Whether it's due to a long layover or bad weather, or just to save money, sometimes you need to be able to catch a few Z's at the airport. Unfortunately, it's not just a matter of closing your eyes and counting sheep. Sleeping in a high-traffic place like an airport can be tricky and stressful. Here's how to sleep in public without putting yourself (or your stuff) at risk.
Use Your Bag as a Pillow
Keep your bag safe from would-be thieves by using it as a pillow while you snooze. Short of putting a lock on every zipper, your best bet is to position the bag so that the zipper-side faces your sleeping surface (floor, chair, cot, etc.) or lace the bag's straps around your legs.
Remove the Distractions
Tune out the hustle and bustle of the airport through sensory deprivation. Use an eye mask, earplugs, headphones, and a neck pillow, and then drape a sweater or blanket over you. (It's not for everyone, but you might also consider an Ostrich Pillow.) To avoid being a target for thieves, it's best to do this only when you're with a travel partner who can keep an eye out.
Take Shifts with Your Travel Partner
Speaking of travel partners, if you're traveling with a companion, sleep in shifts. This way, one of you can keep an eye on the bags (and each other) while the other catches some shut-eye. After a predetermined amount of time, switch places. You'll both get the rest and security you need.
Look for Strength in Numbers
Where you sleep is just as important as how you sleep. Some airports frown upon squatters. If you need to spend the night in an airport, go with the strength-in-numbers approach. Look for the group of weary travelers that has already made camp, often beyond the security checkpoints in international terminals or near food courts, and set up with these like-minded people.
Request a Cot
Many airports stock cots for use by stranded passengers. They're typically used for mass flight cancellations, but it never hurts to put on a smile and ask an airport employee for one. You might catch a break.
Sleep in a Pod
They're only available at a handful of airports right now, but sleep pods sure seem like the future of airport snoozing. These capsules convert from cozy chairs to lie-flat beds—comfortably and privately. Abu Dhabi, Delhi, Munich, Beijing, Tokyo, and Moscow are among the international airports to offer sleep pods. Stateside, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Dallas are among those that offer mini-suites by the hour at locations past security.
Get a Massage
Spas are everywhere these days, even at airports. Look for these ubiquitous havens in many domestic and international terminals across the country. Massage-induced shut-eye counts toward your sleep needs, too.
Try an Airport Lounge
You don't have to be a member to seek refuge at an airport lounge. Often outfitted with comfortable lie-flat seats, lounges offer privacy, peace and quiet, and relative security that's hard to come by in the more public areas of an airport. Single-day passes start as low as $20 for independent Airspace Lounges and $29 for airline-affiliated lounges. And if you happen to be flying first or business class, your ticket may even get you in for free.
Keep Track of the Time
Count sheep but also count on an alarm. And make sure it's set to the local time before you doze. No electronic devices on you? I once saw a man snoozing next to his departure gate with a note taped to his chest asking fellow travelers to wake him at a specific time.
Apres nap, freshen up with antiseptic wipes or watered-down paper towels. (If you've dished out the extra cash for an airport-lounge pass, you might have access to a shower where you can freshen up.) Airport hotels are now beginning to open their gyms at a nominal per-use cost as well. Aside from hot showers, towels, and toiletries, fitness centers offer access to workout equipment, saunas, pools, and even classes—not too shabby for about $15 a pop. Several North American airports have such facilities, including Chicago O'Hare, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Vancouver. Keep a change of clothing in your carry-on bag and slip into it to feel like new, too.
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