Long Layover? How To Sleep At An Airport Like A Pro

Sleeping in airports is easier than you think. With this guide, you’ll sleep better and more safely at airports anywhere in the world.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
How to sleep in an airport comfortably and safely
How to sleep in an airport comfortably and safely

If you’ve ever travelled by plane, you know that sooner or later, you might get caught in a layover between flights. No biggie if your layover is short; you can pass the time and read a book or grab a bite to eat and wait it out. 

However, if your layover leaves you stranded in an airport overnight, that’s a different story.

Whether you find yourself sleeping in airports by choice or by some unfortunate stroke of bad luck, you can sleep at an airport comfortably and safely if you know how to prepare.

Here are some valuable tips for sleeping at airports.

Verify in advance if sleeping in the airport terminal is allowed

Sleeping in airports is possible at many airports around the world. 

However, some airports may have strict policies against overnight stays in public areas, while others may have designated sleeping areas or lounges for passengers with long layovers.

It’s also worth noting that even if an airport officially permits sleeping in the airport chairs or on the floors, the comfort and facilities available for sleeping at airports can vary widely from one airport to another.

If you know you have a long layover in advance, research whether sleeping at the airport overnight is possible. 

Start by visiting the airport’s official website, which may have information about passenger services, including sleeping accommodations.

Some airport lounges take walk-ins.

You don’t always have to fly first or business class to use airport lounges. Now, even travellers flying economy can access select airport lounges on a pay-per-use basis. 

For instance, economy class travellers at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Terminal 1 can access multiple lounges with walk-in rates, including Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, American Airlines Admirals Club, Star Alliance Lounge, and many more.

Rates vary, but generally expect to pay around 30 USD per person and up. 

Not all airport lounges will have sleeping facilities, but you’ll be very comfortable thanks to the lounge amenities.

Some airport lounge amenities include complimentary snacks and drinks, wifi, TVs, and comfortable seating. Some even have showers and massages (for an extra fee). 

Airport lounge resource: For more information on sleeping in airports and to check which lounges accept walk-ins, visit www.sleepinginairports.net.You’ll also find user-generated reviews about almost every airport you can think of.

Pack A Survival Kit In Your Carry-On Luggage

pack a survival pack for sleeping at airports

If you’ve decided that you’re brave enough to have a go at sleeping in an airport, there are a few things you should prepare beforehand to ensure a comfortable experience.

Along with comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, you should consider bringing a survival kit that will help you get through the night(s) at the airport. It’s important to include items in your kit that will make your experience more comfortable. At a minimum, your kit should include the following items.

1) Pack a change of clothing: 

My husband and I were stuck in an airport in Colorado when the airport was snowed in. Having a change of clothes was the pick-me-up we needed to feel a little fresher the following day.

When my daughter spilled hot chocolate all over her dress in Switzerland, I broke out her spare clothes. Mommy to the rescue!

2) Pack a toiletry bag full of basic toiletries:

Some basic items in your toiletry bag are a toothbrush, travel-sized toothpaste, contact solution, sanitary products, lotion, deodorant, gel, hairbrush and hair scrunchy.

I sometimes pack Vaseline because it has so many uses.

Don’t forget that each liquid container cannot contain more than 3.4 fluid ounces or 100 ml. 

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3) A subset of makeup for the ladies:  

I don’t like to carry all my makeup in my carry-on bags when I travel, so I bring a subset of just the essentials and put everything in a transparent (see-through) cosmetic bag. The see-through bag makes it easier to see what I have at a glance.

If you really want to travel light, bring neutral lipstick, which doubles as a blush and eye colour. 

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4) Something to cover your eyes:

Bring a travel eye mask or lay a shirt on your head to block out the airport lights. I’ve seen some people wear a beanie pulled down over their eyes.

BlackOut Sleep Mask
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5) Something to block out or muffle outside sounds- Earplugs or ear pods

Airports are usually noisy, which can be distracting for some to fall asleep. Earplugs help to muffle those annoying airport sounds.

Alternatively, if you’re like me, pop in your earphones and listen to music or relaxing ocean sounds. If those headphones are noise cancelling, even better. 

6) Pack a makeshift pillow

Don’t underestimate the power of a small travel pillow or a rolled-up sweatshirt to rest your head on.

It can mean the difference between a restful nap and a sore neck.

I’ve seen some people bring their bed pillows from home. I like to pack a cute micro-bead-filled travel pillow because it stuffs easily in my bag, and when you lay on it, it forms perfectly around my head.

Travel pillow with micro beads

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7) Something to keep warm:

It can get cold sleeping in airports, so be sure to bring something you can use to cover up, like an oversized scarf or Pashmina, that doubles as a blanket and a fashion accessory.

8) Wet wipes and or tissues:

Wet wipes or flushable travel wipes are handy for quick washing up in an airport bathroom.

They’re just great to have around in general for sticky situations. 

Travel makeup wipes are pretty useful, too, for the ladies.

9) Snacks: 

Once you’ve found a secure spot to sleep, the last thing you want to do is get up and lug around your bags to find food.

Get a small snack in case you get hungry and a water bottle so you don’t have to leave your spot.

