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How to Use Airports Like Free Hotels /// VINJABONDAirports can be used as temporary places to sleep, chill and “live” as if they were hotels, legally, comfortably and for free… This is how.

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I’ve never missed a flight. And I don’t see any reason in cutting it close because airports are pleasurable for me:

You can go to the restaurant, get a massage, browse books, sit at a bar, check emails.

Geoffrey Zakarian
American Iron Chef

In a perfect world, there would be no flight delays but there would be seamless transfer connections. However, that’s not the case so that makes most international airports ideal as a sort of “home away from home”.

In essence, all relatively busy international airports are designed to be able to provide almost all the necessities and many luxuries that most people expect and require.

Things like food, clothing, toiletries, shopping, internet, entertainment, sleeping space and even security.

They’re basically shopping malls with hotel features.

Throughout my 5 years of continuous vagabonding around the world and flying on over 420 (all-time) flights, these are the ways I’ve used airports like free hotels:


Airport Living Mentality /// VINJABOND


Preparation

In most cases, there is nothing wrong with sleeping at airports and staying over 48 hours. So don’t worry about being kick out or getting into trouble. Most major airports are essentially built for this. So the first prep is mentality, don’t worry about it.

If you know you’ll be at an airport for long hours, check your large luggage before arriving so you won’t have to lug it around. But have at least a small go-bag packed with just what you need. Also, bring a light jacket or sweater as airports get cold, especially during the red eye hours.

If possible, plan your arrival to coincide with the normal sleeping time of your new country’s time zone to better ease out of jet-lag, there are homeopathic pills that always work for me.


Airport Seating /// VINJABOND


Location

The public terminal area is divided in to 2 parts: the check-in area (where the airline booths are) and the gates area (where only passengers are allowed after security screening). Typically, only the largest airports are good to “use as hotels” for both areas.

If you’re arriving and intend to stay in the country but don’t want to stay at a hotel for that night (to save on accommodations) or you have a very long layover but don’t want to leave the airport, then you will want to stay in the gates area.

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Unless it’s a holiday season, there should always be a good selection of “living space” available. Of course, the larger the airport the better the selection. Just explore and find your perfect seating area. Keep in mind about bright lighting, air conditioner power, foot traffic and Wi-Fi strength.


Sleeping at an Airport /// VINJABOND


Sleep

So again, it’s perfectly fine to sleep at airports, especially international ones. So sleep or lounge with comfort in knowing that. This will become even more apparent when the airport slows down at night with people sleeping everywhere.

Major airports have extensive varieties of types of seats to couches to benches, for the public and for free. So you’ll having your picking of sleep spots.

Once you find your own little area, you can put down your bags, take off your shoes and just chill.



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Food and Water at Airports /// VINJABOND


Food and Water

Even the smallest of airports will have restaurants and food shops. The larger ones will have popular chains to even semi-fine dining as well. So sustenance will not be a problem.

Most airports have water fountains free for use, usually found right outside bathrooms. But oddly, some major ones don’t have them and you may need to buy water. If you’re going to be at the airport for an extended time and don’t have a reusable water bottle, buy a drink from the shop and keep refilling the bottle.

Restaurants aren’t always open 24 hours however. But shops like 7-Eleven should be open at all times, so you may not be able to have a great meal at any hour of the night but you won’t starve either.


Baggage Security at Airport /// VINJABOND


Baggage Security

Once you’re in the gates area after passing security, there is almost no chance of baggage theft. Because everyone in there are sort of accredited to be there. And petty crime such as theft hardly exists. However I still like to keep my “hand luggage” safe.

When I plan on staying at an airport overnight, I like to have at least a go-bag but sometimes I also have my main backpack. When sleeping, I simply latch my pack on to my body with a sling.

This is fine for a single bag but there is a better way if you’re traveling with multiple bags:

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Like I said, it’s highly unlikely that another passenger would steal your bag but this gives you a little peace of mind to help you sleep better.

And as you’ll hear in most airports over the loudspeaker on repeat, “don’t leave your belongings unattended”. Not so much because of theft but because of airport security regulations.


Airport Charging Station /// VINJABOND


Wi-Fi and Charging

As a digital nomad, a good internet connection and power source is vital to my lively hood, but it’s still important to everyone else with a smartphone or laptop, especially at hotels with lots of downtime, or in this case, the airport.

Evey where you go, there are Wi-Fi sources abound at airports, but most are inaccessible. If you’re lucky, your airport will have public Wi-Fi hubs in busy seating areas. The password is usually on the hub itself. If not, there is often Wi-Fi that needs registration for access, some you just need an email address, but others require you to have a local mobile number.

If all else fails, try this tried-and-true method:

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Charging however is rarely a problem. Generally speaking, if there’s an open power outlet, you can use it, as long as you’re in a public area. But now chairs with built-in charging stations and standalone hubs are popping up everywhere at airports.


Exploring an Airport /// VINJABOND


Exercise and Explore

I love massive airports. I love exploring them, just randomly walking around, especially during after hours when it seems almost deserted. It’s also good on the body and helps you rest after a nice long walk.

Some airports are beautiful, full of amazing architecture, art displays and shops through endless corridors and expanses.

Sometimes this is the only way I can fall asleep at airports. It’s almost like returning to your hotel after a day of sightseeing around the city.



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9 Hours Capsule Hotel in Narita Airport /// VINJABOND


Capsules

Also known as pods and sleepboxes, these are PAID accommodations and are like luxury hostels. As the name suggests, they are tiny sleeping containers, not rooms.

The convenience of these over hotels is that they are inside the airport, whereas you would have to leave the terminal, take a taxi and often venture far to get to it.

Also, you can shower!

I only use these when I seriously need a good night’s sleep or if I’m sick.


Running Through The Airport /// VINJABOND


Punctuality

“Checking out” is not so much of an issue if you plan on staying in your arrival country, but if you have an outbound flight, be prepared.

In search of your little “living space” inside the massive airport may have taken you far from your gate so keep that in mind when it nears boarding time.

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The last thing you want is to wake up in an unfamiliar setting and having to run to your gate.


Instead of thinking you’re stuck at the airport, make yourself at home, or at least like a free hotel.




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[The featured photo was taken at Denpasar Airport in Bali, Indonesia and photographed with a Hitcase equipped iPhone. ]

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5 COMMENTS ///

  1. Row Reathrow

    loving this idea. could be useful to save on hotels in-between long trips… brilliant… will there be a part 2? also, whats the longest you’ve stayed at an airport?

  2. Phillip

    13 hours longest for me, at Dubai. Long layovers mean you may be fed for free by the airport, check it out. Showers in Heathrow are only one pound, very cheap for the relaxation, comfort, and hygiene. I carry small, worn hand towel to leave behind, so as not to carry damp in carry on bag. On flight to ME from USA, a shower at halfway point is like a good night’s sleep.


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