Airline connections are good to take a break from the pressurized cabins and stretch your body, especially on long international flights. But sometimes they are a bummer if you have a long time between flights. And the worst when you have to stay overnight at the airport and you are not booked in a hotel. That’s when you would want to take a nap and rest your head for a while, especially if you are the one who just can’t sleep in the airplane. While some airports have cubicles or pods to sleep in, others like Singapore Changi or Amsterdam Schipol have lounge chairs to sit back and relax, but most airports around the world have crappy, uncomfortable seats where you can sit, but difficult to lie down and sleep.
The fact remains that for long connections, if your airline has not put you in a hotel, then you just have to find a place to sleep and save money on hotels. Some airports like the ones in U.S. are clean to be able to just lie on the floor, but that can get cold and hard-floors are not a good option. So what do you do? What should you have to be able to sleep?
Here are some tips that will help you get started in your airport sleeping adventures.
First and foremost, always have a backup plan. This is the most important tip for anyone who voluntarily sleeps in airports. Some airport officials are not supportive of the idea of sleeping at the airport. They may not ask you to leave, but questions like ‘why are you here?’ or ‘why are you not in a hotel?’ are common to face. Some may also ask proof of your onward travel. So be prepared to answer.
For weather-related delays, your flight may be cancelled and you may not be flying out until the next day. And most airlines’ “terms and conditions” sections will tell you that you won’t get any airline-authorized, free accommodation, so basically you’re on your own!
Finding a good spot may be your biggest challenge. If your flight is cancelled or delayed then all the others, along with you, will be trying to find that perfect spot to crash so if the situation looks dismal, explore the airport and various terminals. Take the terminal shuttles and go terminal hopping. In airports with an international and a national terminal, the national terminal may close down at night, so try the international terminal as it maybe 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, and under or behind seats. Your best bet are the airport security/staff and airline staff. If you are nice, they will likely direct you to a nice spot.
Now that you’ve found that perfect spot, or not, bring something comfortable to sit on. The annoying chairs with the arm handles and curved seats are not only uncomfortable, but also uneven. If you’re a backpacker like us then you may have a sleeping bag or travel mattress that you can make use of. But if you don’t have one, then get that towel or t-shirts out of the bag, put them flat as a cushion or for better comfortable chairs roll them up to make a pillow. You can use the t-shirts as a pillow and the towel as a comforter. Bundle up with some layers of clothes to keep yourself warm and importantly, wearing warm socks will give you that extra cuddle!
You may want to be prepared with these accessories and tips that will make that sleep a sound one:
- Eye shades and ear plugs. if you have noise-cancelling headphones then make use of them for a sound sleep. But we must caution you that they can block hearing for announcements or if you’re expecting your name to be called.
- Ask the airline staff or airport staff if they can lend you with a blanket and/or pillow. And as we mentioned, some airports have passenger sleeping areas with comfortable lounge chairs or cots.
- Get bottled water and some snacks from the airport before taking that nap. You may wake up to find the shops & restaurants closed.
- Most smartphones these days have alarm clocks, so set one, or maybe two in case if you’re not a light sleeper. Better still, stick post-its on yourself and you seat by writing “Wake me at 10:00 AM”. People will wake you!
- For airports that are less clean, keep disinfectant wipes with you.
- Deodorants are a good way to keep those annoying odors out. Keep one.
- More and more airports are providing free or paid WiFi and free movies are available online. If you have a laptop, which has movies downloaded or DVDs, then entertain yourself.
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. Keep your expensive items and important stuff in a bag under your head. Make sure to lock the bags and arrange the bag in such a way that the position of the zipper or opener is tucked in. Do not leave your luggage unattended or expect to see bomb squads searching through every piece of your bags.
The Arrivals lounges are sometimes more comfortable than the Ticket Counter area, just because people don’t sit around departures and go immediately to their gates. The arrivals lounge are meant for friends and family members who are waiting for you to arrive and may have to wait longer if your flight is delayed.
Airports are uncomfortable and you will not be happy with your surroundings in the terminal. If you are travelling on a budget and don’t wanna spend for 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. The car rental staff may look into your car to make sure you’re alive but you are paying for the car and a little explanation will surely convince them.
While there will be times when you can’t sleep, sleeping in airports is not only extreme budget travel, it is an adventure. Make the best of it and enjoy! The best memories of travel are the experiences we return home with, and there are quite a few adventures to be had in airports.