10 must-read tips for sleeping at airports

Generic pix of arrival immigration at Changi Airport Terminal 3, taken on Fri 27 May 2016.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Penny pinching is part and parcel of budget travel.

Booking that cheap flight, however, often means you'll have to spend many hours in transit at the airport.

Should you find yourself wanting to get adequate rest in that time without paying for a night at the hotel, read on for Skyscanner's 10 tips for sleeping at airports (and the top 5 airports to sleep at)!

1. Find a quiet waiting lounge

In a waiting lounge away from the crowds, chope a few seats and transform it into your makeshift bed!

In busier airports like Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport or the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, that's easier said than done, given their high passenger traffic.

Still, that doesn't mean you can't find a quiet spot to take a snooze.

The trick?

Check the departures screen to see which gates would soon be boarding.

Passengers may be waiting by that lounge once you get there, but once they're on their flight, you'll have the entire place to yourself!

2. Study the airport's floor plan

More often than not, airport arrival halls are designed to be more comfortable than departure halls - passengers at departure halls don't tend to spend much time before security checkpoints or boarding gates prior to leaving, but their loved ones who have come to pick them up may be required to wait at the airport in the event of flight delays.

Due to the difference in passenger flow around the airport, do study its floor plan in order to choose the most suitable location, if you're planning to spend your night there.

3. Watch your valuables

Because you're unaware of what goes on around you while you sleep, you don't want to be targeted by thieves!

Keep important items such as your passport, wallet, mobile phone and other valuables safe and close to you.

In fact, why not lock these items up inside a bag to use as a pillow?

Alternatively, place them zipped up inside a pocket of your jacket then cover yourself with a towel or sleeping bag to reduce your chances of being robbed.

Large pieces of luggage should be locked and placed below your calf (or on the cart with your hand still on the suitcase, so that you'll know when someone tries to move your belongings away).

4. Layer up to keep warm

The air conditioning at airports can get so cold you might as well be sleeping in a refrigerator.

This is particularly the case at major international airports.

If you wish to sleep comfortably without the risk of getting a cold, take a sleeping bag with you.

Don't have one?

Use your bath towel and coat as either a makeshift pillow or a blanket.

5. Prepare items that help you kill time

While smartphones are useful for passing the time with, they're pretty useless if you can't use them to get online once they've run out of juice.

So pack your iPod, tablets, novels and diaries, just in case.

Better yet, don't forget to take a fully charged power bank with you!

6. Foot massages and sleep

Spending a night at the airport isn't only limited to sleeping on its seats.

Some airports have facilities that run till late, where you can get some rest while having your feet massaged.

The Hong Kong International Airport has VIP rooms with similar facilities, so that you don't have to leave the airport to pamper yourself.

It costs S$80 (HKD 450) for three hours of massage and rest; S$26.70 (HKD 150) per hour thereafter.

7. Food and drinks

Food and drinks often cost more at the airport, yet there's not much of a variety you can choose from.

Since hunger and thirst are inevitable during long waits, pack along items that don't take up too much space - a bottle of mineral water, packaged fruit juice, biscuits and bread.

8. Set your alarm!

Missing your flight because you overslept is among the most distressing and unforgettable travel experiences ever.

We don't want this to happen to you, so please remember to set your alarm!

9. Cleaning and hygiene products

Remember to prepare your toothbrush, toothpaste, face towel and other cleansing items to freshen yourself up before checking into your flight.

Disinfecting wet wipes are very useful - use them to wipe down seats you'll be sleeping on.

You'll be glad you'd brought them along, especially at an airport that charges you for toilet paper!

10. Learn how to deal with bribes

You probably wouldn't be faced with this at the airports of global cities, but don't be surprised if you do in lesser-developed places.

It's possible to meet someone who asks you for bribes when passing through metal detectors or while in the restrooms.

The best way to handle this is to start speaking in a foreign language immediately.

Even if you know the other party is only after your money, try your best to stay calm, positive and look bewildered.

If that person stretches out his or her hand to ask for money, grab it and shake it with a smile.

Your shocking naiveté and utter fearlessness might buy you time, unless a gun or some other weapon is being pointed at you.

When your plan doesn't work, you'll just have to pay up those damned "fees", so remember to set aside some hard cash with you at all times.

Top 5 airports to sleep at

1. Singapore Changi Airport

We're proud of the fact that Changi Airport has picked up the award for World's Best Airport numerous times.

With its comfy seats, free wifi, swimming pool, jacuzzi, 24-hour spa and massage facilities, it's not hard to see why.

The best thing about Changi for us, however, is situated at the basement of Terminal One and the third storey of Terminal Two.

If you haven't already heard, Changi's staff canteens offer a wide selection of delicious local cuisine at bargain prices.

They're open to the public, which makes it a convenient stop for us to load up on those well-loved dishes that we'll miss while we're away.

This also means that travellers who have a layover at Changi can go on a Singaporean foodie adventure without having to leave the airport!

2. Seoul Incheon International Airport

You can walk into the spa at Incheon Airport at any time and enjoy quality spring water at affordable prices.

With facilities such as a hot bath, cold bath, sauna and steam room, the spa is an excellent stop for weary travellers to ease that post-flight fatigue.

Incheon airport also provides lounges that are open 24/7 for passengers to rest, if they have a long layover.

You can either choose to shell out S$17.50 (15,000₩) per night on a private room, or S$1.20 (1,000₩) per night in the common lounge.

The airport, in general, is clean and orderly, with free wifi and 24 hour F&B outlets.

Can't sleep?

Go online and surf the web on one of the airport's laptops!

3. Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport has been lauded by a global travel magazine for having one of the world's best arrival lounges - in terms of its comfort, space and private shower facilities.

You'll never be bored or hungry at this airport, thanks to its 24-hour eateries and suite of entertainment options including Asia's largest 4D cinema and a nine-hole golf course.

At 1980 square feet, the Cathay Pacific lounge situated between Terminals One and Two is roomy, and boasts of a small library and eight elegantly designed private bathrooms that passengers can reserve ahead to use.

4. Helsinki Airport

Many travellers who have slept the night at airports share the torturous experience of having to put up with hard chairs, noisy groups, and the need to hold on tightly to one's luggage while sleeping.

If you're going to be spending the night at Finland's Helsinki Airport, however, don't worry - you'll more or less be assured of sleep.

This airport is the first in Europe to bring in GoSleep sleeping pods, which might remind you of sleep capsules more typically seen in sci-fi movies, due to their black-and-white shells.

Unfortunately, this service would set you back by S$13.85 (9€) per hour, which, when you come to think about it, could add up to cost as much as a full night's hotel stay.

Still, travellers battling jet lag and poor sleep during flights would welcome GoSleep as it ensures them proper rest.

A real treat for the jetsetter!

5. Munich Airport

Germany's Munich airport feels like a small city on its own.

You wouldn't feel like you've been waiting in transit for ages when there's a mini golf course, spa, gaming arcade, beer garden and even a casino to keep you entertained.

Need a break?

The airport provides armchairs and reclining chairs that passengers may use for free in its peaceful lounge.

Close to its lounge are even prepaid rooms for travellers who desire more privacy.