"If you’re budget travelling, I’ll go as far as saying you can look forward to this a minimum of once in your dirtbag career."
The Comprehensive Guide To Sleeping In An Airport
I once didn’t want to spend $25 on a room in San Jose, Costa Rica, before my morning flight, so I just went to the airport for free accommodation.
I had a flight delayed in Asia and missed my connection (which I booked separately to save money) so I got stuck staying overnight. I ate my weight in noodles which helped.
Last week, I sat at the airport bar enjoying a pint and laughing with some friends as my flight took off behind me.
I can say with confidence, almost all my friends that have backpacked have spent the night in an airport least once. Most of them many times. If you’re budget travelling, I’ll go as far as saying you can look forward to this a minimum of once in your dirtbag career.
So whether it was by choice, by a pile of shitty circumstances or completely your own fault, you’re going to get stuck crashing in L’Hotel Aeroport. When it comes to travelling, enjoying any experience is simply about being properly prepared. So here’s a comprehensive list of how to do it like a pro.
#1: Pack a Hammock.
Okay, hammocks are awesome, you should be packing one of these anyways. Beach days, hostels, camping without having to carry a tent or just stringing it between two palms for an Instagram photo. Hammocks are the easiest form of portable accommodation and every traveller should own one, you’ll use it more than you think. So chuck it in your carry on. They make them super small and portable and easy to pack. It’s about the same size as a pillow and provides comfort from head to toe, not just the back of your head.
Stringing a hammock in an airport is a bit of a science. Make sure your ropes are quite long as the pillars are often pretty thick. Usually the seats are bolted to the ground and you can string to the tops. Most of the time, the gate will indicate “the next flight out of this gate is at _____”, so pick one that works with your desired wake up time.
#2: Bring a hoodie.
Once again this is something you’ve probably already packed. If you’ve flown before, you know that most of the time the airplane feels like fall in Canada. If the sweaty fat dude crammed in the middle seat is pumping AC at himself all flight, it can teeter closer to winter. The bonus of a hoodie for airport sleeping is that it doubles as an eye mask (which I’ve never bothered buying). Hood up and over the eyes and you get darkness without the, ‘I’m at the spa’ look. Airports often have huge windows and never turn the lights off. I have nothing against eye masks, but it’s one less thing to pack if you have the two-in-one hoodie in your pack.
#3: A thin bike lock.
We’ve all seen the folks straddling their luggage like dead deer, fast asleep on the airport floor. It’s difficult to sleep if you’re constantly worried about someone strolling off with everything you own. This is the third thing you already packed that you should make sure you have in your carry on. You need a lock for the hostel, so instead of going with the classic ‘school locker’ style, grab a retractable, thin, bike lock. It’ll work just fine for the hostel, you can even slip it through your bag to the bed. In the airport, strap it your carry-on and around a seat. I like to keep the lock out of sight, the chances of someone rummaging through my stuff with me right there is low, the chance of them grabbing it as they walk by is much more likely. I sleep much more soundly not worrying about that or keeping a hand on my bag.
#4: Charging Cords/Cordless Charger
Airports suck for outlets. Now that they have the charging stations, I’m finding a lot of the old outlets don’t even work. If you do find one, there’s a 50% it’s a sticker and you look like an idiot. The stations are huddled with millennials all standing in a 3ft radius like digital zombies. It’s weird.
Bring a 10ft plus charging cord. I sat down with my phone outside the creepy hoard of glowing screens and felt a little better about my device-dependance. Again, this is perfect for hostels since there’s usually never an outlet by the bunk you get. Once you go 10ft you never go back.
A portable charger is also a wicked idea so you can just set that in your lap while you are snoozing in your hammock. This will come in handy a million times travelling, especially if you’re directionally challenged like myself and rely heavily on maps as soon as you leave your driveway.
Bonus tip: If you’ve passed the 12 hour mark of travelling, you smell. If you slept for even three minutes, your mouth tastes like old eggs and yes, everyone else can also tell. It’s smart to pack tiny toiletries in your carry on. Throw them in a ziplock bag so they don’t explode (re-use said bag) and make sure it’s a travel size toothpaste and non-aerosol deodorant.
If you forget to bring these, the luggage desk in the airport always has free toiletries bags with all the essentials.
If you decide to read this article and file it in, “I’m never doing any of this” then keep in mind that if you ask the right people at the airport, they’ll sometimes provide blankets and even pillows for you. The check in desks are a good place to start. Bat those eyelashes and play the, “help me, I’m poor” card.
Jeff - this was one of the best articles I have read that you have written. I had a smile across my face the entire time I was reading it -- picturing you doing the above.