A personal guide to sleeping at the airports

As I’m writing these lines, I’m looking over my shoulder to see if anyone else spotted the amazing brownish sofa I’ll use as a bed later on, while I spend a night at the Amsterdam airport. Nope, still nobody, so I can continue writing.

Almost all of my international travels in the past year or so have been lonely adventures. I traveled mostly for business (or my NGO projects) so I couldn’t bring somebody along and was faced with many many many long hours on the road alone. I don’t mind long journeys – actually, I prefer to travel by train, even though it’s probably the slowest way to travel, but doing it alone isn’t that interesting. At all.

Today, I’m in Amsterdam. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Warsaw. Since I landed in Amsterdam at night, and my flight is early in the morning, I figured it didn’t make any sense for me to go to the city and spend a night in a hotel or hostel, cause I probably wouldn’t get more than 5 hours of sleep. So I’m staying at the airport.

Now, there is this amazing website that gives you information and advices on where and how to sleep at the many international airports that are open all night. This is the first step –

#1 CHECK IF YOUR AIRPORT IS OPEN OVER NIGHT

Many are, but just in case, you have to check this information. For example, airport in Pisa is closed overnight, as well as the one in Split. Some airports close their doors but you can stay inside if you have a flight the next day (so, nobody can enter, but you can stay if you came before closing time) such as the one in Bruxelles.

#2 CHECK IF THERE ARE ANY MAITNANCE ACTIVITIES GOING ON

This information would probably be published on the website of the airport and would come in very handy to me when I was traveling to Latvia. My route was Croatia – Norway – Latvia, and same as now, I had to spend two nights in Oslo airport to catch the next flight. First night went great, but on my way back, I found that the airport was being closed for the night, due to some maintenance that they do once every year. I spent the night in front of the airport and I wouldn’t want to repeat that. 

#3 CHECK WHAT THE AIRPORT HAS TO OFFER & PLAN YOUR NIGHT

Plan some “sightseeing” activities to past your time, or just bring a laptop, like me, and write blog posts! So far, I slept in 5 different airports, total of 6 nights (not counting two that are awaiting me), and the best one so far is London Stansted. It has a lot of different shops where you can just browse books and magazines, also some nice food carts and a lot of space in general. The one in Oslo is the worst, there’s no place to hide (and you do want to have at least some privacy). Airport in Manchester was also nice, and the one in Brussels Charleroi was too small. Also, forget sleeping throughout the entire night. Airports are busy, noisy and full of light. So the chances are that you won’t get much sleep and you need to be prepared for the mental crisis you’ll be going through. I usually bring a book that has just the right amount of pages for me to get through it during my stay at the airport. Topic is also important – I went to Oslo with the book about cannibalism. Not a good choice. At all. This time, I’m reading a book about a 100 years old men who went traveling around the world. Much better. 

#4 BE SURE TO BE SAFE

I usually travel only with cabin luggage (I’m a light traveler!) so I don’t have lots of bags to keep an eye on. The one I do carry, I usually strap around me in a way that if someone was to steel it, I would definitely feel it. This way, I feel calmer and could fall asleep assured I won’t wake up without my stuff. But, you know, airports are full of security guys and police and cameras, so it’s a pretty safe place in general.

I’ve mastered the art of light travel, thanks to Ryanair.

#5 JUST DON’T PANIC

Last time I panicked. It was the first time I was alone at the airport and it was the day after the Malaysian aircraft was shut down over Ukraine and I also just got a job for which I had to move to another city and leave my boyfriend behind. Everything just piled up and I was seriously thinking about just buying ticket for the first flight back home. Of course, I didn’t have the money, so I just said to myself – you’re ok. It will be ok. And it will. You are in a strange place and in a strange situation, but chances of anything bad happening, with so many airport personnel around, are next to nothing. What could happen, and what actually happened to me, is that you miss your flight. Now, that’s the problem you don’t want to deal with, especially if it’s a flight back home. But, more about that some other time.

So far, I slept at airports in London, Manchester, Brussels and Oslo, and from tomorrow, Amsterdam as well. Two of these (and 4 nights in total) I was/will be alone. I’ll let you know how it went. 😉

Let me know if this was in any way useful and what airports have you slept in?

Looking around, still no takers for my brownish sofa. Yaay!

Originally written on December 12, 2015.

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