To anyone who doesn’t do much flying, sleeping in airports may seem strange. But snoozing away between flights is a pretty common experience for globetrotters and frequent fliers. A nap can be the best way to spend a long layover that makes a usually pricey trip more affordable, catch up on some Z’s for those who can’t sleep on planes, or rest up while waiting for things to get sorted out when flights are canceled and passengers are stranded.

And while it may seem simple enough (everyone sleeps after all), there’s a certain skill set to sleeping in airports. How can you get comfortable? How do you protect your things while napping? How do you make sure you don’t miss your flight?! What can you do to actually feel well rested instead of like you pretty much just slept on a public bench? There are plenty of tips and tricks (and everyone has their own), but for anyone looking to get some shut-eye during a layover: here are the essential airport nap hacks to help you get some sleep.

Plan Ahead for Your Sleepy Time

If you know you’re going to nap on a layover — because say booking the lowest airfare to your destination means you have to spend 6 hours in between flights in the middle of the night — doing a little research on the airport where you’re going to be snoozing can make a ton of difference. Many international airports have accommodations just for sleeping. Some have hotels attached to terminals (so passengers won’t have to leave and go through security), like YotelAIR’s location in Terminal 2E of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport where guests can check in for very short stays; and other small “sleep pods” like the NapCabs found at the Berlin and Munich airports, which are automated enclosures for passengers to purchase time in. Finding out if you have one of these options ahead of time means you can make a reservation or just know where to head after you land, which will give you a better chance of beating the crowd and actually using either one to get some sleep. You can also Google the airport name with “where to sleep” and maybe find a posting online by another traveler, whose experience you can learn from.

Always Pack for Naps

Even if you don’t have a layover planned, it’s always a good idea to have what you need to sleep comfortably packed in your carry-on whenever you fly. Some people like to go all out in their “airport nap kit” and will include things like a sleeping bag and inflatable mattress or pool raft. You can do that, if you want, but all you really need to do to grab some shut-eye (even if you’re not planning on it) is…

  • An eye mask. Fly enough and you’ll either buy or receive a complimentary one. You may not think you need it, but once you’re under the ever-shining fluorescent lights of most airports…you’ll be glad you have it.
  • Earplugs or earphones/headphones. It’s not a bad idea to bring both, in case you don’t know if you want to doze off to silence or listen to something that will help you sleep.
  • Travel pillow and blanket OR a hoodie. There is every conceivable kind of travel pillow and blanket on the market, you just have to decide which one is best for you. If you find yourself without them, a hooded sweatshirt will make a good replacement for either one. It can keep you warm in the notoriously constant chill of airport AC.

Figure Out Your Options and Find a Spot

Once you find yourself in the middle of your layover, planned or unplanned, you need to know your sleeping options. Hopefully, you’ve done your research ahead of time, but if not (and we hate to state the obvious) you need to find a good napping nook. First stop, check out the seats. Is there a long row of empty benches you can spread out on? A big, smushy chair you can curl up in? Jump on that. If the airport you’re in only has those awful plastic bucket seats then you may want to see if there are any business traveler lounges. Typically reserved for the fancier folks, budget travelers can sometimes get in on this action too. Non-members can usually buy a single day pass and maybe even get a reduced rate if it’s late enough at night, and we guarantee you’ll have some cushy furniture to snuggle down on. If there’s no access to a lounge or you can’t afford it, you can ask an airport employee if they have cots available for overnight sleepers. Some do (especially if you’re a stranded passenger due to flight cancellations), so ask and you may receive!

It’s also smart to slip off to dreamland close to other sleeping travelers because there’s always safety in numbers. Another good spot to look for is one that’s close to where airport staff are stationed or routinely walk by.

Get Comfy and Secure Your Stuff

This one’s especially important if you’re traveling alone. Snuggle into that big chair you found, but keep your luggage close — it’s best to maintain contact with ALL of your belongings while sleeping in an airport. You don’t want to wake up to find your iPad’s been stolen, or worse, wake up to the TSA inspecting your abandoned, “suspicious” suitcase. If you have a bag, use it as a pillow, or wrap the straps around your arms or legs. If you’ve got something clunkier, like a suitcase, lay it under your feet with the zippers face-down against the floor.

RELATED: Love Your Layover: A Survival Guide on What to Do Between Flights

Don’t Lose Track of Time

It would really defeat the purpose of sleeping in the airport if you, you know, overslept and missed your flight. So make sure you set an alarm on your phone to wake you up when it’s time. Or, for a more fun and social alarm system, take a pad of Post-It notes, write, “Wake me up at…” whatever time you need to get up, and stick a whole bunch of them all over your body and luggage. People will wake you up. This legitimately works, and maybe you’ll make some new friends!

Treat Yourself to a Post-Sleep Cleanup

Make sure that when you wake up, you have time to freshen up before your flight. You can do the very basics, like wash your face and brush your teeth in the bathroom, OR, if the airport has the facility — take a quick shower. You can usually find them at hotels or business traveler lounges, but with with the rise in popularity of gyms at airports you also have the option of paying for a quick workout…just to use their showers.

Think of It as an Adventure!

Okay, maybe spending the night in an airport overnight is pretty lame. But if you embrace your inner nomad and see it as an adventure, it can be fun! You don’t need fancy sheets and posh hotel rooms — you just need yourself and your bag, as you head out into the great unknown. Trust us, with the right attitude — you can embrace anything you encounter on your travels.

What nap hacks work for you when you’re sleeping in airports? Tells us about them in the comments!

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