Stuck at JFK (or any major airport) overnight thanks to a Virgin Atlantic or other airline flight cancellation? Put off by a hard, dirty floor that's probably crawling with human germs and rodent feces? Well, get down off your high horse and embrace the inevitable - the human body can only take so much walking around an airport before you need to catch forty winks. Plus, if you ever get to that conference in the UK you're supposed to present at, you'll want to make sure you don't sleep through your own presentations! So here's how to get comfortable when there’s no comfort able to be found!
Step One: Scan & Select Your Space
As soon as it becomes clear that you'll need a place to sleep, the prime sleeping spaces will go quickly, so scan the terminal like you're the Terminator, assessing the potential spots for their potential comfort based on your internal programming: Are you seeking solitude? Heat? The company of others? Find a piece of floor that reflects your preferred sleeping sensibilities: if you stake out your own space, people may give you a wide berth, resulting in your own island of space in a crowded terminal. Or, if solitude is threatening to you (single females, you may wish to consider this) or is in a dark location away from the public eye, you may wish to seek out a trustworthy-looking group of similar-age individuals - this selection may be a bit rowdier or more brightly lit, but may appeal to your sense of safety and community.
Want to recharge as you recharge? Make sure to locate the "sleeping spaces" next to electrical outlets: if you have a power strip with you for some reason, now's the time to use it and become very popular.
Step Two: Sterilize Your Space
Make sure your chosen space is clear of obvious garbage that will muck up your sleeping experience - steer clear of sticky patches of spilled Coca-Cola or snowy wet boot tracks, for example. If you have 3 oz of Purell in your Ziploc bag of allowed liquids, now's the time to use it to sterilize the space. (Or save it, to clean yourself once you rise up from your nap.)
Step Three: Build Your Bed
Then spread out a blanket and – what’s that? You don’t have a blanket? Wrestle one away from one of the airline staff members (they claim they don’t have them, but they DO!). If your airline doesn't have blankets, you may go to another airline with a cancelled flight. They don't know who's on which cancelled flight, so the important thing is to get a blanket from someone before everyone runs out. You can then use it as a mattress (recommended for comfort and hygiene reasons) or as a first layer over your shivering body in contact with the near frozen floor. and build a nest out of that and whatever you have on you: your coat, scarf, a hat pulled down over your face to block the light, an extra pair of pants stuffed into a laptop sleeve and used as a pillow: be inventive. It’s like Project Runway, only - let's face it - you are probably never going to get to the runway.
Step Four: Tweet Your Position
Step Five: Secure Your Stuff - To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Once you've built your bed, now's your chance to lie in it. But before you close your eyes to enjoy the wrenching back pain of sleeping on a rock-hard airport floor, make sure your valuables are secured to your person: this may entail things like using your computer bag as a pillow, threading a bag handle around your arms or legs so you'll feel it if someone tries to nick it, or trusting a virtual stranger who says he or she will watch your bags whilst you sleep. There may be a price for generosity like this - like your photo ending up on Twitter - but it's a small price to pay to greet the morning (or the later part of the morning) having had 20 minutes of sleep, isn't it? When you wake up, it will be time to battle with the rest of the hungry airport zombies for food at airport eateries with dwindling supplies, so you'll want to have had that 20 minutes to fuel your attack strategy.
We at My Urban Kvetch hope that you've enjoyed this practical travel guide to sleeping at international airports. Stay tuned for other helpful guides about overnight airport bathroom survival and use of nearly useless food vouchers at eateries that don't accept them or have 200-person lines and minimal supplies.