Last Updated: March 1, 2023

Sleeping In The Airport: All The Do’s And Don’ts

Staying at an airport overnight and you want to know whether you’ll get kicked out for sleeping in the waiting area? Then you’re in the right place because this guide to airport sleeping will tell you everything you need to know about catching some zzz’s at an airport!

Is it allowed, do you have any other options, and what to do to ensure you get a good night’s sleep are just some of the things we’ve covered in this guide. Keep reading to learn all the dos and don’t of sleeping at an airport terminal!

Know the airport’s terminal hours

Sleeping At Airport

While many airports don’t care if you fall asleep for just a few hours while waiting for your flight, you need to be aware of the airport’s terminal hours. A few airports close down for the night, and you’re not allowed to be at the terminal at all, let alone fall asleep. That’s why you need to double-check that the terminal is indeed open during the time you have to be there.

If it turns out the terminal is closed, you should look into nearby hotel options. Especially if the entire airport closes down for the night because you will be forced to leave the premises entirely. And no, you can’t set up camp in front of the terminal – attempting that can get you arrested in some countries, so don’t mess around.

Find the airport lounge

If you have access to airport lounges, it’s best to go there to try and get some shut-eye. However, make sure to ask the staff whether it’s okay for you to take a quick nap in the lounge. While it might be perfectly fine at some airports, others might frown upon that, allow it only for certain periods, or openly forbid it.

In any case, if you need to get some rest head straight to the airport lounge and ask them openly. Many will allow you to purchase a day pass, which will grant you access to their showers, food, and even a place where you can nap for a little while and get some rest. It never hurts to ask, and if you can get access to a cozy couch it will certainly be better than sleeping on the plastic benches or your luggage.

Try staying in on-site hotels or sleeping pods

Many major international airports have some sort of on-site hotels or sleeping pods you can rent if you want to sleep. These are great for travelers who have a long overnight layover and want to sleep overnight while waiting for their next flight.

The only downside of using sleeping pods is that they’re quite expensive. They’ll usually be more affordable than a full night at the airport hotel, but you’re still paying 50-100 Euros for a night’s sleep.

Check if the airport has a luggage storage area

One of the first things you should do if you want to sleep at the airport is to check whether there is a luggage storage area. If there is, rent one of the lockers and store all your luggage inside. This will make it much easier to sleep at the airport, especially if you decide to rent one of the pods or just sleep in the chairs near the gate.

Do not sleep in isolated areas

Airport Sleeping

Although the more isolated areas of the airport might seem appealing because of the peace and quiet, it’s almost never a good idea to sleep there. Falling asleep in an isolated area of the airport makes you an easier target for thieves – the fewer witnesses there are around, the more likely it is someone could attempt to steal from you.

So, even though it’s a bit counterintuitive, try to find a spot for sleeping in one of the busier airport areas. I would recommend the benches near the gates as the best option; three consecutive benches are enough for most people to make themselves “comfortable” – as comfortable as one can be when trying to sleep on a hard plastic bench.

See if they have any cots or blankets available

Many airports have cots and blankets on hand, and they usually give these to passengers who are stuck at the airport when a flight gets canceled or delayed because of bad weather. While there’s no guarantee you can get one of these, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

So, ask any staff you come across whether they have any cots and blankets you could borrow for the night. Bonus points if you look really tired because they might just take pity on you and help you out.

Bring some sleep accessories

Unless you’re one of the lucky people who can fall asleep anywhere in any position – and if you are, I hate you because it takes me three hours to fall asleep in my bed – you’ll need a couple of items to make yourself comfortable so you can actually fall asleep.

I would recommend a travel pillow, a comfy blanket, and some noise-canceling earbuds, at the very least. If you have access to one of those sleeping sprays (which are available in TSA-approved travel sizes) or even some melatonin, they could go a long way toward helping you fall asleep at a busy airport.

Bring headphones or earbuds

AirPods

Noise-canceling headphones are a godsend when trying to sleep at a busy airport. They’re great for sleeping next to loud people, the announcements shouldn’t disturb you, and you’ll find it much easier to fall asleep. One thing to note is that you will need headphones or earbuds with active noise cancellation for the best results, otherwise, they won’t block out all the annoying background noise.

One thing to note is that, if you’re sleeping with ANC earbuds in, you should set an alarm and place the phone in your pocket. The vibrations should wake you up even if you don’t hear the alarm, and you won’t miss your flight. Or connect the headphones to your phone, so that the alarm starts blasting in your ears. Just set a chill alarm tone if you do that, otherwise, you’re in for a very rude awakening.

Wear comfortable clothes

It’s a lot easier to fall asleep when you’re wearing a tracksuit than jeans and a shirt, so make sure to put on some comfortable clothes if you’re trying to fall asleep. If you don’t want to board the plane in a tracksuit or pajamas, you can just have them handy in your personal item and change inside the airport bathroom.

