If you travel a lot, you’ve no doubt found yourself sleeping overnight at an airport, whether you wanted to or not. I know I have more than once. Delayed and canceled flights, missed connections, and arriving at cities with no hotel vacancies are all reasons a girl might find herself camping out at the airport. However, I never thought people spent the night at an airport on purpose.  At least until I recently found the Web site, “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports.” This well-written site makes an outlandish idea seem, well, almost plausible. The site, which has been around for 15 years, has more than 7500 reviews of airports and rates them on things like security, on-site services, cleanliness and number of quiet hallways where you can sleep. They also offer tips on dressing and packing if you’re planning on spending the night at the airport.

Does sleeping in airports really make sense? Here’s a look at the pros and cons.

Pros of Sleeping in Airports

  • It’s free.  Enough said.
  • Convenient transportation. Many airports, such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland have mass transit trains that connect the airport with downtown–usually for less that $5 one way.
  • Amenities. Big airports have amenities that rival luxury hotels. There are multiple restaurants and shopping arcades at most airports. Some even have fitness rooms, salons and spa services.
  • No travel time to the airport. You don’t have to waste time traveling to and from the airport. You’re already there.

Cons of Sleeping in Airports

  • Comfort. Some airport chairs and benches are more comfortable than others. Some–especially those with the rigid plastic arm rests–are impossible to sleep across.
  • Security. Although airports have security, sleeping in a public place has its risks. DO NOT do this if you are traveling with children. In addition, you’ll either have to put your luggage in a locker or carry it with you wherever you go. You don’t want to come back from the ladies room to find the bomb squad circling your suitcase.
  • Not all airports are open 24 hours. Some smaller airports close for the night after the last flight arrives. It pays to do your homework to make sure that you don’t have to vacate the building at 2 a.m.

What do you think? Would you ever consider sleeping in an airport to save money?

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25 thoughts on “Saving Money by Sleeping in Airports”

  1. Felicia says:

    I have slept in airports around the world and if you are aware of security threats and your personal surrondings it isn’t bad. I will sleep in any US, Japanese or Korean airport. As a single military mom I had to fly my children back and forth from Okianwa to Oregon, to the east coast. I’m not only a pro at traveling with kids, I know airports like the people who work there. I sleep on the planes (my kids are amazing so I can do this without feeling bad for people sitting near us) and the kids sleep during long lay overs so I can watch them. When we are stranded at airports we’ll stop by the USO if they have it, or we will find an empty area of the airport. Most of the time there are certian consoles that are not used often, especially at the Portland OR airport. We’ll find that area and I’ll lay out the kids sleeping bags while I charge my cell and the DVD players. I ALWAYS set the alarm on my phone for an hour prior to the departure time in case I fall asleep. When you travel with kids it’s such a pain in the ass to get your luggage, get a taxi, get to a hotel, just to leave a few hours later to go back through security. I prefer to hang out, watch DVD’s, read books, and explore the airport. A lot of people want to pack for all the “just in case” things, but I think it’s over kill. My daughter had hit her 100th flight at 5 years old, so I know exactly what to pack and how to pack it. the kids have a carry on that they must carry the entire trip so the bags are light, and I put their 2 small sleeping bags in a carry on with a change of clothes for myself. I always wear layered outfits when traveling because most airports and planes are chilly. I pack light snacks and our filtered water bottles (why pay for water when its free froma foutain?), but I do hit the coffee stands and we eat at the airport, because part of having that smooth trip when traveling with kids means going light, but being effcient. I never even traveled with a stroller when both kids were in diapers because it is extra work. Also, I never bring their car seats, If we are headed home my parents have old car seats they use. If we are heading to a new base I will ask my sponsor if anyone would let me borrow a car seat for that drive, and then you avoid having to pay extra baggage fees.

  2. rachiti says:

    As long as someone can be awake and alert everyone if there is any problems, this has potential. If you were alone though, would you really risk it?

  3. rachiti says:

    Safety is a concern here. Not just for your belongings but also for yourself. There have been cases of assault and attempted rape on women who were stranded overnight in airports. I have done it a couple of times four or five years ago. I didn’t have a choice because weather meant all hotels were booked. I slept sitting up in a chair with my laptop behind my back and my keys under my butt. If anyone wanted either they’d have to move me to get to them. If you’re traveling with someone and you take turns sleeping…that’s one thing…sleeping alone in an airport risks your personal safety.

  4. Lindsey Ellers says:

    I’m not sure why there are so many people commenting on this in such a negative way; this is forsaking a little bit of comfort for a HUGE amount of savings. I’ve slept in bajillions (literally so many I can’t count) of airports and I can honestly say that I’ve saved SOOOOO much money. I always get discount tickets/use buddy passes to get to and from my destinations, so what is the point of using my hard-earned vacation money to spend on a hotel on the way over when I could be using that money to see the sites, rent a car, whatever? Sometimes those hotels cost as much as your plane ticket/buddy pass did (depending). And really, sometimes the airport is LEGITIMATELY a safer place than some of those motels/hotels. Yes, you have to drag your luggage everywhere; might not be able to take a shower for a night; might get woken up by airline announcements; might have to sleep on the floor.. but you prepare for things like that beforehand (i.e. using SAMPLES we get for free all the time!) and you keep that hotel/transfers money in your pocket as well as earn yourself potentially a few more hours of sleep. That, and you can stick a sign on yourself saying “wake me up at 5am if I am still sleeping” and you will never miss a flight due to sleeping in. :) This is an AWESOME way to save money while traveling; don’t knock it till you’ve really tried it! You might be surprised.

