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

Whether you find yourself sleeping in an airport by choice or by some unfortunate stroke of bad luck, it is possible to sleep in an airport relatively comfortably and safely. Here are a few tips to help you make your overnight stay in an airport terminal less stressful.

Useful Tips On How To Sleep In An Airport Like A Pro- comfortably and safely.

If you’ve ever travelled by plane, you know that you might get caught in a layover between flights sooner or later.

No biggie if your layover is short—just 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.

Here are some things you can do to make sure you sleep better, more comfortably and stay safe. You’ll be glad you know this information.

Verify in advance if sleeping in the airport terminal is allowed

If you know that you have a long layover in advance, research whether you can or can’t sleep in the airport overnight. 

Even if staying overnight inside the terminal is allowed, you may not want to due to poor or disgusting conditions. 

Does the airport have walk-in sleeping lounges?

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

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, in general, expect to pay around 30 USD per person and up. 

Keep in mind, not all airport lounges that accept walk-ins have sleeping facilities, but you’ll be very comfortable thanks to the lounge amenities.

Some examples of airport lounge amenities include free snacks and drinks, wifi, TV’s, and comfortable seating. Some even have showers and massages (for an extra fee). 

Airport lounge resource: Know before you go by checking at www.sleepinginairports.net to see what airport lounges accept walk-ins. You’ll also find user-generated reviews about almost every airport you can think of.

Pack A Survival Kit In Your Carry-On Luggage


In addition to wearing or packing comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, you should consider packing a survival kit that will get you through a night or two at the airport. At a minimum, you should pack the following items plus anything else you think you might need.

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 next morning. 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 you can carry 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 a neutral lipstick, which doubles as a blush and eye colour. 

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.

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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, listen to some music or relax ocean sounds. 

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6) A pillow: even a makeshift one

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.

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7) Something to keep warm:

It can get cold in some airports, so be sure to bring a small travel blanket or use a jacket to cover up.  I like to bring a fashionable oversized scarf or Pashmina, doubling as a blanket and a fashion accessory.

8) Wet wipes and or tissues:

Wet wipes or flushable travel wipes come in handy for a quick washing 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.

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7) Snacks: 

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

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

8) 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. 

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9) 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, the kids’ games, and other electronics charged 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 Ive used for a long time is the Ravpower external battery.

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

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

I also have a portable battery that is over 26,000 mAH, but it’s quite 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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10) Pack the kids 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 the dirty or cold ground, and it’s 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. 

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How to find the best spot to sleep at the airport


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 take a walk around the airport to scope out the best place to sleep.

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

  • 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, 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: If there are no chairs available, consider sleeping on the floor. 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 or on you. Otherwise, put your valuables in an INSIDE pocket of your bag— NOT the outside pocket where it 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 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 on your body very near you. 
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Set the alarm so you don’t miss your connecting flight

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

Set your phone alarm, watch alarm, travel clock or all three. If you don’t have an alarm, write a note in big letters “wake me up at 8:30 in the morning, so I don’t miss my flight”. 

set your alarm so you don't miss your flight

Prepare for bed

Just like you would at home, it helps to clean up a little before bed, even if it is on some yucky airport floor.

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 if you want and then try to relax and get some sleep. You’ll feel better when you wake. Maybe even take off your shoes or put on footwear that is comfortable enough to sleep in. 

Bon Voyage

Sleeping in 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 to but not when I’m alone. 

pintrest pin about How To Sleep At An Airport Like A Pro

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

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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  1. Great tips! I always could not sleep in a airport while I am travelling, mostly because I have not prepared for a sleep like that

  2. Since I’m not a world traveler, I’ve never been stranded in an airport or even had such a long layover that I had to sleep there. Never say never though right Annie!

    Now my nephew has bless his heart. He works for a cruise ship and my sister works for United. We can fly on a buddy pass because we’re related to her so it’s all on standby. Well we know what that means for some flights right! He flies out of the country too so sometimes he has a very long wait.

    Gosh, I sure hope that never happens to me. I think I’d rather get a hotel. At least I’d sleep cause I know I’ll wake up to that alarm and not have to worry about someone taking my luggage. Yikes!


  3. Hi Annie,

    I really dislike sleeping in the airport, but that is primarily because my experience hasn’t been great. I find it hard to relax enough to really get good sleep.

    Instead I sort of catnap here and there and wake up feeling groggy. I don’t know if any of the places I have slept at have sleeping areas, been a while since it happened.

    Next time I’ll have to ask. Certainly a much better way to go.

    FWIW, I never travel without bringing toiletries and clothes in my carry on. The friendly skies have lost my luggage before so I don’t like being stuck without anything.

  4. Hi Annie:

    Great to hear from you.

    Wow –
    You must have travelled to so many places
    In the world.
    That is so awesome.

    Maybe in your next post
    You could share
    About where all
    You have been in the world????

    Yes I have seen that movie of Tom Hanks –
    Just loved it.

    Take care.

    Best wishes and regards.


  5. Hi Annie:

    How are you?

    Wow, every time I visit your blog
    There is so much of
    Adventure and excitement about it.

    Take for example this post –
    Now where in the world
    Did you come up
    With such an idea
    For this post?

    Did you happen to stay awake
    All night at an airport?
    And saw many people asleep
    And so thought
    Why is it that
    These guys can sleep
    And why not me?
    Now I wonder!

    And heyyy
    Is that Tom Hanks??

    Take care.

    Best wishes and regards.


    1. well hello again Veena,
      I have had to sleep in airports quite a bit in my life. Someone recently asked me what I do when i have long layovers so i decided to share my experience. Sometimes we have longer layovers because they afford us cheaper flights or sometimes it is because of bad weather or cancelled flights. Sooner or later, if you travel enough, you will encounter a long layover. at least that has been my experience.

      Yes that is tom hanks from the movie “the terminal” where he lives in an airport for a bit of time because he can,t return to his own country and cannot enter the new country so he stays in the airport.

  6. I sleep in airports all the time, Heathrow isn’t bad I slept in the new Terminal 5 and got about 7 hours. Lights are bright though, but seats with no armrests are provided. Stansted airport has about 100 people sleep there every night. I was pretty much a permanent feature there.

    1. Hi George, I have heard mixed reviews about Heathrow. I’ve never actually slept there myself. 100 people in Stansted? That is a lot. BUt then again, i just found out that homeless people are now camping out in airports so maybe it’s not a lot?

  7. Hi Annie,

    These are wonderful tips about how to sleep in an airport :)

    It just happened once that we were really caught at the airport because our connecting flight was delayed by a few hours, and that time my kids were very small. I saw these pictures and it reminded me how we slept on those chairs, and specifically looked for the ones without the arm rest.

    I agree, if you are well equipped with the things you mentioned, your stay at the airport works out fine, or else you might have an uncomfortable stay.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice weekend :)

  8. Hello harleena, isn’t it just so much fun to sleep in airports? I actually don’t mind it so much until the next day when the kids are cranky. The best we can do is prepare ourselves for the worst.

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