Terminal Crashing: How to Sleep in an Airport

Posted on September 12, 2011


Sleeping in airports is no longer reserved for the budget backpacker. Today, travelers of all ages and incomes can be found stretched out on airport floors around the world. This article explains why you should consider this as an option to save you time and money. We also provide tips and advice to ensure your first foray into airport snoozing is relaxing, rejuvenating and enjoyable.


Contrary to what you might think, sleeping in airports isn’t such a crazy idea. In fact, there are times when it would be crazy not to sleep in airports because it can save you so much time and money. And if you do it right, you’ll stay safe and comfortable, get plenty of sleep and even have some fun and adventure in the process. But before we get into tips of the trade, here are some situations in which you should consider airport snoozing as an option:

  1. Super Early Departures: If you fly low budget airlines (which arrive and depart at ungodly hours), you should expect to crash in an airport at least once during your semester abroad. For example, if your flight departs in the morning before public transportation is running, you might pay up to 100 Euros for a taxi from the city center. Better to arrive the night before on public transportation. Furthermore, early flights prevent you from sleeping in (6 a.m. flights require 3 a.m. wake-ups), so you might as well tuck in at the airport instead of pay 25 Euros for a hostel bed that you’ll only use for a few hours.
  2. Super Late Arrivals: Your flight may arrive after public transportation stops running, forcing you to take a taxi and/or book a bed for only a few hours in the night. Better crash in the airport and catch the first public bus or metro the next morning. If you’re taking a train route that has stopped for the night, you may have no option but to sleep in the airport and catch the first departure the next morning.
  3. Out of the Way Airports: Oftentimes it’s cheaper to catch a train or bus to an airport at a neighboring city and then depart from there. If that flight departs in the morning, you may have to catch a train or bus the night before and sleep in the airport. Same goes for late arrivals on the return trip, in case the trains have stopped running for the night.
  4. Overnight Connections: If there aren’t direct flights to your destination, you can usually find two separate flights that connect through a major airline hub city (Madrid, London, Rome, Paris or Frankfurt, for example), requiring an overnight stay. Your first leg might arrive at 11 p.m. on Thursday night and your second leg might depart the next morning at 6 a.m. Don’t waste your money on a bed that night when you can crash in the terminal for free. Remember, you’ll also pay for transfers to and from the airport, which cost 10 or more Euros each way.
  5. Unanticipated Delays/Cancellations: Public transportation strikes and flight delays/cancellations are common in Europe, forcing you to stay in airports out of necessity as you wait for your next transportation option to become available.

So there you have it. You now know the five most common instances when sleeping in the airport is an option or necessity. Next are a few steps you can take to ensure you stay comfortable and safe and get some sleep:

  1. Bring Earplugs.
    This is the most important element of airport sleeping. If you can’t drown out the sound of intercom announcements, floor cleaners, gossiping security guards and fellow snoring airport sleepers, then you won’t catch a wink.
  2. Dress for the Occasion.
    Make sure to wear long pants and your favorite hoodie. Airports are often air-conditioned and the floor is usually cold so you need some warm padding. Plus, the hoodie is great for blocking the light.
  3. Bring Entertainment.
    Whether it’s a book, an iPod, a travel journal or your laptop, bring something to keep yourself entertained in case you just can’t sleep.
  4. Protect Your Bags.
    Use your carry-on (with your money, passport and electronics inside) as a pillow. Kick your feet back on top of your suitcase. This is not only comfortable, it will also ensure no one tampers with your bags as you sleep.
  5. Get There Early: If you are staying at a busy airport overnight, you’ll have to get there early if you want a good spot. Airports such as London’s Stansted are so popular they tend to fill up with snoring travelers during the summer months.
  6. Find the Right Spot.
    Find a quiet space away from heavily trafficked areas, especially restaurants, cafes, security zones and baggage check desks. Also stay away from intercoms or busy thoroughfares. If you want to watch a movie or surf the net on your laptop, be sure to find a spot with a power-point. A restroom nearby is also convenient. Oftentimes, you can find a nice wide bench or cushioned seat that serves as a makeshift bed.
  7. Late Night Snacks, Anyone?
    Make sure to grab something to eat before you set up camp, since most restaurants close around 10 p.m. Otherwise, stop at a supermarket before you leave the city center so you have something to munch on late into the night.
  8. Have a Backup Plan: Although 97% of airports tolerate sleeping, you may be asked questions by security guards, or asked to relocate to another part of the airport. You may even be asked for proof that you are flying out the next day. Be prepared to answer these questions.
  9. Set your Alarm Clock! It would be a shame to sleep in past your flight!

The most important part of all is to have fun and keep an open mind! That’s what travel is all about, right?
Sleeping in airports is not only perfect for student travelers with tolerance for adventure and little discomfort, but it can actually be an enjoyable experience. The best memories of travel are the experiences we return home with, and trust me, there are quite a few adventures to be had in airports. In the least, you’ll save money and return home with a great story!

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