Most vagabonds and hardcore travelers have or will at some point have to sleep in an airport. In fact, if you hit the road often enough you might be sleeping in train/bus stations, in a tent of the side of the road, or dock. I have had to many times in various places.

As I look around the empty San Francisco International Airport here are some tricks that I’ve picked up along way and my suggestions to you. Though these are airport-specific, you can adapt them to your particular overnight camp.

  • Most often you will be there before everyone else. First and foremost is to scope a place to sleep. Preferably one close to the gate you will be leaving out of. You should become familiar with the gate in case you oversleep or happen to be in a heavy slumber-coma when you wake up it makes things easy on you.
    • Try to find a place in a corner, or with at least one wall on your side.
      • This provides you some protection as you fall asleep. Your guard is down so better to keep the opportunistic bag thieves at bay. Each side of the wall is a side you don’t have to worry about.
    • A spot near in between the restroom and a food/coffee place is a grand location.
      • It will be nice when you have to pee.
      • When the Starbucks opens up in the morning you’ll be the first one to get your cup of Joe. Take it from me at most international airports there is almost a frantic dash to be the first one to grab coffee. It’s also the time that traffic really picks up at most airports.
  • Don’t have your ears attached to an iPod, walkman, or the like as you begin to doze off.
    • You won’t hear any important announcements.
    • You’ll make an inviting target to an opportunistic thief who wants to grab some of your things.
    • The device may run out of batteries for when you’ll really need them (aka. the flight).
  • Tie you luggage together with something sturdy. Personally, I use my laptop lock cable then I put my arm through it and then fold them over and go to sleep. A piece of yarn or the like works too, this way if someone tries to walk off with your stuff you’ll get a nice little wake up call.
  • Get all of the food, snacks, and drinks you’ll think you might need during the course of the night before all of the shops close. Traveling makes you hungry and a bag of trail mix at 3 in the morning will make you glad you did this.
  • Set you cell phone alarm to go off every two hours. You don’t want to wake up drooling all over a flight counter, humping the couch, or to miss a changing of the gate. Pretty much it keeps you alert to an extent. If you’re by yourself it’s good to open your eyes from time to time.
Book Flights Using Miles To Protect Refunds Against Airline Cancellation Policies

I hope this list helps – as always if you have any additional suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments. I have focused a good deal on theft, because I think that this is a big threat for the single traveler. Being asleep you guard is completely down and if you happen to be young you are an enticing target, stay aware to prevent losing any of your stuff.

Having said all of that, these overnights are really an adventure, make the most of them!