Are you crazy? Sleeping at an airport? I’ve heard it so many times. Well, the truth is: sleeping at an airport can be an incredible adventure and can save a lot of money. It always seems like a good idea until the next day when you’re too tired to do anything. If you have a layover or an early flight sleeping at an airport can be a good solution to not have to stress about catching your flight. It is probably not the most comfortable night but it’s an adventure that I believe every backpacker should do at least once. During my own travels slept at a few airports, usually because I had an early flight or a layover in an expensive city. Here are my tips on how to survive a night at the airport to get the best possible sleep.
1. Prepare yourself
Preparing yourself can make a night at the airport a whole lot more comfortable. A few earplugs can go a looooong way! Also make sure you have got everything you need to get through a night, such as your headphone or maybe some magazines for when you can’t sleep.
What I always take when I’m travelling is a really thin sleeping bag, a mummy I call it. Sleeping on the floor is a lot more comfortable with a bit of cloth underneath you. Some airports turn off the heating at night to save energy so some warm clothes can make a difference between a terrible and a comfortable night.
The airport can be an expensive place for a backpacker. If you have an overnight rest at the airport you could save money by making sure that you have some food and water with you. Going to the food court to get some fast food can be an option too but after eating fast food you definitely won’t have a good night sleep with a blown belly.
2. Do research
The internet is a good source to find information on how to sleep at an airport. First of all it is important to know if the airport is actually open. Some smaller airports close at night which is a bummer for your wallet when you have actually planned on staying the night at the airport. A good website to find information about basically any airport is www.sleepinginairports.net.
3. Always have a backup plan
You never know when you might be sent away so when you have no idea where to go it might be tricky. Before you go figure out where you can stay if it is not possible to stay at the airport. Other options are:
- A hotel. Every airport will have a hotel nearby where you can sleep if there is no other option.
- Airport lounge. Most larger airports will have a comfortable airport lounge where you can spend the night quietly. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to be scared that your bag will be stolen.
- I have never done it before but I thought it might be a good idea to rent a car for the night, could be cheaper than sleeping in a hotel and you might even be able to sleep where you rent it so you don’t have to drive it anywhere.
4. Find a quiet spot
Take time to stroll around looking for a good spot. This also gives you something to do because sleeping a full night at an airport is nearly impossible. When I sleep at the airport I wake up every hour thinking it’s already morning but it never seems to arrive.
If you have gone through the departure terminal but haven’t found a good spot try the arrival terminal. It makes sense that it is more quiet because people don’t hang around at the arrival terminal because people want to leave as soon as possible. Great opportunity for us backpackers when we want to find a quiet spot!
5. Keep track of time
How would it feel to miss your flight after having spent a horrible night at the airport? That would suck! If you have an early flight make sure to set an alarm.
6. Find other likeminded people
For security reasons it is advisable to sleep where other people are sleeping as well. Especially when you are alone it feels safer and these people can also watch your belongings when you have to go to the bathroom.
You don’t want to carry around your luggage when you go to the bathroom. Even when it’s quiet it is not a good idea to leave your luggage alone. Imagen finding the bomb squat when you return from the bathroom. :O
7. Strap your bag to your body
The best way to make sure your bag won’t get stolen is to strap your bag to your body with a bit of rope. Another possibility is to use your bag as a pillow so you’ll have a better night rest and you don’t have to be afraid that your bag gets stolen.
If you are together with someone else you could even take turns sleeping if you don’t trust your surroundings.
8. Always have your ticket handy
At some airports security workers will come to ask for a boarding pass or reservation. Just because they don’t want dodgy people hanging around the airport. Don’t be afraid of security people, it is not like you’re doing something illegal. Try to make friends with them because they come around every now and then. You could even ask them to wake you up.
9. Don’t draw attention
When I sleep at an airport I always try to hide myself a bit so I don’t bother anyone and no one bothers me. If you start making a full bedroom and put on loud music sure someone will come to complain. It is best to just keep quiet and do what you came there to do: sleep.
10. Enjoy yourself
If you’ve never stayed at an airport it can be quite an adventure. Go and see what is possible. Walk around or even have a chat with the airport personnel, you never know what you might end up with. But more important have fun in a respectful way of course.
Airports I have stayed at…
Rio de Janeiro
Rio was my first overnight stay at an airport. I had a flight at 6 o’clock in the morning from Rio to Iguazu. Because there was no affordable way to get to the airport during the night I decided to sleep at the airport. I learned a lot from that first experience because I did it all wrong. I should have looked up what to do and where to sleep. Let’s just say it was a good learning experience with minimum sleep.
Barcelona airport is quite small if you want to stay overnight. It was a quiet stay with nothing special really. On the right side of the departure hall there are little cubes, behind them it is possible to have a good night sleep without anyone bothering you. I brought a sleeping bag and had a nice and warm night. Probably the best sleep I have ever had at an airport.
When you talk about luxury, Stockholm is THE airport to sleep at. I was definitely not the only one with that thought in mind. When I was in Stockholm I had about a day to spend in the city and a flight the next morning. Since Stockholm is a really expensive city to stay in I figured it would be best to stay at the airport.
Stockholm airport has got very comfortable seat plus those things to rest your feet on. I was on my way to Asia so I didn’t have any warm clothes with me except for one big sweater that my little brother gave me. Thankssss! It kept me warm all night. The only thing that kept me from a good night sleep was that it was quite busy in the terminal.
What to say about Phuket airport… Well, I have got one word: people! Everywhere there were people, all night long! When I was staying overnight at Phuket airport the new international terminal wasn’t open yet. I think it’s probably more comfortable now. The only good thing about this airport is that it is warm.
Have you ever stayed the night at an airport?