How To Sleep Well In An Airport

Sleeping in an airport is something you might associate with missing a flight. For most people, airports are a place to shop in duty free and whittle away the time until flying, but for some, airports are a place to crash for the night, and sleeping in an airport can offer a real alternative experience on your gap year.

Backpackers and travellers are often on such a tight budget that they're always looking for ways to save a few bucks. Well, why not consider sleeping in an airport? After all, you're saving money on accommodation, and more importantly, you're exactly where you need to be in the morning; you don't have to worry about checking-in on time as you're already there! All you have to worry about is oversleeping!

One of the problems with cheap flights is the awful departure times and stop-overs. More often than not you have to rise at the crack of dawn or spend eight hours in a nameless airport waiting for a connecting flight. However, getting the cheapest flights and saving money on accommodation by sleeping in an airport can be the difference between travelling for an extra week / month or travelling home.

A journey of 20+ hours can often mean a stop-over in an airport, but all is not lost; many airports let you stay for free and more often than not you'll enjoy the experience!

Whether you're sleeping in an airport by choice or by a (un)happy accident then let the gapyear.com guide to sleeping in airports show you how to make the most of your experience.

Sleeping in airports

Tips for sleeping in an airport:

  • Prepare - Some airports aren't going to allow you to sleep in them. Research first whether the airport is open 24 hours a day. If they're not, then make sure you prepare for the worst and have the name of a hostel in mind where you can stay for the night.
  • Find the best spot - Take a walk around the airport and find the best spot to sleep. You don't want to be too near the toilets, check-in desks or other busy areas. If you're travelling on your own then sleep near other travellers; you'll look out for each other and you may even make a friend or two!
    Sometimes it's better to check out the arrivals lounge as it might be a better place to sleep than the departures lounge. Also, ask security where the best spot is. You're not the first person to sleep in an airport, nor will you be the last. Airport employees are used to it and if you ask them outright where the best place to sleep in the airport is then they'll tell you.
  • Take an eye mask - One of the hardest things about falling asleep in an airport is shutting out the bright fluorescent lights. They're on 24 hours a day and they're not going to turn them off just for you, so take an eye mask to block out that light. An eye mask may just be the difference between a little sleep and a lot of sleep.
  • Use ear plugs / earphones - Ear plugs / earphones are a great way of blocking out that noisy background sound. Just choose your soundtrack and drift off. (Make sure you keep your iPod / MP3 player hidden. You don't want to wake up with your earphones connected to nothing).
  • Use a blanket / sarong - A blanket / sarong will make it feel like you're wrapped up in bed and it will keep you warm. Some airports don't turn their air conditioning off and it can get a little cold at night.
  • Take food and water - Most facilities close down at night and you may find it a long time before you can buy food and water, so make sure you take some with you. Sweets such as Mentos are great for a little energy boost and staving off hunger.
  • Sleeping tablets - Perfect for sleeping in an airport.
  • Sleep on your bag - Not only does it prevent people from stealing it but it makes a pretty good make-shift pillow.
  • Entertain yourself - Sleeping in an airport can get a little boring, so if you're travelling on your own and you can't sleep then make sure you've got enough entertainment in the form of books and music to keep you going. There's nothing worse than being bored at 3am with nothing to do.
  • Play dumb - Sometimes you're going to be woken-up by airport staff asking you to leave. If this happens then play dumb. Act like you don't want to be there and that you don't have a choice. More often than not they'll leave you alone.
  • Dress up - Wear comfortable clothes and wear lots of layers if you think you're going to be cold. Also, there's an added benefit of wearing lots of clothes; it'll take the edge off that cold hard floor.
  • Shower - Some airports have showers for passengers and they're great for a wake-me-up / pick-me-up.
  • Have fun! - Sleeping in an airport is fun! Remember, it's an alternative gap year experience, so enjoy it!

At the end of the day, at some point in your life you'll probably have to spend the night and sleep in an airport, whether by choice or unexpectadly. Some airports are perfect for spending the night; some aren't. Sometimes you'll be asked for ID and proof that you're flying on. Most of the time you'll be able to explain your way out of a situation. Sleeping in airports isn't exactly expected but it is widely accepted. Whenever you find yourself sleeping in an airport, follow our tips and make sure you enjoy it!


About the Author: Macca Sherifi

Marcus Sherifi

Macca is gapyear.com's travel editor and writes on a myriad of topics, giving the best travel advice in an easy-to-read style that he would describe as 'cutesy'. His two passions are travelling and writing, which is lucky, because he's a travel writer. Macca travelled for 20 months non-stop, never settling in one place for more than a week or two, living to travel and travelling to live. In his spare time, he reads about travelling, thinks about travelling, and then travels. If that fails he still harbours hopes of being a professional rugby player...