10) Entertainment:

It may be hard to fall asleep, so bring some sort of entertainment to amuse yourself until you can sleep. 

A book or Kindle eReader to read. A cell phone or iPhone to watch videos or listen to music. Sudoku, a ukelele, a guitar. I always have ebooks from Audible on my phone to listen to my books.

11) A spare battery for your electronics:

If you can’t get a spot by a wall plug, having an external battery is a lifesaver.

Make sure you choose an external battery pack with enough juice to keep your phone, tablet, kids’ games, and other electronics charged for up to 24 hours.

The standard input voltage of smart devices is 5 volts, so don’t buy an external battery with less than this amount of voltage. 

The portable battery that I’ve used for a long time is the RAVPower external battery.

I keep it in my purse even when I’m not travelling. 

I never travel with one rated less than 10,000 mAh, which means it can keep your smartphone charged all day.

I also have a portable battery of over 26,000 mAh, but it’s pretty big and heavier.

It should have at least 2 USB ports so you can charge two devices simultaneously —no more fighting over who gets to charge their electronics. 

Some new models even have NFC charging. 

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Portable Solar Power Bank Battery
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In a pinch, when you don't have access to an outlet, recharge this battery with the sun.

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10) Pack the kid’s stuff:

If you’re travelling with kids, pack their essentials. Things that will make their layover comfortable, like comfy clothes to sleep in, a toy, entertainment, etc.

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11) Bring an inflatable travel pad.

Backpackers like to bring sleeping pads for a reason.

It protects them from sleeping on dirty or cold ground and is more comfortable than sleeping on hard surfaces. But sleeping pads are bulky, and they’re just for sleeping.

I discovered this inflatable mattress that, when folded, does double duty as a neck pillow. I think it would be great for city explorers as well as backpackers. 

2 in 1 Inflatable Travel Pad / Neck Pillow (by LayOn)

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How to find the best spot to sleep at the airport

SLEEPING IN AIRPORTS

Sleeping in airports is a bit of a science, and not all airports are created equal when it comes to sleeping in them. 

Some airports have chairs with no arms rests so you can easily stretch out on them; some have carpet, others have dedicated sleeping facilities, lounges and even rooms where travellers can sleep, but most don’t. 

For airports without a designated sleeping area, you should walk around the airport to scope out the best place to sleep.

Choosing the right spot for sleeping at airports is crucial for a more restful night.

Here are some things you should consider when choosing a spot to sleep at an airport.

  • Safety in numbers: If possible, try to sleep where other people are sleeping.
  • Stay away from high-traffic areas: Toilets, check-in desks, next to stores, or food vendors are all high-traffic and noisy areas to sleep in, making it difficult to sleep. However, if you pack some earplugs and an eye mask, this might be less of an issue.
  • Look for a set of chairs with no armrests: It’s much easier to stretch out on a chair with no armrests and more comfortable and cleaner than the floor.
  • Look for clean carpeted areas: Consider sleeping on the floor if no chairs are available. I like to sleep close to a wall or window and put my luggage between me and the wall. This protects your bags from would-be luggage thieves.
  • Look for outlets: If you can find an acceptable to sleep where there are outlets, you can charge your phone or laptop at night. 

Protect your passport, purse, property and luggage

Here are a few tips to keep your luggage or valuables from being stolen while you sleep

  • Keep your passports, credit cards and cash near you or on you. Otherwise, put your valuables in an INSIDE pocket of your bag— NOT the outside pocket where they can easily get snatched.
  • Put larger expensive things like cameras, laptops and purses inside your luggage and keep it near you, preferably with a TSA-approved carry-on luggage lock.
  • Try to put your luggage between you and a wall like a sandwich.
  • Lay your head on your bag or take a strap and anchor your luggage to something near you, like a chair, so that no one can run off with your luggage. You can use locks specially made for this, like a lock and luggage cable or bring an old bicycle lock.
  • Put your wallet, money, passports, tickets and other valuable docs in a money belt or small back on your person. I recently discovered scarves with hidden pockets. 
Travel Luggage Lock and Cable
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RFID Travel Money Belt
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Prepare for bed

Even when sleeping in airports, take some time to clean up and prepare for bed. It can make a huge difference in your comfort.

Change into something comfortable if you have to. Brush your teeth, wash your face and take off your shoes. Listen to some music or read a book and try to relax. Maybe even take off your shoes or put on comfortable footwear to sleep in. 

Set the alarm so you don’t miss your connecting flight

set your alarm so you don't miss your flight

Before falling asleep at an airport, confirm your flight details so you know when to wake up to catch your connecting flight and which gate you need to go to.

Setting an alarm is vital when you plan on sleeping in airports so you don’t miss your connecting flight. Set your phone alarm, watch alarm, travel clock or all three. 

Bon Voyage

Sleeping at airports can be fun, or it can be total hell. Use your best judgment in deciding whether or not to sleep in an airport for long layovers. My kids love sleeping in airports, and I do, too, but not when I’m alone. 

Sleeping at airports: How To Sleep At An Airport Like A Pro

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

 

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