Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz’s on an Airport Overnight Layover
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Scout Out the Best Spots
One of the keys to surviving an overnight airport layover is finding a suitable spot to settle in for the night. Not all areas of an airport are created equal when it comes to getting some shut-eye, so doing some reconnaissance is essential. The last thing you want is to pick a spot that ends up being noisy, crowded, or uncomfortable.
When scouting for a place to sleep, look for quieter, less trafficked parts of the terminal. Corners, hallways, and areas near vacant gates often see less foot traffic at night. Look for carpeted floors rather than cold, hard tiles. Try to find a row of chairs with armrests that can act as a makeshift bed. Sectioned off areas like business/first class lounges also tend to be quieter.
Also pay attention to lighting. Areas with dimmer lighting are better for sleeping. Bright fluorescent lights can make it hard to fall and stay asleep. Having a wall to lean against is also helpful for supporting your head and neck while trying to rest.
Many travelers have reported success finding rest areas and even reclining chairs in parts of airports intended for passengers with long connections. If you can track down one of these zones, they can make for ideal overnight sleeping spots. Some airports even have designated quiet areas or nap pods specifically for tired travelers to book for a few hours of shut-eye.
Be ready to try a few different areas if your first pick doesn't work out. Scope out secondary and tertiary options when you first arrive so you have backups ready. The spot you pick at 8pm may be very different from the spot you end up at 1am when there is less activity. Being flexible and willing to change locations to find just the right environment can make a big difference.
Pay attention to how security, cleaning staff, and airport workers utilize certain areas as their shifts change as well. A spot that is empty at midnight could suddenly get noisy at 5am when maintenance crews begin work. Observation and research will serve you well to identify the prime real estate.
What else is in this post?
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Scout Out the Best Spots
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Try the Business/First Class Lounges
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Pack Ear Plugs and Eye Masks
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Bring a Lightweight Blanket or Inflatable Pillow
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Wear Comfortable, Loose Clothing
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Charge Devices and Bring Backup Batteries
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Set Multiple Alarms
- Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Stay Near Your Gate
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Try the Business/First Class Lounges
While an airport chair or even the floor can work in a pinch, one of the best options for catching some zzz's on a long layover is to access an airline lounge. Business and first class lounges offer a prime opportunity for some shut-eye away from the crowds.
These lounges provide a quieter, more exclusive area than the bustling main terminal. You'll escape the constant foot traffic and announcements bombarding the public gates. Access is typically restricted to only passengers flying in premium cabins, elite frequent flyers, and sometimes those with premium credit cards. This keeps the numbers of guests down, even during busy travel times.
The seating in airline lounges is far superior to standard airport chairs. Reclining lounge chairs, chaise lounges, and even nap pods or sleeping cubicles are common. This furniture is intended for relaxation between flights, making it ideal for catching some rest. The ability to recline or even lay flat makes a huge difference in quality of sleep.
Lounges usually provide blankets, pillows, earplugs, and eye masks too. Having these amenities provided takes the burden off you to pack bulky items. The blankets and pillows offered are typically better than themicro-fleece airplane blankets.
Many lounges have private showers that can be used to refresh after a redeye. This allows you to clean up after a long haul initial flight so you feel revived before the next leg. Shower suites offer a private area to change clothes and prep for the day ahead.
The food, drinks, and other services offered in lounges provide additional creature comforts. Having snacks or light meals available allows you to grab a quick bite before resting without having to lug your belongings around. Premium drinks like quality wine, beer, and cocktails help you unwind. Some lounges even have spa services like chair massages.
The biggest challenge is that lounge access isn't free. You typically have to hold a premium ticket, elite status, or a credit card with lounge privileges to enter. Some lounges sell passes for $50 or more if you meet the criteria. Checking your different cards and frequent flyer memberships to see if any offer complimentary lounge visits for you and any travel companions is wise.
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Pack Ear Plugs and Eye Masks
One of the biggest challenges of trying to sleep in an airport is dealing with all the noise and light. Between endless boarding announcements blaring over the PA system, crowds of travelers wheeling luggage around, fluorescent lights glaring down, and the rumble of planes taxiing outside, getting quality rest can be nearly impossible. That's why packing ear plugs and an eye mask is absolutely essential gear for airport overnighters.
Having ear plugs allows you to block out all the bothersome sounds trying to disrupt your sleep. You don't have to toss and turn as yet another delayed flight gets announced or a cleaning crew starts vacuuming nearby. Just pop those puppies in and the auditory assault gets muted down to a faint hum. I always keep a pair handy in my carry on bag for just such occasions. The soft foam ones that mold to the shape of your ear canal work best in my experience. Some frequent travelers even use noise cancelling headphones or special "sleep phones" designed just for blocking noise while sleeping. As long as you find a comfortable pair that helps deafen the din of the terminal, your chances of getting some solid zzz's goes way up.
