How to Sleep in an Airport

April 24, 2015

The blaring lights burned my retinas, making me feel like I was at a hospital. I shivered, digging my hands into my armpits for warmth. My teeth chattered softly against one another as if in constant conversation. I brought my knees towards my chest, hoping that it would do something to make me warmer.

The same announcement played over and over again as if I was stuck in this same segment of hell for the rest of eternity.

I rolled over, my neck at an awkward angle because of the height of my dirty backpack. I saw an assortment of brown and pink gum, some obviously fresher than others, stuck to the bottom of the seat as if it were an artist’s idea of a hidden painting.

The thin carpet smelled like a mix of mildew and feet with a hint of dirty diaper. Brown stains were spread sporadically on the floor, making the carpet look like an inside out giraffe.

Fast forward two weeks: Same airport, different situation.

I woke up in a startle as the loud hum of dozens of suitcase rollers rolled passed me, pushed by a worker.

The tile floor had left a cold feeling in a very specific location on my ass and back. I wrapped the towel around my shoulders, thankful for this thin piece of cloth that was keeping me much warmer than before.

I sat up rolling my shoulders, noticing how stiff my neck was. There was a large divot in my backpack from where my head had been. Looking at it made me feel more uncomfortable, knowing my chin and chest had basically been making out all night. Ouch.

I put my head back down as my bruised spine dug into the tile floor. My friend and I weren’t allowed to pass through security yet, since our flight was the next day, so we were stuck in limbo between changing flights and the gate.

The money, Monica, think about how much you’re saving. 

It was a long night.

airport2

These were my first and second times sleeping in an airport, more specifically, Miami Airport.

As I learned, there are a lot of ways to make your “stay” much more comfortable. After all, the host isn’t going to necessarily provide you with much comfort! Think about how many other guests are sleeping there?

Although some airports may have reclining chairs or rows of chairs without bars in between them, I’ve written a how-to guide for one of the worst types of situations you can be in. A freezing, loud, overly bright airport, where you have no choice but to sleep on the tile floor.

Here are tips on how to sleep in an airport:

Bring a blanket 

I used a beach towel, because why would I bring a blanket to a country where it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit? If you have a blanket, and are sleeping in an airport, bring it. Extra points if you can roll it up into a neat little ball so it barely takes up any space in your bag.

Airports are very cold, and if you’re laying on a tile floor not moving, chances are, you’re going to be that much colder. Wrap yourself up in a nice blanket that traps your body heat and puts a buffer between you and the soulless feel of an airport.

Bring a pillow 

If you have a small pillow, bring it. They even sell pillows that you fill up with air like a balloon. It’s a much better alternative to using a chunky, dirty backpack with odd angles and strange items poking out in peculiar ways.

Bring a sleeping bag

Have room in your bag? Bring a sleeping bag. I saw a few people wrapped comfortably against a wall in a sleeping bag, and wanted nothing more than to run over and rip it off of them.

Okay, maybe not, but it would have been great to have.

Check to see if your airport gives out free blankets and pillows 

This was the biggest mistake I made. At 4 a.m., the second time around, as I was passing through security, one of the women said, “wow, you look freezing!” I looked at her, half asleep and delusional. She laughed and said, “you know they give out free blankets and pillows upstairs, right?”

I laughed for 7 minutes, and then gave her the death stare.

For your sake, check to see if they give out free blankets and pillows. It will save your body temperature, neck, and morale.

How to Sleep in an Airport

Layer up

Okay, so you have a blanket. Make sure you’re also wearing pants, a sweatshirt, socks, and many other layers. You can always take them off.

Find a secluded corner and claim it 

Privacy makes all the difference. My friend and I found a bunch of covered snack and news stands which we hid behind. There are some corners and hidden areas that are perfect for spending the night.

The first time around, I hid against a wall and under some chairs. It wasn’t ideal, but I didn’t want to be in the middle of the airport for everyone to gawk and stare at.

Bring headphones or ear plugs

The radio was on 24/7 in Miami Airport. I don’t know why they thought it to be a lovely idea to have it on at 3 in the morning, but I dozed off to a man’s voice repeating the same thing over and over, who then made it into my dreams.

Try listening to music or putting in ear plugs and shutting out the world.

