Airport Survival Guide

Airport Survival Guide

Nobody plans their trip to include a long stay in an airport if there is any way to get around it, but common occurrences such as flight delays, overbooking, flying standby, and long lay-over are only some of the events that can lead you to have to spend more than just handful of hours waiting around.  In fact, you may even need to sleep there.  It may not be your dream travel situation, but there are a few easy ways for you to make the best of it.  The important thing is to know what you’re doing, what your options are, and how to keep yourself both safe and comfortable. 

Use the following tips to minimize the frustration, discomfort, and risk of an extended stay at the airport.


Be Prepared!

A flight delay or cancellation.  This is especially true if there have been reports of possible upcoming events such as hurricanes or snowstorms that will give you no choice but to hang around the airport for much longer than your original itinerary predicted.  Have a backup plan in mind and bring a few extra items with you as your survival kit for the airport.


Build a Survival Kit!

For comfort during a long stay in an airport, a good survival kit can make the difference between a tolerable experience and sheer misery.  Pack the following items as a part of your survival kit, to make the time pass quickly and comfortably – especially if you’re stuck there during the hours that many airport shops and dining facilities have closed for the night:


  • Magazines or books
  • A journal or notebook in which to write or draw (don’t forget a pen)
  • Snacks and bottled water
  • MP3 player (with a fully charged battery, loaded with the music or audio books you want to hear) and headphones.  Always tuck your MP3 player inside your clothing if you might fall asleep, so that it won’t be stolen.  Airport thieves are highly skilled.
  • Sleep mask
  • Ear plugs
  • An alarm clock
  • Antibacterial gel or disinfectant wipes
  • Tissues
  • A sweater (even in hot locations, air conditioning and overtiredness can bring on a chill – plus it can make a great pillow)


Practice Airport Safety

Whether you’re traveling alone or with others, practicing effective airport security is important to keeping yourself and your belongings safe.  If you know that you’ll be spending a very long time at the airport – such as an overnight – then start your stay by getting to know where the security office is located.  As you choose your place to sleep, try to make it either within sight of the office, or in a place where the video cameras are aimed.  You may also choose to speak directly with someone at the security office to obtain their advice about the best spot to sleep.  Though you may feel inclined to avoid other travelers when you’d just like to relax quietly or sleep, for safety reasons it’s a good idea to stay near other people.  Thieves will be less likely to bother you if someone else might spot them. A little bit of common sense is all you need for a safe stay.


Find the Best Spot

Keeping the safest areas in mind, your next goal is to find the best spot to relax or sleep.  This shouldn’t be left until the last minute.  As soon as you find out that you’ll be spending a long while in the airport, it’s time to begin your search.  This is especially important if it looks like many other people will also be spending the night there.  The best places fill up quickly, so it’s important to act fast. Some points to keep in mind are the temperature, seating comfort, amount of people traffic moving about, and whether or not you can hear the announcements being made (while this is a feature if you’re waiting to hear news about your flight, it can be a serious drawback if you’re trying to rest quietly). Though you may feel as though the floor might provide the best option for spreading out, first ask security if it is permitted.  Many airports don’t allow sleeping on the floor. The security desk may also know where the most comfortable places are, not just the safest ones.  Just be sure to ask nicely.


Dress Properly

No matter where you’re flying to or from, dress with the possibility of an extended time at the airport in mind.  This means that you should wear comfortable clothing and you should dress in layers.  This way, whether the airport is sweltering or freezing, you’ll be able to adjust your clothing accordingly.  Moreover, an extra cardigan or sweatshirt can double as a pillow or a seat cushion when you’re not wearing it. 


Be Courteous to Other Travelers

Remember that other travelers are in the same situation as you are and everybody just wants to be comfortable.  Not everyone will be as prepared as you are, so a little bit of common courtesy can go a long way to keep the peace.  Make a special effort to keep things quiet and not disturb people who are trying to rest or simply relax quietly.  Try to avoid whistling or singing to yourself, talking to yourself, crashing around, or rattling loud packages.  You will also want to keep deodorant with you, too.  This way, you can do your fellow travelers an important favor and reapply when necessary.


Inquire About Airport Lounges

Though many airport lounges are meant exclusively for first class and business class travelers, some offer access for a small fee even if you have an economy ticket.  This fee will provide you with much more comfortable seating, buffet-style meals, non-alcoholic beverages, showers, and wifi.  Though you won’t be able to stay overnight, as most close during those hours, they can provide a meal, tremendous comfort and relief during their open hours for a much lower fee than a hotel.


Inquire About Cots and Comforts

Some airports keep cots available for travelers when they are stranded.  They may also offer vouchers for food or discounts in the airport, blankets, pillows, and travel-sized toiletries.  These are often only available to travelers who inquire about them, so be sure to ask if any of these options are available.


Knowing how to survive a long airport stay and being prepared is the best thing that you can do to make your travel safe and comfortable.  The next time you head out for a flight, keep this information and your survival kit ready.