An eye mask serves the same purpose for vanquishing light. Airports are lit up brighter than a Christmas tree 24/7. Dimming those harsh fluorescent bulbs overhead goes a long way towards being able to fall and stay asleep. Simply strapping on a mask plunges you into total darkness so your body gets the visual cue to start producing melatonin. It helps recreate the feel of nighttime. I like the contoured, molded masks that block light completely yet don't put too much pressure on your eyelids. But even just a simple cloth mask does the trick in most cases. Anything is better than nothing at all when trying to simulate nighttime to trick your brain and body clock.
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Bring a Lightweight Blanket or Inflatable Pillow
Having the right gear can make or break your chances of getting decent shut-eye on an overnight airport layover. One essential item savvy travelers always pack is a lightweight blanket. Airport terminals are kept at cool temperatures to accommodate crowds. This ambient chill combined with airflow from ventilation systems can leave you feeling cold and unable to fall asleep. Bringing your own compact blanket allows you to stay comfortably warm as you try to snooze in your seat. A good travel blanket should fold up small enough to squeeze into your carry-on bag without taking up too much precious space. Look for one made from soft, warm materials like fleece or microfiber. Some even have attached foot pockets to keep your extremities extra toasty. Compression sacks that shrink blankets down to tiny sizes are handy for packing, as are wearable blankets that can be used as a scarf or shawl when not sleeping.
Having an inflatable travel pillow can also increase your airport slumber success rate. Trying to sleep sitting fully upright rarely ends well. You wake up with a crick in your neck from lack of support. Inflatable pillows provide cushioning so you can rest your head and avoid post-nap pain. They inflate with just a few breaths to a comfortable loft and size. When deflated, they compress down small enough to fit in any carry-on.
The best inflatable pillows are made from soft, velour-like material on the exterior for cozy comfort against your skin. They have internal baffling to keep the pillow fully inflated and to provide ergonomic shaping. Look for a U-shaped or horseshoe travel pillow design. These support both the back and sides of your neck and head when sitting. Some even have raised side lobes that act as blinders to block light from the sides. Inflatable pillows with attached eye masks take this concept even further for complete light blocking.
Having your own compact blanket and inflatable pillow ready to go eliminates the need to hunt down these items once at the airport. You don't have to hope the airline has extras available or try constructing your own makeshift bedding from coats and sweaters. Airport rest areas and lounges will sometimes provide blankets and pillows, but quality and availability varies. Bringing your own guarantees you have comfortable, sanitary options tailored to your needs.
Packing multi-functional items also helps save luggage space. Some jackets convert into travel pillows with inflatable hoods. And wearable blankets pull double duty as scarves, hoodies, and more. Choosing gear that works for both comfort and fashion maximizes usefulness while minimizing bulk.
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Wear Comfortable, Loose Clothing
One small but significant way to enhance your prospects for a good rest during an airport overnight is packing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing designed for sleeping. The attire you choose can have a noticeable impact on your ability to both fall asleep and stay asleep while contending with the unique challenges of the airport environment.
Travel enthusiasts emphasize the importance of wearing loose, soft clothing when trying to sleep in transit. Tight, restrictive outfits can cut circulation and cause discomfort when you’re confined to a chair for hours. Elastic waistbands dig into the belly, skinny jeans bind the legs, and structured tops put pressure on shoulders and arms. This physical irritation makes it difficult to fully relax. In contrast, looser silhouettes allow freedom of movement so you can shift positions with ease as needed.
Breathable natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, and bamboo feel best against the skin for overnight wear. They have airflow and moisture wicking properties to prevent overheating, unlike synthetic fabrics that can feel clammy. Loose pajama pants, shorts, tees, and tunics made from these materials are ideal choices. Compression socks boost circulation on long-haul flights and can be worn comfortably with loose attire.
It’s smart to pack a designated outfit just for sleeping when you know you’ll be spending the night at the airport. Having a separate set of clothes from your daytime traveling attire helps signal to your mind and body that it’s time for rest. Putting on your sleepwear is part of a nightly ritual that tells your brain it can start winding down.
Changing clothes also provides refreshed physical comfort after hours in transit. A fresh set of clothing gets rid of the grimy, stale feeling from being sedentary in the same outfit all day. For ultra-light packers, clothing that can pull double duty as both travel wear and sleepwear helps maximize minimal luggage space.
