Tips for Sleeping in Airports

In a previous post, Sleeping In The Airport, I explained why I do it and how I reached the conclusion it was the best option for me. In this post I am going to share a few tips that may be of help to you if you are going to be spending a night in the airport.

Not all airports are equal

The first thing to understand is that all airports vary and not all of them will tolerate overnight sleepers. Not all airports will have seating that you can stretch out on. Some airports will have places to store you luggage, some won’t. Some airports have showers that can be used for a small fee, some have lounges that you can pay to use. In some airports you will be able to go through security at any time of the day or night, at others you may have to stay land-side for part of the night, which may mean less facilities.

How can you research your options?

This website Sleeping In Airports, is amazing for finding information. Start with it. You will find info on most airports in the guides.

Where have I slept?

I fly out of Dublin, Ireland so my experience is based on that. I have also spent a night in Birmingham airport in England. Other than that I have no other experience, yet! In Dublin, security doesn’t open until around 3.30am so it’s landside until then but it means that I can get through security before the queue builds up and then head straight for the relaxation lounge and grab another space to sleep.

Now, a few tips

  • Get there early. I started off arriving after 11pm but by then most of the best places to sleep had already gone. I now try and get there for 10pm. (See below for where to sleep).
  • Don’t drink too much on the way because if you are a solo traveller and have to visit the bathroom you are going to lose your spot.
  • Avoid the temptation to buy food or drinks. It is completely unnecessary. I always have my normal dinner before I leave for the airport and if I were at home I wouldn’t be eating until the next morning so there is absolutely no need to eat in the airport. Airports are money pits!
  • If you feel that you can’t survive without a drink or food take it with you or simply drink, or fill a bottle, from the water fountains. As long as you drink it before you go through security you’ll be fine taking through an empty thermos flask or bottle. It will also be very useful for when you are away, taking a flask with you for coffee/tea/soup is one of the best money saving methods.
  • Take some food with you for breakfast. I usually make some sandwiches and take those for breakfast. If they are suitable for freezing, freeze them before you go, they should be defrosted in time for breakfast and you won’t be worrying if you are going to poison yourself. Compared to spending up to €8 for a sandwich in the airport this is well worth the effort.
  • Dress in layers, lots of them (country dependent). I have been in the airport when it has been extremely over heated and also when it was so cold there was steam when people were breathing (that was a miserable night). I also take a wrap with me that can be rolled up and used as a pillow both in the airport and on the flight or as a cover if it’s cold. And don’t forget a hat, gloves, and warm socks you may need them.
Wear lots of layers and take a wrap or something similar to use as a blanket or to roll up for a pillow.
  • It you are wearing hiking boots or other heavy footwear I suggest taking them off so your feet don’t swell, just make sure you keep them safe. They can be tied to your bag or tucked out of sight.
  • Take a sleep mask or just put a scarf over your face to cut out the light.
  • Wear ear plugs, ear defenders, or something similar. I just use the earphones for my phone, it dulls the noise enough for me without cutting it out altogether.
I use a light scarf to cut out the light
  • Keep your toothbrush and toothpaste accessible.
  • If you are not going to be able to sleep take something to occupy yourself. A book, crosswords, watch Netflix, sort out the photos on your phone, write a journal, knit (only if you can then put your needles in checked in luggage, you can’t take them through security), give yourself a manicure. There are lots of things you can do, I know one person who takes a face mask with her!
  • Wash your hands every chance you get. Airports and planes are germ ridden places and it’s easy to catch a cold. I don’t recommend hand wipes, due to environmental issues.
  • Stretch! If you are awake get up and do some stretches at intervals, you are going to get stiff and it’s best to stay flexible for the flight and any onward travel. My most recent flight was followed by a 4 hour bus journey so you need to prepare for the long haul.
  • Don’t even look at the back of your hair, you’ll only get depressed. I never look at mine when I’m travelling, because if I do I try to fix it and it just keeps getting worse.
  • Keep your boarding card and passport handy. In Dublin airport the police come round at regular intervals to check that you are actually booked on a flight and not simply homeless or using the airport as a hotel.

What about safety?

  • Set an alarm on your phone, you don’t want to miss your flight. I set mine and put it under whatever I am using as a pillow.
  • Keep your belongings safe. I always have a long scarf with me so I tie it through the handles of my bags and then wrap it around my arm. You could also take a light chain and lock or something similar. Also, keep all zippers facing inwards, or padlock them. Or you may be able to tuck your luggage in between you and a wall, or use it to support your legs.
  • Wear a money belt and keep your passport and boarding card in there as well as money.
  • Sleep near other airport sleepers, don’t tuck yourself away in a corner where no one can see you.
  • If you do need to visit the bathroom you will need to take everything with you. You may lose your sleeping spot but leave your stuff behind and you may trigger a security alert. You may feel comfortable asking someone near you to keep an eye on things but personally I have never taken that risk.

Where to sleep

  • Look for soft padded seating. In Dublin airport, up in the food court area there are lots of options. Take note though, that if you use the padded seats for McDonalds they will move you at around midnight to clean the floor.
These seats always go first
  • Look for soft armchairs that can be pushed together.
This was the best spot ever! Three chairs pushed together and I had a great sleep. I was also able to put my bags between the chairs and the glass wall.
  • Find a table and chair and sleep with your head on the table.
  • Sleep on the floor if you have a sleeping bag with you or a mat of some sort. This is not something I do because I travel with hand luggage only.
  • If you have to sleep on a row of chairs with armrests it’s going to be mighty uncomfortable, which is why it’s best to get there early.
These are the worst possible option, total nightmare trying to sleep on these.

Expect to feel like death!

Quite honestly you’ll feel pretty wretched but you can also snatch more sleep on your flight. I am very lucky in that I can sleep anywhere. I suffer with chronic fatigue so I’m accustomed to unrefreshing sleep and waking up feeling like death but for you it could be a whole new experience! And just focus on the money you have saved compared to staying in an airport hotel.

Expect to feel like death!

So, having now read through all of this, are you prepared to give it a go? Or, if you are already an airport sleeper would you like to share some of your own tips about specific airports? I would love to get some feedback.

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  1. Some great tips and advice but for me it isn’t worth it. I pay for a hotel. I don’t have many meals out or alcohol when I get to my destination so it is my one treat to find a nearby hotel. I love the bloc at Gatwick which is on Gatwick railway station and Airport so only minutes away and on a BA flight a few years ago I could take my check in bag the evening before the flight. Also Premier Inn at Heathrow was only 6mins walk away along a special walk way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the summer months Ryanair have the facility to check in the bags the night before which is very handy for people. I just simply couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel but I doubt I would sleep anyway knowing I had to be up for around 3am.

      Liked by 1 person

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