Traveling by air is one of the fastest and most convenient ways to go…unless you hit a snag that leaves you stranded in an unfamiliar city. Missed connections, overbooked flights, bad weather, and problems with reservations can all lead to unexpected (and sometimes extended) stays at the airport. If you’re caught during the busy daytime or evening hours of the airport, you can kill time by grabbing a bite to eat or checking out the many convenient shops. However, if you’re stranded at the airport overnight, your choices are a bit more limited.
Most of the time, if a passenger is stranded in a strange city overnight and the airline is at fault, the airline will provide a hotel room close to the airport. Sometimes, though, there simply aren’t enough hotel rooms to go around or the airline isn’t prepared to make such an offer. Other incidents may be the passenger’s fault and not the airline’s (such as when a passenger misses their flight and every other flight is booked). In this instance, the airline will not provide a hotel, although they will likely provide directions or recommendations for one nearby.
Many people in this situation choose to stay in a hotel room, even if they’re paying out of pocket. However, if you get to the airport late and your flight is leaving early, you may not want to spend a lot of money for a hotel room that you’ll only be enjoying for a few hours. In that case, you’re going to find yourself hunkering down for a long night at the airport. Here are some things you need to know:
(1) Airports are not necessarily open all night. Although most airports allow you to stay in some areas of the building, such as the baggage claim area, most close down the terminals so that they can be cleaned and security can do a sweep. Unfortunately, the terminals are usually much more comfortable than the baggage claim area, so it’s a good idea to stay in the terminals for as long as you can (without actively defying airport security, of course).
(2) Food won’t be available overnight at most airports so if you’re lucky enough to get to the airport while the shops are still open, grab a bite to eat and a drink if you need it. Even if you’re not hungry, you might want to grab a snack for later. Getting the munchies at 3AM is no fun at all if you’re stuck at the airport.
(3) Sleep isn’t likely. Although you may be exhausted, it’s pretty hard to get good sleep if you’re staying at the airport overnight. Even if you’re lucky enough to find a bench or a group of comfortable chairs, you’re likely to be bothered by security occasionally or interrupted by cleaning crews and other stranded travelers. It may also be difficult to sleep if you’re worried about someone getting into your luggage and, in some areas, your worries probably aren’t unfounded. Even if you can’t sleep, it’s a good idea to relax as much as possible. Your body will still feel more rested in the morning if you can zone out a bit than if you try to work through the night or do laps around the empty terminal.