWA Hotel (Landside). Free hotel shuttles can get you to many hotels within a five- to ten-minute drive. See the hotel section in our Airport Guide for locations, or visit Tripadvisor to find hotel deals at JFK Airport.

Lounges

jfk airport loungesWhile JFK Airport has many lounges, none have designated sleep rooms or rest areas. If you want to relax in a comfortable seat for a few hours before your flight, check out the pay-to-use lounge details in our New York JFK Airport Guide.

Security & Safety

Airport staff seem to have no problem with sleeping travellers. In general, the security guards do a good job of preventing non-travellers from hanging out in the landside areas. Still, the occasional homeless person may wander the terminal, especially on cold evenings.

At the time of this update, we have no reports from travellers commenting on safety issues at New York JFK Airport. However, sleeping in any airport can include a certain level of risk, especially when travelling alone. It’s essential to take certain precautions to ensure your safety and the security of your valuables. Here are a few tips:

  • Safety First. It’s a good idea to know where the security office is and look for video cameras where you plan to sleep. You can also ask the security personnel for advice on the safest places to spend the night.
  • Don’t Seclude Yourself. If you’re travelling alone, we recommend you stay near other travellers or close to security. This will help you feel more secure and deter potential thieves.
  • Hide Your Valuables. It’s also important to hide your valuables. Please don’t leave them out in plain view, as this could make you a target for theft. Additionally, if you are a deep sleeper, you may want to padlock your bag to something or sleep with your bag up against a wall to make it harder for someone to access zippers and pockets. We have received reports of sleepers who woke without their phones and laptop bags. The travellers were left with just their headphones and laptop bag strap.
  • Stay Alert. It’s best to stay alert and awake if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages to help you stay sharp, and remember that you can always catch up on sleep during your flight. These simple precautions can help you enjoy a safe night at the airport.

Pro-tip: If you sleep in the public zone, don’t be surprised if you receive an early morning wake-up call. Security is known to make the rounds, waking people up as travellers arrive for morning flights.

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