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Tips for Sleeping in the Airport

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What to Know & What to Bring for an Overnight Stay at the Airport

Sleeping in the airport isn’t going to be your first choice, but it may be your only choice. These are the things to know and to bring with you to make the night as painless as possible.

How to sleep in an airportWhile most of us think of airports as a place to spend as little time as humanly possible, if you’re a frequent traveler you probably will, at one point or another in your life, end up being faced with spending an entire night at an airport as you wait for an early flight, cope with a cancellation, or some other unforeseen issue arises. It’s also possible that you’re some kind of masochist who just likes the idea of spending the night at the airport, but let’s just leave that possibility aside for now and concentrate on the one thing all people who spend the night at the airport have to deal with sleeping in the airport.

There are airports out there that actually seem to have been set up with the airport sleeper in mind, at least in part, while others have rules that say it’s actually forbidden to sleep in the airport. You may find that the airport bathrooms and other amenities are actually kind of inviting, making an overnight stay seem not so unappealing, or you may feel like you need to bathe after just sitting in the terminal for awhile. Wherever you find yourself for your overnight stay, this article will help you sleep in the airport with as few hassles as possible.

To be perfectly clear up front, remember that most of the time you’re not entitled to sleep in the airport even if you’re waiting for a flight out unless there’s been some kind of problem that’s left all passengers stuck in the airport. So when you’re faced with airport officials questioning you, keep in mind that you’re on their turf and they’re just doing their job. Most officials aren’t going to be so drastic as to kick you out or anything, but you can expect to be asked any number of variations on these three questions (followed by their translations):

  • Why aren’t you in a hotel? = Why aren’t you behaving like all those other not completely insane people who aren’t currently trying to sleep on the floor of an airport?
  • Do you have proof of your departing flight? = Why should I believe you’re not a transient? Show me your boarding pass, please.
  • Can I see some ID? = Okay, how do I know you didn’t steal this boarding pass from one of the not-crazy people sleeping in a hotel? Let’s see your passport, please.

Also, because the pre-security areas of an airport terminal are sometimes used by homeless people as places to sleep, it’s a good idea to appear as little like a homeless person as possible. One easy way to do this is to restrict your airport camping to the areas of the terminal where only ticketed passengers can go.

Sensible Suggestions

As a European airport worker wrote, (well get to more about this website later), In general, if you behave properly, impose no security or safety threat (smoking where not allowed, etc), do not litter and are not a sour to the eye of companies with a commercial interest in airports, airport staff generally looks the other way.

This is the golden rule to follow when using an airport for overnight accommodations.

Sleeping safely at the airport

The second most important rule is this; always act innocent. Doesn’t matter if you’ve done this one time or a hundred, as far as anyone in charge knows, you really don’t want to be there, you really don’t have a choice, and you really didn’t choose to camp out on the floor intentionally. If you can manage, cry. As most women have learned, crying will get you out of practically anything.

Sound Sleeper Supplies

  • A pool raft. Don’t laugh. Its cheap, its inflatable, it’s collapsible, and best of all it makes even the hardest of floors comfy enough. Just keep in mind some locations will frown more severely upon people floor sleeping versus those who curl up in chairs.
  • Eye shades. You can snag a sleep mask off a flight if they’re provided, but judging by the dwindling amenities offered by airlines, you’re best off bringing your own or using a pair of sunglasses (which you’re probably already planning to pack).
  • Ear plugs. Nuff said.
  • Bottled water. There are a million reasons to have this, from stores that aren’t open 24 hours to water quality so scary you get the runs just looking at it. Always have your own supply.
  • Snacks. Again, some airports may not have 24-hour stores, and others might be just plain sketchy. Plus, do you really want to get up at 3 a.m. and lug all of your stuff to the only open store just for a quick bite to eat? Didn’t think so.
  • Books and magazines. No airport sleeper can do without these good old-fashioned boredom busters.
  • CD player/MP3 player, etc. Make sure you bring large headphones, because hearing the same Please don’t leave luggage unattended, or it will be searched and seized message gets really old, really fast.
  • Wake-up call. This can be a trusty alarm clock, cell phone alarm, watch alarm, or, if all else fails, a pen and some post-it notes. Need to be up at 6 a.m.? Write it on some notes, stick them on you and around you, and someone will wake you up. Hey, it may not be Prince Charming, but it’ll get the job done.
  • A small blanket and a pillow. You really don’t need to call attention to yourself, so be smart and don’t the blanket or pillow you swiped off your last flight. You can find small blankets and travel pillows at travel supply stores and places like Brookstone, or, if nowhere else, for way too much money at the airport itself.
  • Tissue and/or toilet paper. Yeah, that’s right. Depending on your destination or stops along the way, some places will charge you an arm and a leg for a little bum fluff. And even if the papers free where you are, there’s no guarantee there’ll be any in the stall in the middle of the night. Charmin makes a neat, small, packable roll of to-go TP, and as well as a neat little pack of flushable toilet seat covers. I never go anywhere questionable without em.
  • Air freshener. A small satchel of potpourri or a hanging air freshener meant for a car works well for this. Foul odours are sure to keep you awake and keep your stomach turning, so do what you can to cover the smell. If you think you might find an electrical outlet, a Glade Plug-In will also do the trick.
  • Layer all of your clothing. Airports can be deathly hot, frostbite cold, and everything in between all in the space of a few hours or even minutes. Layers let you fine-tune your outfit and sleeping arrangement to fit whatever needs you may encounter. Plus, extra layers you don’t need to wear make for great additional pillows and padding!

Get creative with any other airport overnight supplies you think you might want to have along. If you’re travelling with a group and have the room, a game to help pass the time is a great option a Twister mat doesn’t take up much space, and there are lots of travel-sized board games, but a couple decks of cards are usually the best option. This is especially true if you’ve got a book of card games, too, so you can learn a few new ones when you get bored of Go Fish. And hey, even if you’re not travelling with a group, drag out a game and you’re sure to make friends fast!

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