Hold on to your valuables

Put them inside of your shirt, your pants, whatever. Hide them. Put them close to you, so that if someone comes over and tries to take them, they can’t without waking you up. I put my phone and passport in my pants and my GoPro and wallet inside of my shirt.

I slept on my backpack which I had also turned upside down and against a wall, as to prevent anyone from coming over and grabbing it.

Bring an eye mask

Or even a hat. I wore a hat and pulled it over my eyes. Even sunglasses work. 

Closing my eyes did not get rid of those blaring lights. The darker it seems, the easier it will be to fall asleep.

How to Sleep in an Airport

Bring food

It was 12:30 am when we arrived in Miami Airport the first time around. Everything was closed. Everything. I thankfully had a sandwich to get me through the night until the stores opened.

Some airports will have 24 hour stores, but where we were sleeping, it did not. Although we probably could have taken the air train to another gate to find food, we were pretty tired and not up for the adventure.

Even having something to snack on will make you feel that much better. It’s hard to fall asleep to a rumbling, angry stomach.

Do you have anymore tips for sleeping in an airport?

Top Photo Cred: Kayla Gray

12 comments

  1. Comment by Valerie

    Valerie April 24, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Great article! I would never think to create a guide for this, but it’s so true that there are things you can do to make sleeping in the airport better!

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica April 24, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      Thank you so much, Valerie! :]

  2. Comment by Janet Sunderland

    Janet Sunderland April 24, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    LOL…more tips? Like … don’t….?

    I guess if you’re changing planes and the next one is hours away. I absolutely hate being cold, so I always have a hoodie rolled up somewhere. I can pull the sleeves down far enough to keep my hands warm and the hood keeps my neck warm. Airplanes are often colder than I like too, so often, the hoodie is on me.

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica April 24, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      Hah! If I didn’t have to sleep there, I definitely wouldn’t. That’s a great tip! Hoodies keep you very warm, and, like you said, are also great for airplanes. 😀

  3. Comment by Dave | Jones Around The World

    Dave | Jones Around The World April 25, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    I’ve had to sleep in airports a few times to save money, and did a lot of these things. It’s a shame more airports don’t have couches for us budget backpackers, haha.

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica April 26, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      I completely agree! If the chairs didn’t have arms at least, it would make our lives a lot easier (and less painful), haha.

  4. Comment by Cascadian Nomads

    Cascadian Nomads May 22, 2015 at 4:01 am

    An excellent guide! I agree with Janet that a good hoodie can serve many purposes at once- blanket, hoodie, eye cover, pillow. I have tied a sleeve of my hoodie to my pillow backpack while wearing the other sleeve for security while sleeping as well. And while the beginning of your post made parts of my body ache with airport/train, bus and ferry station sleeping memories, the money saved was TOTALLY worth it!

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica May 22, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Thank you so much! Haha- that’s awesome, and such a great tip!! It keeps you warm and keeps your belongings close to you. Hahah it’s definitely always worth the money you save! 😀

  5. Comment by Tami

    Tami June 5, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    We once tried to sleep in the Athens airport because we had a layover from midnight to 6 am. I didn’t want to pay $250 for an airport hotel, just to sleep for what? 4 1/2 hours?! Crazy, right? But it was a miserable night. I have a twelve hour layover in Vienna coming up (from 10 pm to 10 am) and I am trying to figure out what to do. But I don’t think I’ll want to sleep in an airport again. Has anyone ever used those in-airport rooms you can rent for two or four hours?

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica June 6, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      That’s so expensive!! I wouldn’t pay that, even if it was more than 4 1/2 hours, haha! I haven’t used those rooms, but they sound perfect. You can get a few hours of comfortable sleep without having to spend a ton of money. Hopefully the layover goes quickly!

  6. Comment by Georgie

    Georgie August 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Good tips! I slept at the airport three times. The last time was because of a missed flight (because of the weather) and therefore I wasn’t the only one sleeping at the airport (London Heathrow) so in the middle of the night some employees were going and giving away blankets and putting them on people who were sleeping. I was so glad and I still have the blanket and sometimes I travel with it because it’s very compact 🙂 However, I would never think that they would be actually giving them away just for asking. But there is no harm in asking so thanks for the tip! 🙂

    • Comment by Globe Trottica

      Globe Trottica August 6, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      That’s awesome, and very nice of them! You got so lucky 😀 I need to get a small blanket to travel with, it would definitely come in handy :] Thanks so much for reading!

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