If you’ve ever had a late flight with an 8+ hour layover following it, you’ve probably debated the whole “do I buy a room or set up camp or set up camp on some gate seats’ situation. Personally, the hotel room prices are a bit steep for a gal like myself, so I opted in for making the gate seats my bed of choice for the night. However, I didn’t know the first thing about sleeping in an airport.
“Will someone steal my bag?”
“Will I be kicked out?” (this does happen)
“Will I be the only one sleeping?”
All of these questions went through my head prior to my overnight stay in the Hong Kong International Airport. There are a few things that I didn’t plan for which ended up making my sleeping situation a little interesting, but other than that, I successfully spent the night on some not-so-comfortable airport seats! I am at a point in my life where I can abuse my body with lack of sleep and hard surfaces, so if you need a comfy bed to acquire adequate rest at night, this option may not be for you, but hey, don’t knock it till you try it. Personally, I can fall asleep literally anywhere, like a laundry basket, for example, so falling asleep on some airport chairs to save $80+ was like a bright, golden light at the end of the tunnel.
If you’re anticipating a long layover and planning on snuggling up to your backpack to save some cheddar, keep on reading!
Is The Airport You’ll Be Sleeping At Right For You?
As we all know, not airports are created equal and while some have incredible amenities, lounges, and food options, others may have next to nothing that you need to have a good night stay. I can’t speak for all airports, but the website Sleeping In Airports has everything you need to know about your specific airport and it has reviews on them as well. It literally has them organized by region and by the letter that they start with, so this is the best place for finding the information that you need.
Is It Open? – If an airport isn’t open 24 hours, they aren’t going to allow you to sleep there. Since this is the case, while booking, if you have a long layover, try and aim for one that is open and that allows sleeping there; always research before
Is It Sanitary? – The airport you have for a layover might meet all the necessary requirements for you to sleep in, but the most important question is, “is it clean?” You don’t want to end up planning to sleep there and realize that it isn’t clean. The website listed above will help you determine the cleanliness quality of the airport.
After you have decided that the airport is good to go for you to sleep, make sure you weight the pros and cons of staying here, so you make sure you know what you’re signing your self up for (it’s really not bad & it’s a new adventure).
Pros And Cons
- Cost-Effective: If you’re looking for the frugal route, snuggling up on some gate chairs is perfect for you! Most airport hotels cost around $60+ dollars per night, so this is going to save you a good chunk of money.
- Convenient: If you already know where your gate is, you can sleep there and ensure that you’re not going to miss your flight. Also, you’re already near a lot of eating options (although they may not be the best or the cheapest). Personally, it was nice having all my stuff already packed, so I didn’t have to unpack all my things in a hotel room and repack to get to the airport.
- Getting To Your Gate Is Easier: Technically you could sleep at your gate if you wanted to, which is the easiest way I feel. Also, since you’re at the airport, you can check in early so that you get that prime window seat. Win-win.
- Opportunity To Explore The Airport: I had the pleasure of staying the night in Hong Kong, which had endless shopping and food options. Airports almost fascinate me in a way with how they’re set up, so you can walk around and get some exercise and exploring in.
- Endless Breakfast Options: The best perk by far. As a vegan, I don’t generally have a ton of options with a hotel breakfast, so it was nice finding some better options at the airport. Also, you can have a pizza or something for breakfast if you wanted; there are no rules.
- Can Be Uncomfortable: This is the most obvious one considering airport chairs are never comfortable even when you’re sitting upright, but don’t be expecting a Tempurpedic experience with this one.
- Airports Are Freezing: For someone that gets cold extremely easily (anything under 80 degrees is cold), this was something that I struggled with. I woke up multiple times in the middle of the night because I was so cold. I don’t know if my airport just blasted the cool air or if I was going nuts (I was wearing a jacket and leggings). If you have a slightly thicker, but lightweight blanket you should be good, just pack things to accommodate your heat needs lol.
- You May Get Kicked Out (Not With All Airports): This is something I was actually scared of happening because I didn’t want to spend extra money, but luckily I joined about 7-8 others in their sleeping bags. Using the website and questions above, this can give you an idea of what you can expect with your airport.
- No Proper Space To Lock Up Your Things: Since you won’t be in your own space with a locked door, if you have multiple bags this might get a little tricky depending on what airport you are at.
Scouting Your Bed For The Night
There are a couple of things that you want to look for in a place to sleep, and it will make all the difference in your stay. Some airports do have lounges and designated areas for sleeping, so always ask before you nestle onto a gate chair. When looking for your bed keep these things in mind:
Consider Safety – There is strength in numbers, so if you see another person setting up camp, try and sleep near them.
Look For Low Traffic Areas – Sleeping away from bathrooms, restaurants, and check-in desks will give you a quieter experience and lessen the number of people that are walking around you.
Keep It Close (ish) To The Bathroom – This is my personal preference, so you don’t HAVE to do this one, but I find it easier to be able to wake up and stroll my way over to the bathroom rather than having to walk 100 yards lol. You don’t want to be right next to it, but not too far away either.
Find Chairs Without Armrests – Armrests are going to prevent you from, well, resting. If you have to try and sit up and sleep, it’s going to be the worst experience, so make sure the chairs have armrests that you can fold up.
