Sleeping in Airports to Save Money on Hotel Costs

  • 01 of 07

    Planning to Sleep in the Airport?

    Businessman resting on chairs in airport.
    ••• John Giustina/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Outside of an emergency, why would anyone want to consider sleeping in airports?

    We know there are times when weather shuts down the airport, a connection was missed, or the airport hotel is full. These very different problems that might end with the same imperfect solution: an overnight airport stay.

    Apart from emergencies, there are travelers who plan to sleep in an airport as a way to save money.

    For example, a hotel stay that would only last three or four hours might not justify a hotel room charge. DeTraci Regula found herself in this situation, and it was the inspiration for My Overnight at the Athens International Airport.

    So -- have you ever actually planned on sleeping in airports? Read on and consider how some budget travelers go about the tricky business of sleeping in airports.

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  • 02 of 07

    Expert Advice for Sleeping in Airports

    Sleeping in Airports
    ••• Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Budget travelers will do some fairly strange things to save money. For some, a pillow-top mattress and room service are easy sacrifices. Averaging in a few free nights as you add up lodging costs at least makes your budget more comfortable.

    Whether thrust upon you or planned, the airport overnight can go more smoothly when you're armed with some knowledge of the pitfalls and a few tips from the experts.

    One such expert is Canadian traveler Donna McSherry, who has been writing about this subject online since 1996. She tops her website with these words: "it may sound a little cheap and degrading at first, but read on and you'll soon discover a travel community that shares their experiences and advice with fellow airport sleepers"

    Her Guide to Sleeping in Airports might be the web's most comprehensive airport sleeping review. It's organized by continent and country. This resource has been around so long that there are more than 7,500 airport reviews posted. Next,...MORE consider some suggestions for sleeping in airports.

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  • 03 of 07

    Airport Sleeping Reviews

    Sleeping in Airports
    ••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Donna McSherry's Sleeping in Airports site includes airport rankings for sleep potential and airport sleeping reviews organized by continent.

    Here's a typical review of one airport: "They turn the lights off in the gate area and the lights are on in the hallway and center area...The gates closer to the center are darker than the others, until 5 a.m. when all the lights go back on..."

    In short, lots of practical information about choosing your spot, and your chances for shut-eye.

    Airports are rated for the availability of little-used hallways, sympathetic security, and even 24-hour coffee shops.

    Because anyone can post anything on sites like this, the standard "grain of salt" warning is in order. But patterns develop that can be helpful.

    Just keep in mind that the review you're reading of tomorrow's destination airport might have been written many years ago. The comfy sofas or noisy construction that are referenced might be long gone. Security policies might...MORE be far more strict now -- or perhaps less so.

    But the 24-hour coffee shop is likely to be there, and the warning about a small-town airport that closes for the day probably remains valid, too. Look for comments such as these that are likely to remain over time and pay less attention to posted observations about when the security guard on rounds is likely to pass the comfortable chairs at a given airport.

    Next, discover another important online resource.

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  • 04 of 07

    It Also Pays to Consult the Airport's Web site

    Sleeping in Airports
    ••• (c)Mark D Kahler

    World Airports A-Z is an example of the on-line tools available to help you plan a snooze. Here, you'll glean information on hundreds of major and mid-sized airports. You can download and print information about accommodations nearby--helpful if you find yourself trying to decide whether to book a room or sleep in the airport itself.

    Some airports rent couch-like seats for sleeping, or offer quiet lounges. Virtually every medium-sized or major airport now has a website. Find it and use it to your advantage.

    We've already mentioned Donna McSherry's website, but there are other places to gather information, too. Many Internet travel message boards will have a few comments about this subject. Do a search and you'll be surprised how frequently it appears.

    Keep in mind that this type of information is very perishable. The airport that might have been perfect for sleeping this time last year might have changed its policies or closed off a once-forgotten section.

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  • 05 of 07

    Acquire a Cozy but Highly Portable Sleeping Bag

    Sleeping in Airports
    ••• Oli Scarff/Getty Images

    Most backpackers already have this equipment, but it can come in handy for others who plan to "rough it" a few nights to save money. Sleeping bags are great for hostels, cheap motels, campgrounds and yes, the airport.

    The bench-style seating that once was popular in bus stations and airports is virtually extinct. Fixed armrests and contoured seats are standard fare in most waiting areas. This is why you might have to hit the floor to get some sleep.

    ArtOfTravel.com offers an excellent primer on choosing the best bag for your style of travel. Remember: light and relatively inexpensive are the goals.

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  • 06 of 07

    Seek Help from the Airlines

    Sleeping in Airports
    ••• Don Arnold/Getty Images News

    Those who do not choose to spend the night at the airport are usually forced to do so because of an airline mistake. Perhaps overbooking forced them to be bumped from a confirmed flight.

    When bumped from an international flight, keep in mind that in many countries (the European Union is an example), the airline is required to provide an overnight hotel voucher if next-day flight arrangements are the result of an involuntary bump.

    If you find yourself with a layover is too short to warrant getting a room, at least insist on some meal money or a visit to the airline's VIP lounge. Sleep there might be a bit easier to achieve than in the terminal.

    These considerations are reasonable, and yet many airline employees often fail to offer them. It never hurts to ask.

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  • 07 of 07

    Think Carefully about Sleeping in Airports

    Sleeping in Airports
    ••• (c)Mark D Kahler

    Sleeping in airports is a strictly at-your-own-risk activity. It is not something that I can recommend, and I suspect few people would recommend it outside of extenuating circumstances. Will you be safe? Is it against local laws? Is there anyone who will wake you if you actually manage to achieve deep sleep?

    For many travelers, the answers to these questions will prompt other alternatives.

    There are many airports in which an overnight of sleeping will be anything from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

    The standard rule of all budget travel techniques is that safety and sanitation come first. Don't risk injury or legal trouble to save the relatively small cost of an overnight stay. After all, good budget travelers can find hotel deals in many places, right? Whatever you decide, please put safety and common sense first!

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