Sleeping in airports

The Tom Hanks Terminal approach to sleeping for free

Airport somnambulists view their unusual napping technique as much more than merely a solution for really long layovers. This is sleeping as an extreme sport.

Some of the most ardent and frequent posters at ( actually head out to the nearest airport to catch a few Zzzzs even when they don't have a plane to catch (though that option has gotten infinitely more difficult since 9/11 moved the security bar in many airports from the gangway way back to just after the ticket windows—which puts it well before the best sleeping areas within the terminal).

Sleeping for Free
Overnight trains in Europe
Sleeping in Airports
Crewing a Boat
Home Swapping
Hospitality Exchanges
House sitting
Free Camping in the U.S.

The site works with an inherent sense of humor and an acknowledgement that this option is, indeed, far from a suite at the Ritz.

Anyone who has passed the night in an airport can log in and post their own comments, with star ratings and everything.

You very quickly get a good sense of where to head at each airport (apparently, Terminal 2 is tops at London Heathrow—which offers a better rest than Stansted, though Gatwick is considered better than either), and most users post useful instructions; here's a snippet from the Heathrow write-ups:

"...Once into terminal 2, go down the big wide corridor to gate 5. A little further on, there are some very comfortable curvy, cushioned benches, about seven feet long and with no arms! Perfect! The airport staff don't care if you sleep there, and it is very quiet...."

There are also section for "Airport Sleeping Tips," a best and worst list, funniest stories, photos of perfect sleeping spots at actual airports, and more. In all, a fun and potentially useful site, though I would add a caveat of my own.

A tip for sleeping in airports

If you should, say, arrive in the airport at 1am after 36 hours of flying with a final flight leaving out of another gate at 6:30am, and that gate is utterly deserted when you find it and—gods be praised—you can actually lie down across the seats as there are no arms to block you, so you stretch out and don your eye mask and earplugs and wrap the strap of your bag around your thigh for safekeeping and fall into a state of unconsciousness just short of coma, and then you suddenly jolt awake at 6am to find the formerly empty terminal bright and bustling and absolutely packed with people while there you are, taking up five seats and probably snoring to the bejeesus, the appropriate facial expression is: sheepish.

(Though I would point out, in honor of the lovely people of Madrid, that not one person was rude enough to try and shake me awake, despite the number of seats I was hogging.)

Resources ( is the premiere—OK, make that "only"—resource for sleeping for free in airports across Europe and around the world. Find out the best couches in every terminal at Heathrow, Fiumicino, Charles de Gaulle, and even back home at JFK or LAX—because sometimes, a six-hour layover is the perfect chance to get some shut-eye.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

Section Index



This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in April 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

about | contact | faq

Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.