Buy some snacks before restaurants & cafes close

If you’ve got an overnight layover, make sure to hit the airport food courts before they close. The shops and restaurants will all close at some point (depending on the airport), and if you wake up starving in the middle of the night, you won’t be able to do much about it.

Pick up a bottle of water, coffee, or anything to drink really, and get a sandwich or some snacks. That way, no matter when you wake up, you’ll have some food and water to help you prepare for the day.

Don’t forget to set an alarm

Sleeping Airport

Make sure to set an alarm for the time your gate is supposed to open, especially if you are a heavy sleeper. It doesn’t matter if you’re not too tired and you’re just aiming for a quick nap, or if you’re sleeping through the night during a long layover – you have no idea what could happen, and you could very easily oversleep and miss your flight.

So, set an alarm to avoid that happening. Don’t rely on the last-call announcements to wake you up, and definitely don’t rely on other people to nudge you awake, unless you are traveling with someone else. It’s probable that someone else will wake you up, be it a flight attendant or a fellow traveler, but you shouldn’t expect it.

Expect to be woken up

The chances of nobody waking you up are just as high as the chances of someone waking you up – it all depends on the conditions at the airport, so prepare for both scenarios equally. You could get woken up by security, airport staff, or even just angry travelers who want to sit down on one of the several benches you occupied.

Keep in mind that the conditions at the airport can change quite quickly. You might fall asleep at a deserted terminal, only to wake up to it being completely crowded, and look like a jerk for taking up three or more seats when other people have no place to sit.

Make sure your belongings are close to you

If you plan on sleeping in a public area at the airport, you need to make sure that all your luggage is very close to you. It’s not allowed to leave your luggage unattended at the airport, so I would highly recommend that you lie your suitcase on its side. If it’s standing on the wheels next to you, someone could accidentally nudge it and it could roll far away.

Honestly, I would take a scarf or something and tie the suitcase to my leg, just to make it absolutely clear to everyone around me that is my suitcase. Tie a double knot, so that if someone tries to untie the bag and steal something, you will wake up in moments.

The same goes for all your other personal belongings, especially the items that you deem invaluable – make sure that they are either on your body or extremely close, and that they’re all protected from potential thieves.

Bring a toiletry bag to freshen up after sleeping

Toiletry Bag

There are two types of people – those who wake up from a nap feeling refreshed, and those who wake up feeling like they got run over by a tractor. I’m unfortunately the latter so I very rarely nap, but when I do, I need to wash my face and brush my teeth to get myself together.

I would recommend packing a small toiletry bag before falling asleep. Stuff it with items you need to freshen up after a nap – a toothbrush, toothpaste, or mouthwash, a clean (paper) towel, some wet wipes, and maybe some deodorant. Place it in your personal item so that it’s easily accessible, and you can quickly freshen up in the bathroom before you board the plane.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to sleep in an airport?

It’s generally safe to fall asleep in the airport, as long as you take the necessary precautions for sleeping in public areas. Keep in mind that you’re surrounded by hundreds, maybe even thousands of strangers – just because you’re all at the airport together doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy.

So, put away all your electronics, and make sure that they’re somewhere that isn’t accessible to others while you are sleeping.

Place them at the bottom of your personal item, and use the bag as a pillow, so that if anyone were to try and open it, you’d wake up instantly. Lock your carry-on luggage if possible, and make sure that it stays close to you at all times. Put your phone and wallet in the inside pockets of your jacket, or anywhere where they are out of sight from potential thieves.

Do airports have sleeping pods?

Some major airports have sleeping pods. If you’re at a large international airport, you will most likely find sleeping pods, an on-site hotel, or some sort of designated sleeping area where you can take a nap while you wait for your flight.

Changi Airport in Singapore doesn’t have any pods or beds, but it’s considered a sleep-friendly airport because of padded and comfortable benches, carpeted floors, and big comfy chairs in the loungers.

However, not all airports are sleep-friendly airports, and at some airports, security will come to wake you up the moment they notice you’re drifting away. It’s unlikely you will get in trouble if you fall asleep, but if you want to avoid being woken up by security, it’s best to ask before setting up an impromptu bed anywhere at the airport.

How long can I stay in an airport after landing?

In most cases, you can stay at the airport as long as you like after landing, but there are a few exceptions. If you have checked baggage, you will need to go and collect that ASAP because it’s put on the luggage belt immediately after landing.

If you’re traveling to the US from an international destination, you will be required to go through customs as soon as you land. Also, some airports close for a few hours at night, and passengers are required to leave the transit area – sometimes even the entire airport!

So, if you have an overnight layover, make sure that it’s fine to stay at the airport while you wait. If you find that it’s not, look for a nearby hotel and book it before your flight – it should be cheaper than if you were to book it on-site.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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