    • rachiti says:

      I have tried it. There’s no way I’d ever get a decent night’s sleep in an airport because the safety factor means I’m an ultralight sleeper in those situations. Be very glad you’ve been lucky enough not to be robbed or assaulted. All it takes is one bad experience to undo all that money you saved along the way.

  5. Dena says:

    A couple of years ago my son got stuck overnight in the Las Vegas Airport during a snow storm while on his way to Salt Lake City. They had a 24 hr Fitness place in the airport. After speaking to the Fitness clerk she let him sleep on some yoga pads after he bought a day pass and was able to shower before catching his flight the next morning. He was the only one who thought of this. The rest of the stranded passengers either slept in chairs or on the floor.

  6. jennifer says:

    Not unless I was stranded and had to. Sounds miserable.

  7. real_webgirl says:

    I have done this many a time, but then again I am a poor college student. Airports in Britain, Ireland, Norway, Poland, and Ukraine have all treated me well! It is a great way to meet new people and save a night or two worth of hotel costs. I have always found a nice padded booth and fallen right asleep.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I did it a few times. Once in Hong Kong, I chose the late flight and just slept in the airport to save money. Two other times were in Melbourne, and Cairns Australia, because we had early flight. It was pretty cold in Melbourne at that time, I ended up sleeping inside the bathroom instead, because it was much warmer. lol

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wasnt’ there a movie about this with Tom Nanks? “The Terminal” was about a guy who had to stay at the airport because he couldn’t clear customs. I didn’t even think you could/would do it for real.

  10. I have done this quite a few times. Even with my kids in tow. Flights to and from Alaska are usually red-eye if you’re going/coming in from out of state. If you are military or mil dependent, check and see if the airport has a USO. Had to use the USO in Baltimore once and they had this sound proof room that had sleeping chairs and were quite comfy.

  11. I got stranded in Chicago with my 3 kids and about a million other people. They had shut down all the stores byt the time we got there because in coming flight was really late. They gave us all cots…. I took one for each kid and then sat on the edge of the cot with the shortest kid! My son gave his cot to a lady with 3 little kids-they had run out of cots and she only had one. It was really bad.

  12. stitchmeprimitives says:

    It’s horrible! You feel awful your whole trip. We had to because of the weather once and I hope to never do it again!

  13. I have definetely done this

  14. NaDell Ransom says:

    We had to drive to an airport nearly 3 hours away when my husband and I went on a trip several years ago and our plane left at 5am, so instead of leaving our house at 2am, we drove there at 11pm and slept/read my whole book there. There was nothing going on there except the cleaning people. Ours was the first flight out the next morning.

  15. kate shchyelkunova says:

    I’ve had to stay at an airport overnight a few times. Many large, International airports are equiped with shower rooms and it is super nice. A lot of them are quite safe, but then again, I ran into an instance of walking through an empty airport stretch at night one time, and I had a guy touch himself as he was walking behind me, and no one around me to ask for help.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This sounds awful now. Many years ago when I was more young and more reckless though (similar to Natasha above)…. GAME ON!

  17. When I was travelling round the world (pre 9/11) I used to get stuck at airports a lot overnight and some serious fun can be have if your young and recklesss. Being in the international transit lounge is a little safer since you have already passed through customs.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Believe it or not, some airports have “rooms” that you can rent by the hour, complete with a desk and Internet connection. Not sure about the shower part, because I’ve never stayed in one. I don’t know how much it is… but I think it’s a great business idea!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I slept in an airport once and my hat accidentally fell on the floor. When I woke up, it was filled with coins and dollar bills…LOL

  20. Anonymous says:

    I have done it many time living in Alaska where I had to overnight to ge the next available flight to my destination so getting a room for a few hours at thier prices was just crazy but now that I am much, much older it would be harder to do.

  21. Andrea Melton says:

    I can see sleeping in an airport for 1 night. Like if you are arriving late at night and then have a meeting or something that is only going to keep you in town and then you have to leave the next day. But staying at an airport for more than 1 night, using it like a hotel? I can’t even imagine that. I mean, what, do you take a “shower” using the sinks in the bathroom? Sounds too much like homelessness to me (but then again, so does camping.)

  22. Bethany G says:

    Some airports open up their doors to the homeless so that adds just an extra measure of security concerns.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Don’t sleep in airports unless you have no other choice. If you get stranded, the airlines will give you a phone number of an agency that will usually be able to get you a room for the night at a fairly reasonable rate. It’s worth it!