Can You Sleep In An Airport?


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
I’ve had some pretty strange travel-related questions asked by first-time travelers, which I nevertheless try my best to answer. No matter how odd they seem, I still consider them valid because the realm of traveling adventures can get pretty daunting and bewildering (especially for first-timers). Practical advice is one of the best tools for being a savvy traveler, after all. So today, I’m going to tackle the issue of sleeping at the airport.

Some of the questions I’ve received about slumber and airports include “is it legal?”, “what are the risks?”, and “can my airline help me?”, among others. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sleeping in an airport. There are, however, practical tips and tricks should a traveling situation call for it. Below are just some of them, most of which I’ve gone through myself.


Consider Comfort, Safety, and Hygiene First

When it comes to sleeping at the airport, ask yourself first – should you or shouldn’t you? A lot of travelers consider this a demeaning act, but to others, it spells the difference between a large chunk of their travel budget and saving their money. If you must (because there is no other recourse – more on this in a bit), prioritize your safety, privacy, and comfort before other considerations.

Some airport dwellers could take advantage of weary and desperate passengers sleeping upright on airport benches, or slumped on the floor like homeless people, to filch their belongings. To prevent this, find a way to secure your luggage and valuables before nodding off. Some airports offer baggage storage during layovers for a fee.

It’s also wise to situate yourself in an area where food and washrooms are available not too far away. And be alert to anyone or anything suspicious during your airport sleepover. I once had to think on my feet because someone claiming to be a stranded passenger insisted that I watch his duffel bag while he goes to the bathroom (it was small enough to be carried anywhere, so I got suspicious). I decided the best thing was to call airport security on him.


Join a Forum or Community of “Airport Sleepers”

Apparently, there is a vast community of people (online, for the most part) who give each other advice and feedback about sleeping in airports. It only makes sense – it happens to most of us at least once in their traveling lifetime, after all.

In my search for such a community, I stumbled upon a helpful site called Sleeping In Airports. It offers practical content for those who suddenly find themselves in airport layovers or even those just wanting to save money by not checking into hotels. There are sections for airport guides, the “best and worst airports”, review of lounges, airport “sleeping tips”, and more experienced advice on what to do during a layover. I like the humorous yet hands-on tone of the posts and articles, which is reassuring because you learn that other people have gone through airport layovers-turned-sleepovers…and lived to tell the tale!


Do Some Research On The Airport Beforehand

In line with joining a community of airport sleepers as mentioned above, it’s also good to do your own research on the airports involved in your travel. This means reading up on traveler reviews and learning about the comfort level of lounges, seats, availability of baggage lockers and storage, security, overall cleanliness and sanitation, Internet connection, and other pertinent information that could affect your layover experience. Aside from social media pages, travel websites, and blogs on the subject, visit the airport’s site and pages to see the kind of traveler reviews they get. This could help you decide if it’s worth getting some shut-eye in that particular airport, or if it’s a safer bet to check-in at a hotel or inn, instead.


Ask Help From Your Airline

There could be a better alternative to staying overnight at airport lounges and waiting areas. For instance, if you get bumped off because of airline overbooking, some countries and airline companies are required to offer you overnight accommodations at partner hotels (or, at the very least, a free hot meal for the inconvenience). Read the fine lines in your airline booking to know if you can demand these services if the situation calls for it. The bottom line is – nothing will happen if you don’t bother asking.

If hotel accommodations are not possible due to time constraints, insist on being accommodated at the airport’s VIP lounge, at least. It will beat sleeping while sitting up on uncomfortable airport terminal seats, and being exposed to the possibility of theft or other security issues.


Bring Sleeping Peripherals and Accessories

If there is no other way around it, it’s best to come prepared for a sleepover at a terminal. I always pack my own comfy neck pillow and a warm blanket in case of an airport layover where I have to get some shut-eye while sitting up. I draw the line at sleeping bags, though – they are bulky and significantly add up the luggage weight and stuff I have to carry around (unless it’s part of a camping itinerary).

Aside from sleep accessories, bring enough nourishment or money to get a snack or drink from concessionaires and vending machines. Charge your gadgets to keep you entertained and in touch with your loved ones. A toiletry kit will come in handy to freshen up and get ready for another flight ahead after your sleepover.


The Verdict?

Yes, you can sleep in an airport for the most part. But the more important question is, should you or do you have to? While it could mean more significant savings in the long run, it’s still good to weigh it against other factors, such as comfort, security, hygiene, and peace of mind as a traveler. Once you see if it’s something that can’t be avoided, then you can gauge if you’re fully prepared for some hours of possibly cramped, uncomfortable, and inconvenient stay. But who knows? It might just turn out to be a life-changing learning experience that could make you more of a savvy traveler later on.

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