Winter is coming… and with it, vacation season. You have your time booked off from work to escape the frigid cold. The tickets are bought and the resort paid for, a dog-sitter to take care of Scruffy and a car to get you from your front door to your baggage check-in hassle-free, in time for dinner and duty-free.
That is, of course, until El Niño’s next winter storm has your plane grounded and you find yourself exhausted and stranded on a cold, cement floor. But don’t fret just yet. You can still get some shut eye and arrive at the beach looking as fresh as anyone else who has just crossed an entire continent. The Guide to Sleeping in Airports has you covered.
The website isn’t a new addition to the Internet – in fact, it’s been around for nearly twenty years – but it’s been a slow growing business. Owner Donna McSherry from Toronto uploaded her first posts in 1996, when she was first learning web design, and the site has been gaining momentum steadily ever since. “It was really just a joke in the beginning,” she explained to Yahoo Canada. On a 1994 trip through Europe, the travel agent had the typical budget-traveler experience of spending a night in several airports to save on hotel fees. When she got home and settled, she decided to share her experiences online.
After posting her initial reviews – Dublin, Frankfurt, and Geneva – McSherry started getting emails from readers about airports they had spent a night in themselves. “Those first reviews were really detailed,” she said. In 2007, she was finally so overwhelmed with submissions that she set up a database to keep track of everything. “Now we get a lot of people reviewing in the airports, with open WiFi, but the reviews are a lot shorter.”
Reviews became shorter, but much more copious. In 2014 McSherry was finally able to make Sleeping in Airports her full-time job. Every year she and her team run a massive survey of airports in the world. You can still vote for the 2016 survey and check out the results of the best and worst from last year.
Considering which airport to make a connecting flight in for your winter vacation and concerned about getting snowed in overnight? If you’re looking to stay relatively local, there’s only one option. In 2015, Vancouver ranked the eighth best airport in the world, so unless you’re heading to Asia or Europe for your vacation, Vancouver is your only chance at a top ten ranking airport. In the U.S., the highest ranking cities are Tampa, Portland, Indianapolis - numbers 13, 14, and 15 - not exactly major transfer hubs. Check out the ranking of the 40 best airports in North America if you have a stopover on your way to tropical paradise.
So what can you do to prepare for the possibility of spending the night in the airport? Or what should you think about if you are planning to crash en route to save a bit of money? These are McSherry’s top tips for this winter’s vacationers:
1. Bring the basics in your carry-on if you’re serious about your shut-eye.
Pack a travel blanket, a pillow, and eye shades. Those are McSherry’s ‘absolute basics.’ If you have a decent alarm and aren’t worried about missing your flight, bring ear plugs too. Bonus: they double in usefulness if there happens to be a crying baby or a loud snorer on the plane.
2. Do your research and watch the clock.
Many airports close up their stores and restaurants in the middle of the night, so be prepared with water and snacks if you don’t want to get caught unaware. Read up about the airport, what will be available when, and how to get there.
3. Explore before you pick your ideal sleeping spot.
If you have more than a few minutes for a nap waiting by your gate, take your time to explore the airport and look around. Don’t settle for just the first decent place you find when there could be an extra comfy couch lounge just a short walk away.
The quality of rest areas available at any given airport is going to vary widely, so if you can, do your research before you start shopping for your flights, so you know what to expect.