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Charge Devices and Bring Backup Batteries
Being able to charge your devices is mission critical when pulling an overnight in the terminal. You'll want to maximize battery life on your smartphone, tablet, e-reader, and any other electronics you use to pass time or as sleep aids. Nothing derails rest faster than having your entertainment or noise-blocking headphones die partway through the night. That's why vigilant charging throughout your layover is vital.
Start by charging at every opportunity before and during your travels. Top off your phone, headphones, and backup batteries right before leaving for the airport. Charge again during any layovers and in the Admiral's Club or lounge if you have access. Bringing an external battery pack or two in your carry-on gives insurance in case charging stations are scarce. I always keep 20,000 mAh and 50,000 mAh packs handy for extended travel. They can recharge phones 10+ times over to keep you powered up. The high capacity Voltaic Systems Solar Backpack has a removable 50,000 mAh battery that recharges itself via built-in solar panels. How cool is that?
Carry lightweight multi-plug wall chargers and portable chargers so you can juice up several devices at once. Having backup cables is also smart in case one gets lost or breaks. I make sure to have Apple Lightning, micro USB, and USB-C cords packed. The gilt-edged sister app Hotelpower checks locations of free airport charging stations and rates them. Definitely use this tool to locate all possible charging options beforehand.
Monitoring battery levels is also key. Set alarms on your devices to warn you when they need charging — I do alarms at 50% and 20%. Adjust screen brightness down and enable airplane mode to conserve power further. Close unneeded apps that drain the battery fast. Following these steps religiously helps guarantee your devices survive until you reach your destination. I've had my phone last 3-4 days doing airport overnighters this way.
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Set Multiple Alarms
Having a rock solid alarm system in place is the only way to ensure you actually wake up in time for your connection after an airport overnight. Remember, you're sleeping in an unpredictable environment surrounded by distractions. Missed boarding calls and gate changes happen all too easily. That's why setting multiple, redundant alarms on both your phone and watch is a pro move when sleeping in terminals.
You need alarms that will cut through the ambient noise and stir you from even the deepest slumber. As a professional snoozer, I recommend using an escalating system starting soft and getting louder. Begin with gentle alarms that gradually increase in volume to ease you awake. Then have back-up alarms set to blare at full volume 10-15 minutes later in case you ignore the subtler alerts.
For the earliest wake-up calls, set alarms that use soothing nature sounds like chirping birds, raindrops or ocean waves. Your brain perceives these as less jarring. Next set an alarm with your favorite upbeat song. Hearing a pleasant, familiar tune helps you transition to consciousness without panic. Then set louder alarms using abrasive, jarring sounds guaranteed to jolt you upright. Think klaxon horns, sirens and foghorns at full blast.
When naming your alarms, use clear labels like "Boarding Call" or "Final Warning" so even in a groggy state you know which ones can't be snoozed or dismissed. I always allow 5-10 minutes between each alarm as insurance. Stagger them across multiple devices too for redundancy. Have some on your phone, others on your smartwatch, and if you travel with a tablet use that as well. With so many overlapping alarms spaced minutes apart, there's no chance you'll sleep through it all.
Snoozing in the Terminal: Tips for Catching Zzz's on an Airport Overnight Layover - Stay Near Your Gate
Staying close to your departure gate is paramount when trying to rest overnight at the airport. Nothing ruins your chances of catching some Zzz's faster than having to make a mad dash through endless concourses and terminals when your boarding call echoes out. Savvy snoozers understand the importance of camping out within sprinting distance. This prevents panic-inducing situations where you wake up disoriented and have mere minutes to locate your gate.
I always scope out spots for my air mattress as close to my gate as possible. Ideally you can see or quickly reach your gate from your sleeping area. This usually means picking less ideal spots that are noisier and more trafficked. But it's worth the trade-off. If your gate is at the end of one concourse, consider moving to the start of that same concourse instead of hopping over to a quieter one further away. Proximity trumps most other variables.
If you can't camp literally right at the gate, at least stay on the same concourse or connector. Having to take a train, shuttle or other transport to reach your gate after waking adds uncertainty and delays. You don't want to suddenly find the people mover offline for maintenance when you only have minutes to transit terminals.
Research airport maps before choosing your sleeping spot. Understand how one concourse links to another and where walking paths, elevators, escalators etc are located. Pinpoint routes between your rest area and gate and point out landmarks to create a mental map. That way if you need to book it to your gate, you can move quickly even while still half-asleep. Nothing helps motivate groggy travelers to move faster than hearing the attendant announce final boarding call as you rub the sleep from your eyes and fumble for your shoes.
Some airports even have websites or apps that tell you exactly how far you are from your gate and how long it will take to walk there. Take advantage of these tools. Dynamic signage showing walking times between gates helps too. Let all this technology enable your laziest lounging located ideally right by your departure point.