Thursday, August 9, 2012

How To Spend the Night in an Airport (Ugh!)

Last week, I spent the night in the Detroit airport.  This was something I had never done before.  While I could have gotten a hotel room, I just didn't feel like spending $180 for only 6 hours in a bed (though, later, I realized I maybe should have spent that for a shower...).  My severely delayed flight got into Detroit just before midnight, and my rescheduled connection flight the next morning was headed out at 8 AM, so I decided to hunker down and wait it out.  Here's what I discovered:

1.  You just have to stay calm, because there's no use doing anything else.  Sure, my gut reaction in really undesirable situations like this is tears, but sometimes, things happen beyond our control.  Crying or getting angry doesn't help.  It is what it is.  So you better hurry and find a chair before they all get taken.

2.  Speaking of chairs:  Your first task is to scope out your surroundings as quickly as possible.  In the entire rest of the airport, there were just the long rows of chairs with armrests in between all of them - impossible to lay down and sleep in.  However, there was also the above group of lounge chairs that were big enough to curl up in and soft.  And, as you can see, they filled up fast!  Your mission is to find the most comfortable chairs in the airport as fast as possible, before everyone else finds them too.

2a.  But also, just for safety's sake, try to make sure your "bed" for the night is near other people.  Not to be paranoid, but the last thing I would want is for someone to try to get me in the airport when I'm far, far away from all other forms of life!  Also, hang on to your purse while you sleep!

3.  Always carry snacks.  The last time I had eaten was a sandwich at 4 PM, and by the time we landed at midnight, all the food places in the whole airport were closed.  STARVING.  Always keep a bag of Skittles or something handy, just in case the worst happens.  And then if it doesn't, you have a treat!

4.  I usually take a sweater, socks, and a scarf with me on all flights no matter what, but this time, I had never been so thankful to have my carry on luggage as well, because it was COLD in that airport.  Since I was traveling in the summertime, I didn't have that many layers I could even put on, but I ended up putting on 3 t-shirts, both cardigans I had, my socks, and a dress to keep warm, plus a bunch of other tops that I used for my makeshift pillow.  Boho chic.

5.  The airport comes back to life around 5 AM.  So, sleep the best you can, but when 5 o'clock rolls around, just go ahead and get up.  Go the bathroom and freshen up the best you can (I changed clothes, brushed my teeth, and rinsed my face), find your next gate, and get some food in you!  A bagel with cream cheese had never tasted so sweet as the one I got at 5:30 AM from Einstein Bros. Bagels.

As a person who is historically prone to panic in situations in which I feel uncomfortable, I was pretty proud of myself for dealing with my night in the airport with a good bit of sensibility, and I survived just fine.

Not that I ever want to do it again.

What's the worst travel situation you've dealt with?


  1. I had to the stay the night in the Brisbane airport when in Australia. WORST! They kept delaying the flight and then cancelled it all together due to technical difficulties. AND! They didn't have another flight leaving from there the next day either. So I had to buy another ticket just to get back! All alone, I was freaking out inside, but trying to be all adultish on the outside. Very similar to your situation, except the sleeping was slim to none! I snagged a little bench that barely fit one of my butt cheeks on it. Like you too, no food(!), no money, no smart phone, ipod was dying. I was freaking the heck out. Words couldn't describe my happiness to get outta there! So glad you survived and home safe!

    Overnight stays in the airport are once in a life time experiences that I never want to do again, haha.

  2. Surprisingly, all of the times that I have had crazy standby flying experiences, I have never spent the night in an airport. But every time I fly standby (or DELTA) I always go into it thinking I'm getting stuck at the airport and pack in my carryon accordingly.

    I'm proud of you too! You're growing up, no tears!

  3. I feel bad for you, but these are such helpful tips and you managed it very well :) Most importantly about snacks and clothes. I mean even if its summers its really cold on airports, train stations at mid-night. Happy weekend :) xx

    Sneak peek into my life

  4. That does not sound like fun. The only "bad" travel experience I've had is when I was going to Germany for a mission trip, and our original flight from OKC was so delayed that we ended up missing our connecting flight in Denver. Because there were 49 of us, the company we were doing the mission trip with actually ended up paying for us to get a hotel room in Denver. We are forever known as the "Denver 49ers" :)