Page Text: Thrifty Traveler’s Tip: Sleep in the Airport!
If you’re on a tight budget and want to shave a few bucks off your travel expenses, you can spend the night in the airport for free.
One of the most expensive parts of a vacation is often the hotel. And if you’re staying at an airport hotel so you can be ready for your flight the next morning, those rooms are usually more pricey than hotels away from the airport. If all you’re going to do is sleep anyway, why not save that money and spend it on your vacation instead? Airports are often deserted at night anyway, so you can get a good night’s sleep and not be late for your flight, and it won’t cost you a penny. It may sound like it might be a little humiliating, but the practice is growing in popularity - there’s even a whole travel community dedicated to airport sleeping, and it’s no longer just poor young backpackers who do it. Nowadays you can find travelers of all ages, and all income brackets, sound asleep on airport floors and benches around the world.
Some people are forced to sleep in an airport overnight anyway due to airline delays, bad weather, or unforeseen flight problems, so it isn’t a new thing at all, and the airport staff have seen it millions of times. Chances are you won’t see anyone you know anyway, so toss your pride aside, don your sense of adventure, and put away your wallet.
SleepingInAirports.net is a great website devoted to the idea of saving money by avoiding airport hotels. The site has a list of which airports have been rated best and worst by travelers who are regular airport sleepers. When it comes to friendly staff, amenities for travelers, and comfortable seating arrangements, the top-ranked airports in the world are in Singapore, Dubai, Munich, Seoul, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Zurich, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Kuala Lumpur. Surprisingly, some of the worst airports in the world are located in some of the most fabulous cities - Paris, Hanoi, Rome, London, Los Angeles, and New York City.
If you find the idea of airport sleeping intriguing, you should do a little research online first to see what tips you can find about how to do it successfully. The most important tip to keep in mind is that you should always have a backup plan in case something interferes. Not all airport officials support the idea, and although you probably won’t be kicked out, you may be asked to prove that you are waiting for an actual flight the next day, and you might be grilled as to why you aren’t staying in the airport hotel. So be prepared to answer any questions you’re asked, and be polite and agreeable, and most likely they will leave you alone to sleep in peace.
Be sure to have a survival kit specially designed for airport sleeping. Believe it or not, a cheap inflatable pool raft, or even a travel mattress, will fold up nicely and help to make for a more comfortable night’s sleep on a hard airport floor. In some airports, you are forbidden to sleep on the floor, but it’s good to have a mat handy in case you can use it. There are other things you will find useful in your survival kit:
Ear plugs and eye shades to increase the chance of getting a good night’s sleep in peace.
Bottled water and something to eat because most airport restaurants and shops are closed at night.
Disinfectant wipes because cleanliness can be a problem in the airport, and they will help make sure your "bed" is less covered in grime.
Books or magazines to help you pass the time and fall asleep.
A small pillow and/or blanket preferably borrowed from an airline. Some airlines even have blankets and cots for passengers to use if they have to stay overnight unexpectedly, so it doesn’t hurt to ask!
An alarm clock to be sure you don’t miss your flight. As an alternative, you can even use a post-it note as an alarm clock - just write "Wake me up at 6 a.m." on a note, stick a few on yourself, and people will actually wake you up!
Tissues and toilet paper, especially if you might be sleeping in an airport in a third world country.
Get to the airport early so you can scope out the best place to park yourself for the night, especially during the summer or peak travel season. Really popular airports will be the most crowded, particularly in the Departures lounges. The Arrivals areas are usually more deserted because when people get there, they don’t stay. But on the other hand, there may be a lot of people in the Arrivals areas, waiting for loved ones’ flights to land. It varies from airport to airport.
If you are approached by airport personnel who question what you’re doing, don’t act like you’re sleeping there on purpose - give them the impression that you’re really disgruntled to have to spend the night in the airport. Better for them to take pity on you and treat you with empathy than for them to think you’re substituting the airport for a hotel. Be polite and pleasant, and not only to airport personnel. There are probably other airport sleepers around, so be quiet and let them rest.
Above all, have fun and make the most of the situation. The best adventures traveling are the ones you remember long after you return home, and purposely spending the night in an airport is an adventure you’ll never forget!