My Guides to Sleeping in Airports

I have had the privilege of posting several items on the Budget’s Traveler’s Guide to Sleeping in Airports. Here are my postings:

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Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport

August 2003 – I arrived at Sea-Tac last night with a printout from this webpage under my arm. I was hoping to share the previous writer’s relatively pleasant experience in the International Terminal.

There was just one problem. I could not get to the International Terminal. I think if you are passing through the airport and you are already behind the security gates, and you then decide to sleep there, you’re golden. You can shlep around to whatever terminal you like, using the airport’s interior transportation system. But if you’re coming in from the street, originating in Seattle, you have to have a boarding pass to pass Go and collect bench seating without armrests. I did not have a boarding pass; and since United does not provide them until four hours before the flight (9 AM!), my options were limited. I had to sleep in the main terminal. Armrests!

The only place that was halfway tolerable, lightwise and noisewise, was the baggage claim level. I crashed there, in an armrest seat, for maybe an hour. I awoke, brain-dead and beat. Enough of that. It was floor time!

Floorsleeping does not have to be a bad thing. The main terminal has a nice, dirty carpet. But it is drafty. Seattle is a dank, miserable place. And the basement floor is just thin carpet on concrete. Lots of heat loss there.

So even with thermal underwear, I froze. I’d have been fine with camping gear, but since hostels don’t like sleeping bags, I left mine home. So I was pulling shirts out of my backpack and draping them over myself, pretending they were blankets. They really aren’t.

The other thing is, I have a broken rib that allows me to sleep only in certain positions. So I exhausted those positions, or should I say they exhausted me. Eventually I got up and tried my last option, short of the luggage conveyor belt. This option involved using these bench-style seats they have there. They are more like extended footstools. They have no arms or backs, and the seats don’t slope like normal airport chair seats do.

Only problem: each seat sags. Each seat is its own bucket. So as you drape yourself across multiple buckets, you have a four-inch bump behind your knees, and if you scrunch yourself right, you have another one in the small of your back, and another at your neck, and in this way you can sleep. Suffice it to say that I awoke at 4 AM and, still lying there covered in shirts, I reached over, pulled my camera out of my bag, and did a self-portrait. I was laughing, probably from delirium. I have no idea how the photo will come out. But if it comes out well, I will provide it as a visual guide to sleeping at Sea-Tac.

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Providence, Rhode Island

(March 1998) A new airport. For several hours in the evening, I had to sack out in the chairs with non-moving armrests, propping myself against pillars to try to sleep. Then, at midnight, the cops came through and rousted the people who didn’t have tickets for AM flights. I showed the cop my ticket & he said, “OK, make yourself at home. The vending machines are downstairs, restrooms are over there — have a good night!” There was some noise, but tolerable, from the carpet cleaners & other maintenance people. All in all, not a bad night’s rest.

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Palm Springs Railway Station (California)


(March 1998) There is no building at this station. You are in the desert, alone, a half-mile from a restaurant, ten miles north of downtown Palm Springs. If you are a backpacker and you know how to keep yourself away from the rattlesnakes, it is an excellent place to sleep in mid-March. When I arrived at 2 AM on the Amtrak, there was clear starry sky and a beautiful, mild breeze. I stretched out my sleeping bag behind a bush and awoke to a beautiful dawn, then cleaned up & breakfasted at the Denny’s.

(Note: this item was previously posted in another blog.)

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