At some point on your travels you are going to have to sleep in an airport – you may as well know how to do it

For the majority of people airports are a place to shop in duty free and whittle away the time until flying to a dream destination. However, some people see airports as a giant dorm room, a place to find a corner and catch some serious Z’s. Sleeping in an airport is not only extremely practical, but it can offer a real alternative experience on your travels.

Backpackers and travellers are often on such a tight budget that they’re always looking for ways to save a few bucks. Well, why not consider sleeping in an airport? After all, you’re saving money on accommodation, and more importantly, you’re exactly where you need to be in the morning; you don’t have to check out of your hostel and making your way across the city as you’re already there. The only thing you seriously have to worry about it oversleeping.

One of the problems with cheap flights is the awful departure times and stop-overs. More often than not you have to rise at the crack of dawn or spend eight hours in a nameless airport waiting for a connecting flight. However, getting the cheapest flights and saving money on accommodation by sleeping in an airport can be the difference between travelling for an extra week / month or going home.

A journey of 20+ hours can often mean a stop-over in an airport, but all is not lost; many airports let you stay for free, and more often than not you’ll enjoy the experience. You’ll have to trust me on that one.

Whether you’re sleeping in an airport by choice or by a happy accident, here are my hints and tips on how to sleep in an airport.

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Hints and tips on how to sleep in an airport:

Prepare – Some airports aren’t going to allow you to sleep in them. Research first whether the airport is open 24 hours a day. If they’re not, then make sure you prepare for the worst and have the name of a hostel in mind where you can stay for the night. And for your info, one such airport that isn’t open 24/7 is Kuala Lumpur International Airport – they close it for two hours every night from 3am till 5am. You have been warned.

Find the best spot – Take a walk around the airport and find the best spot to sleep. You don’t want to be too near the toilets, check-in desks or other busy areas. If you’re travelling on your own then sleep near other travellers; you’ll look out for each other and you may even make a friend or two!

Sometimes it’s better to check out the arrivals lounge as it might be a better place to sleep than the departures lounge. Also, ask security where the best spot is. You’re not the first person to sleep in an airport, nor will you be the last. Airport employees are used to it and if you ask them outright where the best place to sleep in the airport is then they’ll tell you.

Take an eye mask – One of the hardest things about falling asleep in an airport is shutting out the bright fluorescent lights. They’re on 24 hours a day and they’re not going to turn them off just for you, so take an eye mask to block out that light. An eye mask may just be the difference between a little sleep and a lot of sleep.

Use ear plugs / earphones – Ear plugs / earphones are a great way of blocking out that noisy background sound. Just choose your soundtrack and drift off. (Make sure you keep your iPod / MP3 player hidden. You don’t want to wake up with your earphones connected to nothing). I don’t know why but I always found Moby ideal to fall asleep to.

Use a blanket / sarong – A blanket / sarong will make it feel like you’re wrapped up in bed and it will keep you warm. Some airports don’t turn their air conditioning off and it can get more than a little cold at night. If you’re looking for a really good light-weight blanket for your travels, take one from your first long-haul flight; they’re perfect for backpackers.

Take food and water – Most facilities close down at night and you may find it a long time before you can buy food and water, so make sure you take some with you. Sweets such as Mentos are great for a little energy boost and staving off hunger.

Sleeping tablets – Perfect for sleeping in an airport (obviously). Don’t overdose though as you might oversleep.

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Sleep on your bag – Not only does it prevent people from stealing it but it makes a pretty good make-shift pillow.

Entertain yourself – Sleeping in an airport can get a little boring, so if you’re travelling on your own and you can’t sleep make sure you’ve got enough entertainment in the form of books and music to keep you going. There’s nothing worse than being bored at 3am with nothing to do.

Play dumb – Sometimes you’re going to be woken-up by airport staff asking you to leave; if this happens play dumb. Act like you don’t want to be there and that you don’t have a choice. More often than not they’ll leave you alone.

Dress up – Wear comfortable clothes and wear lots of layers if you think you are going to be cold. Also, there’s an added benefit of wearing lots of clothes; it will take the edge off that cold hard floor.

Shower – Some airports have showers for passengers (such as Singapore), and they are great for a wake-me-up / pick-me-up.

Have fun! – Sleeping in an airport is fun! Remember, it’s an alternative travel experience, so enjoy it! indexAt the end of the day, at some point in your life you’ll probably have to spend the night and sleep in an airport, whether by choice or not. Some airports are perfect for spending the night; some aren’t. Sometimes you’ll be asked for ID and proof that you’re flying on; sometimes you won’t.

Sleeping in an airport isn’t exactly expected but it is widely accepted. Whenever you find yourself stranded with a night under the bright halogen lights, accept what you have to do; find a corner and set up shop for the night. I can assure you, it’s one of those things that makes a backpacker a backpackers

Featured image contributed to Mika Hiltunen.