At some point, just about every regular traveller will find themselves needing to catch up on sleep in an airport. Flight cancellations, weather conditions, long layovers, and unexpected flight delays can sometimes leave you spending more time than you’d like inside an airport.
At Skyscanner Australia, we’ll tell you how to sleep comfortably in an airport so that you can board your next flight feeling rested.
Are you allowed to sleep in airports?
Sleeping in airports used to be a rite of passage for travellers looking to rest before a flight. Now, some airports like London’s Stansted airport are cracking down on sleepy passengers, forbidding the use of camp beds and requesting travellers to sit upright in their seats.
Rarely, an airport staff member might confront you and suggest that you to check into a hotel room. In that case, act friendly and be prepared to show your flight ticket to prove that you’re sleeping at the airport for a reason. Take note of the contact information for the closest hotel just in case.
However, for most airports, airline employees are used to seeing passengers spend the night or catch a few hours of shut-eye before their next flight. So, while it may not be encouraged, it’s typically not against the rules to sleep in an airport as long as you’re not disturbing anyone or blocking walkways.
You’re more likely to run into trouble in domestic airports or airports with tight opening hours. International airports often understand the need for rest and accommodate passengers by offering affordable sleeping spaces like free lounge areas with reclined seats, airport hotels, or sleeping pods.
What to pack for sleeping at the airport
Understandably, comfort is often the number one priority for travellers sleeping in airports. Here are a few things that will make your snooze more successful:
- Clothes that are soft, stretchy, and can be layered as needed. Avoid tight clothing with many buttons, seams, pockets, or zippers that could dig into your skin while you rest.
- Small blanket. Airports are notorious for cranking the air conditioning on full blast. If you don’t have space, use a sarong.
- Inflatable pillow
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs
- Phone with working alarm clock. Double check that your phone is set to the airport’s time zone.
- Inflatable camping mattress
- Toiletry kit with water, deodorant toothbrush, and toothpaste to freshen up after you wake
Tips for sleeping in airports
Step 1: Research the airport in advance
Many international airports are massive. It can be a challenge to know exactly where to rest and chances are, if you’re tired, the last thing you’ll want to do is wander around for a decent place to sleep. Check online in advance if the airport has any areas specifically designated for sleeping. Scout the map of the airport online before you arrive so that you can head to the right area directly after you land, saving precious time.
- Quiet zones with reclined seats
- Gender-specific quiet rooms
- An airport hotel that rents rooms by the hour or half-day
- Sleeping pods
Step 2: Move to the international terminal
If your flight or layover is in the domestic terminal, it might close for the night. In that case, head over to the international terminal because it will likely to be open at all hours, especially in larger airports.
Step 3: Find a quiet and comfortable spot
If there are no designated sleep areas, find somewhere that’s quiet and uncrowded. Check the list of upcoming flights to see which departure gates won’t be used for a while. Avoid lying down too close to bathrooms, drinking fountains, restaurants, hallways or any other areas that might have people walking past often.
Your spot should be away from boarding announcement speakers and monitored by security cameras.
Look for rows of chairs that don’t have armrests or deep grooves. Sometimes, the floor might be the most comfortable option.
Step 4: Keep your belongings safe
Ideally, you can check your luggage into a locker room overnight.
If you can’t, put any expensive or loose items into your bag or backpack. Most thieves are opportunists and making your belongings difficult to grab is enough to deter the majority of them. Lock your zippers shut or place your bag so that the zippers face you or the floor. Loop the bag strap around an arm or leg.
Put your passport and wallet somewhere on your person and hide all electronics.
Take advantage of airport sleeping pods
Some airports have taken the hint that their passengers don’t enjoy the discomfort of sleeping on airport floors and are keen to make a small profit by giving travellers an alternative option.
Cue the invention of sleeping pods. Sleeping pods are small, private, capsules that frequent fliers can sleep in. Though most of them require a fee, it’s likely cheaper than renting a hotel room and paying for transportation to the airport before your flight. They’re especially worth it if you have a four to eight-hour layover during the middle of the night because you’re guaranteed at least a few hours of quality sleep, which is sure to help you combat jetlag.
Some of the best airports with sleeping pods: Abu Dhabi (AUB), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), Berlin Tegel (TXL), Dubai (DXB), Hanoi (HAN), Helsinki (HEL), Munich (MUC), New Delhi (DEL), Milan Bergamo (BGY), Tallinn (TLL).
Check into an airport hotel
Many airports offer transit or affiliated hotels you can check into without having to go through customs or pay for a full night of sleep. These hotels are often the most convenient and comfortable option no matter if you’re sleeping at the airport at night or want to grab a few of sleep hours during the day.
Book your hotel stay online in advance, when rates are typically much cheaper than rocking up in person.