Sleep at the airport is nothing that we do because it’s so much fun, but it can be relatively pleasant. There are many good reasons to do it: saving money by avoiding taxis and hotels, or maybe there’s just no way to get you to the airport. I’ve spent many nights at London Stansted because the trains from Surrey to London suck. So I’d like to share my tips with you on how to spend a comfortable night at an airport. Tips, tricks and napcabs!
Be Early To Sleep At The Airport
It’s easier to find the best loungers, couches or just seat rows without those annoying armrests when there are fewer people who occupy them. Remember that you might not be alone in your endeavour to spend the night at the airport. Some airports get busier than others. This can be due to terrible public transport or ridiculous flight times.
Check If Your Airport Stays Open
Other airports are partially closed because of a ban on night flights. Inform yourself if that’s the case at your airport. It’s very likely that security will close down for some hours during the night. This means you have to sleep in the part of the airport that is open to non-ticket holders such as arrivals and check-in areas. In this case, you can decide for yourself if you want to sleep in the open area and get up right in time for security and your flight, or if you want to move during the night and find a better spot inside the security, ‘duty-free’ zone. Depending on the “bed” you found in the open zone, either one might be favourable. If you switch zones, be sure to be one of the first to get through security. That way you can be the first to spot and occupy the best loungers or seats.
Personally, I prefer to sleep after going through security because it is literally more secure and you don’t have to worry about a long security queue in the morning. At some airports, the area behind the security is also a lot nicer, and bigger than the arrival and check-in zones combined.
Stake out the Place
Now that you arrived early to find a good spot, you’ll have to take an extensive look around the airport to find a nice place to sleep. This means you walk and walk and check every nook and cranny until you find a spot that looks good to you: somewhere semi-secluded, preferably dark, not too noisy, with a soft-ish, uninterrupted surface to lie on. Some great spots might be hidden, halfway or all the way to your departure gate, or at a very unpopular, unoccupied gate. If this is the case and your gate has not been announced yet, be aware that you might have to walk back to the main hall in order to check your gate in the morning.
If you want to do more research on your airport, check out this amazing website. It offers advice and ratings for many airports on this fine planet.
Depending on how often you plan to spend at airports, how much time you spend there, or how much space you have left in your carry-on luggage, there are two lists for your airport sleepover kit: essential and extra.
The Essential List:
- Warm Clothes
Your body temperature decreases when you get sleepy and when you sleep. So even in a warm country, you should be prepared.
- Large Scarf or Light Cheap Blanket
Again, it’s quite hard to sleep when you’re cold. In winter I prefer to travel with one of those oversized scarfs that almost covers your entire head. It doubles perfectly as a blanket.
- Sleep Mask or Something To Cover Your Eyes
A sleep mask is lightweight. For me it’s a no-brainer to always take my cute Girls Who Travel mask with me. If you forgot yours, you can also try to pull your beanie over your eyes. Or make a blindfold out of a bandana.
- Ear Plugs
Whether your bench mate snores or there are annoying announcements all through the night, you should definitely bring earplugs. Or buy them at one of the airport shops before you go to bed.
- Backpack or Jacket as Pillow
You’ll need something to support your head or snuggle up to. As a point of safety, I highly recommend to keep your piece of luggage with the zippers turned towards you. You can also snuggle with it, or put your feet on it.
The Extra List:
- Lightweight (Self-) Inflatable Mattress
If you want some extra comfort, this is the one item you’ll have to cram into your carry-on piece. There are lightweight sleeping pads or air mattresses that pack quite small and are inflated with a few blows. Others are entirely self-inflatable, but slightly bigger or heavier. If you have one at home, or you are on your way to go camping, you might as well bring it in your carry-on luggage and enjoy a comfy night. Now the sky’s the limit. You can easily sleep on the cold hard ground without being cold or uncomfortable.
- Sleeping Bag
Another piece of camping equipment that can make your stay at the airport more pleasant is the sleeping bag. Especially in colder airports, regardless of climate or air-condition, it can make sense to bring a sleeping bag to keep you entirely warm and wrapped up.
This applies as much to you as it does to your luggage. If you don’t feel that a place is right, or you feel too exposed, find another place. It might feel safer to sleep in a place that is well-lit and clearly visible for others. Maybe there are other people or security cameras around.
As for your luggage, you can try to use it as a pillow, or sleep leaned against it. Remember to turn the zippers toward you. If you have any pockets or you roll your jacket into a pillow, put your most valuable possessions (credit cards, money, boarding pass, passport) in there. That way they’re extra safe. For your phone, I have something else in mind.
A very important part of sleeping at the airport is waking up. You spent all this effort to be on time for your flight, you wouldn’t want to oversleep. There are two very effective ways to get this task done. If you happen to have a smartwatch or a fitness tracker, set an alarm on that device as it’s always on you and will get the job done easily. If you want to use your phone, set the vibration to the highest setting and the volume to whatever you feel comfortable with or necessary. Then you put your phone in your hoodie or trouser pocket or inside your pillow, maybe even between your belly and the high-waisted jeans. The closer to your body the better.
When you set the alarm, remember to allow enough time to get to the gate, through security (if you haven’t done that already), go back to the main lounge to find out what your gate is if it wasn’t announced earlier, and maybe even to go to the bathroom and have breakfast.
Some people can barely make it to their gate without food. I am one of those. Before you go to sleep, make sure to buy breakfast items, especially if the stores are still closed when you have to get up. My favourite breakfast I’ve ever had at Stansted was cereal that I packed into a bowl-shaped plastic container with a lid. Then, once I was through security, I got myself some milk and a spoon from the Pret-A-Manger and there it was: my perfect breakfast.
If you want to sleep in the utmost comfort, check to see if your airport offers napcabs. These are sleeping cabins that offer quiet and privacy away from the hustle and bustle of airport life.
Did I miss some tips and tricks for surviving the airport sleepover? Please add them in the comments!