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Sleeping in airports is something I've found myself doing more often than I ever expected, and while I have no issue with sleeping on the floor or chairs or whatever, sometimes I have valuable stuff, and if travelling alone or in a small group, or if in a dodgy small airport with no security (or worse, corrupt security), what tactics can you use to keep you and your valuables safe?

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This probably applies just as well to train and bus stations, both of which I have spent more nights in than airports (-: –  hippietrail Jul 31 '11 at 8:44
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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

While I don't regularly sleep in the airports, I suggest you check out these tips:

Whether you are sleeping in the airport by yourself or with friends, it is good to know where security is. Know where their office is and look for video cameras in the spot you decide to stay the night. They've probably seen many airport sleepers before you and they will direct you to a safe spot.

If you suspect a problem with airport security, you may want to follow this tip and sleep in the car:

Whether you are stuck in the airport overnight or choose to be there voluntarily, there may be a chance that you will be uncomfortable and unhappy with your surroundings in the terminal. If you are travelling on a budget and do not want to fork out for one of the airport hotels, head over to the car rentals hall to find out the cost of a car rental and (assuming you can keep the car in the lot at no cost) sleep in the car. The great part about this is that you can recline on padded seats and there will be no annoying security announcements or rattling luggage carts whipping past your head throughout the night. On the negative side, car horns and screeching tires may jolt you from your slumber. Sure the car rental staff may look into your car wondering if you've had a stroke and the bathroom may be an issue depending on the location of the nearest toilet, but hey, you're saving money here! Very important - remember to check the drop-off hours to ensure a staff member will be there when you "drop-off" the car before your flight the next morning! This is easier at larger airports.

Also, make sure to check out the stories about the airport beforehand so you know if there are known problems before you face them.

Good luck!

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Car? What car? :) –  Mark Mayo Jul 30 '11 at 22:54
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Also, did check out that link beforehand, but it doesn't have Astana Airport, unfortunately. Have slept in 2 of the top 10 worst ones tho, hehe :) –  Mark Mayo Jul 30 '11 at 22:55
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@Mark: some airports have car rentals. But it's probably true this implies a better security as well :-) –  Dan Jul 30 '11 at 23:03
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Use your suitcase/bag as your pillow, you'll know as soon as you miss it! If you have more than one bag, put your hands through the bag handle or tie it to your hand or leg when you fall asleep.

Most importantly travel light, the lighter you travel, the safer you will be!

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In airports in Christian countries, I also heartily recommend seeking out the chapel. Its a nice, quiet place, where you can "meditate" in silence. (Hey, I'm also an ordained priest, and while people like my sermons, don't think I haven't seen the occasional person "meditating" even during the songs!) Its a easy place to find some shuteye, as long as you are respectful. (Also, I would check the hours and make sure you won't be there for a service!) The beauty of this is that criminals tend to avoid chapels, mostly out of guilt, so you have a relatively safer place.

Along these lines, in Muslim countries, there are also ablution fountains near the (Muslim) chapels. If you are really in need of a shower when you wake up, use the ablution fountain as a dip and pour. Remember that Muslims pray (and wash) five times a day, so be discreet and look for non-prayer times.

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stay well clear of any mosque area and certainly don't use the fountains unless you're a muslim. They consider that highly offensive and you could end up beaten up, arrested and charged with religious crimes, or worse. –  jwenting May 16 '13 at 8:49
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I find it useful to carry a light chain or a nylon strap, such as those found in backpacks (something difficult or time-consuming to cut through, enough to disturb your sleep). Wind it through your baggage limbs and then across a body part. This is quite useful for securing multiple pieces of luggage. Also, not directly related to the question - Carry a neck pillow, in case you don't have one already. You'll sleep like a baby!

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Hide your valuable items (if small) deep under your clothes, that way it will be hard to steal them from you (and hard to find).

You could also try to make a new friend (easy when you both are stuck at the airport) and keep an eye on each other.

Or if you have a lock with you, lock your bag to something fixed.

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One of my biggest worries when sleeping in airports is whether my luggage is safe; everything else, I don't really care. If there's a 24-hour luggage storage or a locker facility I drop off my bags there and that helps incredibly in peace-of-mind in relaxing.

Now if you're the kind who passes out cold when sleeping then things are going to be difficult for you. However, if you find you can easily take power naps then you can take that at a cafe or a restaurant. They will throw you out if you stay too long but as long as you buy something you can safely catch some sleep for 30-60 minutes. Once you learn how to take power naps, you'll find it causes less fatigue as you can catch the restful cycles of sleep without sleeping in an uncomfortable position for too long.

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any tips for catching power naps? I've never been easily able to fall asleep while sitting :( –  Mark Mayo Dec 22 '11 at 22:55
    
The threshold for when exactly you fall into sleep beyond the point of no-return differs for people. For me, I find it's around 20-25 minutes. So when I started power-napping, I set multiple alarms around 20-25 minutes period to make sure I wake up. Do it enough times you can start doing it without multiple alarms - perhaps just one or even none. The main point is - you HAVE to wake up even if you feel a bit groggy, after a while the feeling goes away and you feel more refreshed. Break out a couple of power naps every 1-1.5 hours, you'll feel less groggy and your muscles with thank you for it –  Ankur Banerjee Dec 22 '11 at 23:11
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