Stranded? 10 Tips for spending a (somewhat) comfortable night in the airport

Aaron Laurich
Mon Feb 13 15:25:41 EST 2017

Your plane was delayed, and now you’ve missed your connection. It’s after midnight, and the next available flight doesn’t depart until dawn. A hotel room is out of the question. What do you do?

Aaron Laurich, a Global Rescue Security Operations Supervisor, is no stranger to spending a night in an airport as a paramedic and a former U.S. Army special operations combat medic who has operational experience planning and conducting complex rescues from austere and remote locations. Over the years he has developed some tried and true techniques to making an airport overnight a little more comfortable.

The ability to nab restful sleep on the go in places like airports and bus stations might make or break a trip when the unexpected happens. Before your next never-ending layover, here are a few tips and tricks you can keep in mind to survive a night in the airport.

  1. Lower your expectations. Aim for rest and relaxation instead of hoping for eight solid hours. Make your goal to just be as relaxed as you can be, and sleep will likely follow. If not, even the restful quiet time will help you recharge.
  2. Remember to stretch first – and last. Fellow travelers might raise an eyebrow as you do light yoga in the concourse, but you’ll start your rest feeling loose. Hours on a hard floor or seat will not be kind, so do some more stretching when you wake up, too.
  3. Pamper yourself with a few comfort items. We all have a bedtime ritual, and even in an alien environment you can stick to at least some of yours. Have your toothbrush and toothpaste handy, as well as a travel size bottle of your daily moisturizer or lotion. Keeping even some of your routine intact will give you some control over the situation, which is huge for your peace of mind as well as your ability to achieve meaningful rest.
  4. Carry a spare t-shirt, socks, and underwear with you. I like to keep a soft exercise shirt with me that I’ll change into if I get stuck sleeping somewhere. It’s as close to pajamas as I get and it’s an easy way to tell my brain that it’s bedtime.
  5. Prepare to keep warm. Whether I’m traveling to Patagonia or Dubai I carry a small pair of gloves and a light stocking cap in my pack. They come in handy during cold nighttime flights and are worth their weight in gold when the air conditioning has you shivering.
  6. Bring your ear plugs. Standard foam ear plugs will suffice, although silicone ones can be cleaned easier. You don’t need much protection – just enough to lower the volume of that overhead speaker. Bonus Tip: Carry two pairs; being neighborly is worth it during rough travels.
  7. The jack(et) of all trades. You will find a lightweight, insulated jacket in my luggage year-round. I can drape it over me like a blanket, and I usually opt for a hooded model – the hood helps block out harsh airport light. The large pockets are perfect for securing valuables on your person while you snooze, and you can stuff the jacket into its own sleeve for a crude pillow.
  8. Make your bed and lie in it. Some folks need more creature comforts than a minimal puffy jacket thrown over them. For this, consider a small air mattress, travel pillow, or a sleeping bag. If I’m going on a long trip with the likelihood of being in small regional airports, I will likely carry these along. This is especially relevant internationally.
  9. Traveling alone? Put your valuables in your pockets or in a purse or backpack slung across your shoulder. Pull other items as close as possible and if possible, route your arm or leg through a strap. It’s not as secure as keeping a waking eye on everything, but it will make you feel better, and hopefully help you relax.
  10. Traveling as part of a group? Establish a guard shift and create a roster – yes, even for a well-lit major airport. It might feel like overkill, but you’ll feel more comfortable knowing your items are safe. As a bonus, the ‘guard’ can keep tabs on any developments with your travel.

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