The Essential 101 Guide to Sleeping in Airports

Check out These Airports with Alternatives to Hotels

Man sleeping in airport
••• Hans Bjurling/Getty Images

When the worst happens and your flight is canceled, not everyone can afford to pay to stay in a hotel. In that case, the airport becomes your hotel. I was in Chicago during a major shut-down of the city's airports, but managed to get out on my flight. But as I was leaving Chicago Midway Airport, I stumbled upon a room next to Gates A4A and A4B that was filled with cots, blankets, and pillow for stranded passengers.

Other airports offer free or low-cost options for those stuck without a lot of money. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is seen as a leader in helping stranded passengers. During weather and other delays, the airport initiates an emergency plan that includes offering cots, pillows, and blankets for anyone who asks and requiring concessions to stay open later to accommodate stranded travelers.

My original hometown airport -- San Francisco International -- is among those whose seating consists mostly of ones padded armrests, but it also has some benches in its terminals that allow travelers to stretch out for a snooze. And those in the know are aware of the airport’s Berman Reflection Room, located in the International Terminal, is a great place to catch some zzzs, but only until 11:00 p.m. And other airport churches are always a good option.

While Denver International Airport mostly has chairs with armrests which aren’t conducive for sleeping, there is a business center on the Mezzanine Level of Terminal B that has cubicles where folks can get their sleep on.

The world’s busiest airport -- Hartsfield-Jackson International -- has those coveted non-armrest seating areas in Concourse A and Concourse F, the International Terminal. And my current hometown airport, Baltimore-Washington, has seats with no armrests in its terminals and open gate space areas that are conducive to getting some sleep.

But of course, it’s no surprise that Singapore’s Changi Airport has the best free options for stranded travelers. The airport offers free rest areas that have specially designed leather snooze chairs that come with head and leg rests in all three of its terminals. 

The popular website The Guide to Sleeping In Airports offers stranded travelers tips on the best resting spots in airports around the world.   And the website's readers have just chosen the 2016 top airports throughout the world for sleeping.

Best Airports for Overall Experience 2016

The best airports in the world are those that truly dazzle and delight, according to the website. What ultimately unites these terminals together is that coming to them is the opposite of a chore. Rather, passengers are often found wishing their layover could continue for just a little longer so that they can check out the IMAX theater, the aquarium, the indoor jungle, the multi-story slide, the spa, or something that they haven’t even thought of yet. The winners are:

  1. Singapore Changi International Airport

  2. Seoul Incheon International Airport

  3. Tokyo Haneda International Airport

  4. Taipei Taoyuan International Airport

  5. Munich International Airport

  6. Osaka Kansai International Airport

  1. Vancouver International Airport

  2. Helsinki Airport

  3. Tallinn International Airport

  4. Zurich Kloten International Airport

Top Airports for Sleeping in North America

The best airports in this region are the ones that make an effort to improve the passenger experience. Whether it’s providing cots to snowed in travelers, building an aquarium that features local marine life, or providing quiet areas to escape the crowds and get work done, these terminals have got the in betweens of air travel figured out. Better yet is that most of the best airports show up on this list year after year, proving that they really take travel seriously.

  1. Vancouver International Airport

  2. Tampa International Airport

  3. Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport

  4. Portland International Airport

  5. Indianapolis International Airport

  6. Denver International Airport

  1. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

  2. San Francisco International Airport

  3. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

  4. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Top Airports for Sleeping in Europe

The airports that earn the title of Best Airports in Europe are those that are as efficient as they are enjoyable. They make sure they get the basics of navigation and comfort down to a science, and then they add on extra amenities like libraries, lounges, and seasonal attractions. 

  1. Munich International Airport

  2. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport

  3. Tallinn International Airport

  4. Zurich Kloten International Airport

  5. Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport

  6. Copenhagen Kastrup Airport

  7. Vienna International Airport

  8. Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport

  9. Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport

  10. Dublin International Airport

Top Airports for Sleeping in South America

The best airports in South America are those that provide passengers with a comfortable airport experience. Although ultra-indulgent amenities are a bit sparse, the following terminals make sure that your airport experience is, above all else, friendly and efficient. Wi-Fi, charging ports, decent food options, and comfortable couches combine to put these airports a tier above the others in the region.

  1. Montevideo General Cesáreo L. Berisso International Airport 

  2. Bogota El Dorado International Airport

  3. Guayaquil José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport

  4. Buenos Aires Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery

  5. Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (Medellin)

Top Airports for Sleeping in Africa, Middle East, and India

Fan favorites like Dubai and Doha have secured their spaces with lavish amenities, decadent shopping, and a few unique twists. Others, like Tel Aviv, have put ample work into safety and efficiency, keeping weary travelers calm and happy. Overall, the terminals here have figured out how to provide a layover experience that is comfortable, safe and pleasantly memorable!

  1. Dubai International Airport

  2. Doha Hamad International Airport

  3. Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport

  4. Amman Queen Alia International Airport

  5. Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport

Top Airports for Sleeping in Asia

Once again, the best airports in Asia are typically dually ranked as the best in the world. Packed with incredible extravagances in exceptionally well thought out terminals, travel here is as fun as it is relaxing. In multiple airports, voters wished for slightly longer layovers to better explore all that there is to do here - be it the free movie theaters, sightseeing tours, the indoor ice rink or the plethora of terminal gardens. However, with sleeping facilities equally as fantastic as the activities, a layover is almost never long enough at these 10 terminals!

  1. Singapore Changi International Airport

  2. Seoul Incheon International Airport

  3. Tokyo Haneda International Airport

  4. Taipei Taoyuan International Airport

  5. Osaka Kansai International Airport

  6. Hong Kong International Airport

  7. Kuala Lumpur International Airport

  8. Tokyo Narita International Airport

  9. Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

  10. New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport

Top Airports for Sleeping in Australia

  1. Brisbane International Airport

  2. Adelaide International Airport

  3. Wellington International Airport

  4. Auckland International Airport

  5. Christchurch International Airport