Look For Outlets – This will be helpful before you go to sleep if you want to charge all of your electronics so that their charge is full for the day. Obviously, don’t plug them in overnight because that is a recipe for disaster.
Make Sure It Is Clean – If you can’t find chairs to sleep in, the floor is going to be your next best bet, but make sure that it is sanitary and aim to sleep against a wall so that you can put your backpack against the wall (extra safety) and so you’re not out in the open.
- Lock Up All Your Bags: Obviously, you don’t want your things snatched, so make sure that you bring an extra lock for your carry on.
- Use Your Bag As A Pillow: A solid tip to make sure your bag isn’t stolen.
- Or Strap Your Bag To You/A Chair: These are more ways to protect your bag. This will ensure no one runs off with you or your bag.
- Move All Zippers Under Your Head: This is useful if you didn’t bring any locks with you. You can move all of your zippers where your head will be lying and that will make it next to impossible for anyone to get into it.
- Keep Your Money, Passport, and Cards Near You – These are the items that you can’t travel without, so make sure they are safely placed somewhere. If you’re not comfortable sleeping with them on you, make sure you put them in an inside pocket for extra safety.
- If Solo, Sleep Near Someone: Okay so don’t pitch up camp right next to them, but if there is a general area where most people are settling down for the night, sleep near them.
- If You Have A Partner, Take Shifts: This isn’t always necessary, but chances are if you’re with someone else you’re going to have extra baggage that you need to watch over also.
Sarong or Other Lightweight Blanket – I had a sarong with me and I ended up waking up because I was so cold, but also the airport was a meat locker, so if you get hot easily, opt for a sarong, but if you get cold easily, bring something a little thicker, or cover up with a jacket.
Snacks – Most of the time I only pack a few snacks when I travel and I end up eating them all on the long flight, so if you’re planning a long stay, try and pack a couple extra snacks since they can be expensive at the airport (literally, I have paid over $10 for a water bottle and snack) What I like to do is make sure that I eat my three square meals and that they satisfy me so I avoid buying a ton of snacks, but do whatever suits your situation.
Luggage Locks – A must have if you travel with a lot of electronics.
Eyemask – The lights in the airport do not shut off even when you’re ready for bed, so if you’re sensitive to lights when you sleep like I am, bring something to cover your eyes or use part of your blanket.
Neck Pillow / Makeshift Pillow – If you don’t want to wake up with some gnarly neck problems, pack this in your carry-on.
Shampoo / Conditioner – A must have if you plan on showering at the airport.
Toothbrush / Toothpaste – Lest we forget our fresh breath before we go to sleep!
Hairbrush – Brushing my hair always makes me feel “cleaner” or put together for some reason. Especially after 12+ hours of flying.
Face Mask (optional) / Cleanser / Moisturizer – These are some extras for freshening up, but they’re not necessary if they’re not something you need to take along. I always recommend Osea Malibu because they have the highest quality, vegan ingredients, and their products rock.
Clothes To Sleep In / Extra Change Of Clothes – I generally travel in clothes I can sleep in, but if you like to look more fashionable, pack some pajamas in your bag so that you can be as comfortable as possible, or wear something you can sleep in and pack and extra set for the next morning.
Entertainment – 99% of the time I travel with a book and my computer, so I never have a problem with this, but if you don’t normally pack these things, opt for a tablet or your other favorite forms of entertainment.
Tips On Staying Fresh + Freshening Up
Take Advantage Of Airport Showers – This is airport reliant, but a handful of major international airports have public showers that you can use. Personally, I have never used one, so I can’t speak for the quality of them, but honestly, there are few things better than a hot shower after a long day of travel.
If You Can, Use The Airport Lounge – I know not many people have access to this leisure, but if you can rack up some points, or get a pass to one of these, you’re going to want it. They have extra amenities than the airport like, wifi, nicer showers, comfy chairs, and not to mention it’s quiet so you’re able to get some work done.
Bring An Extra Change Of Clothes For The Morning – If you wore your airport clothes to sleep and opted for a morning or evening shower, a fresh change of clothes is going to start your day on the right foot. You’ll get the comfort of arriving at your final destination, but it’ll give you that extra something to survive your final flight(s).
Eat Healthy Foods – This can be a little bit difficult, especially in an airport, but I always try and go with the healthiest option, which is tough sometimes being vegan. Consuming tons of sodium and grease is going to make you feel puffy, fatigued, and overall pretty cruddy, so feeding yourself the best foods is going to help you feel good. In Hong Kong, I ate some ramen that I believed was going to be moderately healthy for me, but it was packed full of sodium. Immediately after I ate it I felt so exhausted dizzy that night and even after I woke up.
Stay Hydrated – Dehydration is not your friend when it comes to travel, especially after riding in the stagnant recycled plane air, so make sure while you’re in the airport you’re replacing your fluids. I always carry around my Hydro Flask with me to make sure that I don’t have to buy expensive bottled water, I always have water on me, and a constant reminder to sip all day.
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Thank you all for reading and good luck with your next overnight stay at the airport!
Until next time,
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