Sleeping in Airports: 5 Top Tips for Comfort

Whether you’ve been stranded there due to a delayed or cancelled flight or you just can’t/won’t pay to stay in a hotel for the night, sometimes you may find yourself in the unenviable position of having to sleep in an airport.  We’re not going to attempt to convince you that you can have a restful night in a place that resembles a set from The Walking Dead, but if you follow our advice, the experience may be surprisingly tolerable.

Nova car hire guide to sleeping at airportsHave Your Answers Ready

You may be very proud of your thriftiness, but airport officials do not share your sentiments and look unfavourably on people sleeping in their facilities.  It is quite likely that you will be asked why you are not in a hotel and whether you are flying out the next day, so make sure you have your answers prepared and your outbound ticket available for inspection.

Find a Good Spot

This is easier at some airports than others:  Hong Kong, Seoul Incheon, and Vancouver thoughtfully provide lounge chairs and padded seats where you can crash. Give yourself plenty of time to beat off the competition and scope out the most inviting/least horrendous options.  Bear in mind the lighting, temperature, and likely noise levels from announcements and passenger traffic.  Don’t restrict yourself to one terminal – particularly if it closes for the night.  Indeed Arrivals tends to be more comfortable than Departures, possibly because departing passengers are expected to leave the place immediately, whereas Arrivals caters for waiting relatives.  Be friendly with airport staff and they may let you in on the most comfortable spots for a snooze:  Luggage conveyor belt, anyone?

 Secure Your Stuff

If there is nowhere for you to lock up your luggage, you’ll have to find a way to make sure nobody robs it while you sleep.  Ensure that zips are not visible by facing them against the wall, the floor, or under your head.  If your luggage pockets have double zips, consider using both zips to close the pocket and padlocking them together.  Don’t leave your luggage unattended – if it’s not robbed, you’ll find the bomb squad dismantling it by the time you come back from the bathroom.

Be Prepared

Bring whatever you think might make the night more tolerable.  Squeeze an inflatable mattress and/or pillow into your luggage, and be sure to have ear plugs, an eye mask, water, and snacks.  Dress in layers so you can adjust according to the temperature.  A tub of menthol ointment can be very useful to combat the odours of your fellow passengers – dab a little on your upper lip.  Have an e-reader, book, or MP3 player to pass the time, particularly if your surroundings suggest that sleep will be elusive.  Sunglasses are a good prop, if you don’t want staff pestering you about trying to sleep in the seats.  And do not forget to bring (and set!) an alarm clock.  Sticking notes to yourself asking passersby to wake you at a specific time works too.  Really.


There is a positive side to the storms and bad weather that may leave you stranded in an airport without any backup plan:  Some of the more human airports prepare for such contingencies by providing cots for their exhausted passengers.  Amsterdam Schiphol, Boston Logan, Newark, Paris Orly, and La Guardia airports are among those that provide makeshift beds and other services for stranded passengers during severe weather events.

Even if the weather is balmy, you have other options besides the airport hotel:  Rent a car.  You’ll need to have your driver’s licence with you, and you should clarify that there is no additional cost for keeping the car parked overnight, but you’ll be able to lie flat on the reclined (comfy) seats, and your belongings will be more secure.  You’ll avoid the constant airport noise too.  Bear in mind that the airport toilets could be some distance away, and you may get some funny looks, but you should save money on a hotel stay and get some proper sleep.  Before you sign up, however, ensure that you can “drop off” the car before your flight is due to leave.  Otherwise you can add the cost of a missed flight to your car rental rate…