We know there are times when weather shuts down outgoing flights, a connection was missed, or the airport hotel is full. These problems might end with an unavoidable overnight airport stay, but have you ever actually planned on sleeping in airports?
Outside of an emergency, travelers may choose the less comfortable option of sleeping at airports to save major money during their trips, but, airport sleeping isn't for the faint of heart. Even savvy travelers are aware that this practice can be tricky.
Budget travelers worrying about hotel costs will find that while you sacrifice flexibility and comfort, airport sleeping can greatly reduce not only your lodging costs but expand your overall travel budget.
Think Carefully Before You Sleep
Sleeping in airports is a strictly at-your-own-risk activity. It is something that few people would recommend outside of extenuating circumstances. By choosing this somewhat risky option, questions of safety, lawfulness, and comfort will undoubtedly come to mind. Many airports will not only be uncomfortable but 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 cost of an overnight stay. Whatever you decide, make sure you put safety and common sense first.
Expert Advice and Reviews
An 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 since 1996. She has more than 7,500 airport reviews posted on her website, Guide to Sleeping in Airports.
She remarks on airport stays, "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." This resource has been around so long that there are more than 7,500 airport reviews posted.
McSherry's guide might be the web's most comprehensive airport sleeping review. The airports are organized by continent and country and ranked by sleeping potential, availability of little-used hallways, sympathetic security, and food/coffee shop options. McSherry's Guide also offers lots of practical information about choosing your sleep spot and the best places for you to get some much-needed shut-eye.
Since anyone can post anything on sites like this, the standard "grain of salt" warning is in order. Also keep in mind, that the review you're reading of an airport might have been written many years ago, so the comfy sofas or noisy construction that are referenced might be long gone. Security policies might be far more strict now, or perhaps less so.
However, warnings about a small-town airport that closes early for the day probably remains valid, so you should look for comments such as these that are likely to remain true over time.
Consult the Airport's Website
Some airports rent couch-like seats for sleeping or offer quiet lounges. Virtually every medium-sized and major airport has a website, so use it to your advantage.
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 last year might have changed its policies or closed off a once-forgotten section.
Bring a Sleeping Bag
While every airport's layout is different, the bench-style seating that once was popular in bus stations and airports is virtually extinct. Fixed armrests and contoured seats are standard fares in most waiting areas, so if you plan on making an airport your home away from home, you might have to hit the floor to get some sleep.
If you are considering this option, or even plan to stay in a hostel, cheap motel, or campground, you should acquire a portable sleeping bag prior to your journey.
Light and relatively inexpensive are the goals if you are purchasing a new sleeping bag.
Seek Help From the Airlines
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 flight.
If you are bumped from a flight, keep in mind that in many countries (the European Union, for 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 that is too short to warrant getting a room, at least insist on some meal money or a visit to the airline's VIP lounge. Sleeping there might be a bit easier to achieve than in the terminal, and you will feel more secure.
These considerations are reasonable, and yet many airline employees often fail to offer them. An important rule to remember is it never hurts to ask.