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You are so exhausted. If your plane to New York doesn’t board in the next five minutes, you’re going to lay on the gate agent’s desk, take a savage nap and use the boarding passes for a pillow. Which might be fine except they just announced your plane is in Mongolia, the next flight is tomorrow at noon and the nearby hotels are booked.
You turn slowly to take in the massive, sterile, overly illuminated expanse of Terminal 5, your new bedroom.
I mean, there are so many questions. Where? How? Is comfort possible? Does the baggage carousel have a decent thread count? Should you crawl under the terminal chairs or mount the boarding gate desk? Will you fit in a bar booth?
Stay calm. Most airlines will accommodate you as best they can. As soon as it’s regrettably obvious that Flight BR-549 is gonna camp out in the terminal, the local aviation authority engages a decades-old Passenger Assistance Program. They send in cots, pillows and blankets so you can sleep, amenity kits so you can clean up, and coupons for whichever concessions may stay open to serve the stranded. They usually send increased security to the area where passengers are bivouacked too.
But that’s basic. You’re not basic. You’re an accomplished life hacker and you’re gonna be comfortable. Here are some pro tips and wild hacks for the next time you get stuck at Gate C-13.
If your layover is more than eight hours and it’s a solid, unbreakable stretch, then get out. Uber to an available hotel. If your team is with you, consider Airbnb. If you’re hip and cool, you might belong to a private club offering a room and services. However, a Motel 4 will work just fine and won’t break your budget.
If you fly a lot, you should join a club. Sure, it may be $500 a year or more but the perks are worth it. Club lounges have a reputation for luxury they fight hard to keep, and many offer day passes for under $60 — which beats hanging out in Hudson’s for 10 hours. If you’re stuck overnight, a club lounge’s comfy chairs are going to your back. And maybe your sanity.
This is critical and precarious work. Bringing your heirloom quilt, a down pillow, a sleep mask and your favorite box spring might be overdoing it. But you should bring something. Rebuild your travel kit to include emergency sleepy time amenities like an inflatable pillow and wipes. An astronaut blanket is not a bad idea — it fits easily into your kit and it works. Spare skivvies are smart. Might as well throw in a pair of spare socks. If you want to go pro, dry wash shampoo will make you feel fresher, though styling your hair in an airport is … another topic.
The lounges are stacked, you don’t have a travel pillow, your Kindle is dead, and you’re dressed in a client-meeting-worthy silk three-piece. There are no options. There are no cots. There is no out. You’re going to have to suck it up and face just how bad this is going to blow.
When that happens, these are the barest-boned accommodations for sleeping in an airport.
The next time you’re headed out, you might want to pick up some of these road warrior accouterments:
Have you ever had to sleep in an airport? Share your horror story in the comments below. Best one wins a copy of “The Full English,” a humorous travel memoir from yours truly.
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