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What To Do When You Have To Stay In An Airport Overnight

By: Pola Papadopoulou

This has happened to me more than once in the past. In the last year I had to travel from Sweden to Greece a lot, for various reasons, one of them being bad news of a personal nature. A few months ago I had to return home once again and the experience at the airport is outlined very clearly in my head. Now that I come to think of it, I should say the “could-have-been” experience at the airport. Let me explain.

Upon hearing the bad news over the phone that fateful Thursday morning I decided that I had to go home the same day. The only reasonably priced flight that I found meant that I had to go from Sweden to the UK and then to Greece. However, the first part of the journey meant that I had to stay at the London airport overnight as I would arrive there at twelve o’ clock at night and the next flight was at eight in the morning. Since I knew that when I booked the tickets, I tried to be as well prepared as possible. This is because spending time at an airport with closed shops demands other means of survival. Here are some of the things I did and others that I should have done:

  1. I charged every electronic device that I possess. I only have two of them; a mobile phone and my laptop. The first one I needed for music and the second one for watching movies and spending time on the Internet.  I was terrified, however, when I realized, upon my arrival at the airport and the very comfortable seat that I found there to camp for the night, that in the UK the plugs are differently shaped than other plugs in Europe. And although I have an adaptor I forgot to pack it. This is what I consider to be mistake number 1. So, my advice when traveling to Europe is to always carry an adaptor. Because the UK, and especially London, is a very popular destination for transitions between flights and one needs to be prepared in case of a lengthy stay.
  2. I was motionless throughout the whole eight-hour waiting. And afterwards I was in pain. Literally. I couldn’t leave my seat for anything. The good thing was that I was carrying a small handbag only and therefore I didn’t have to drag a large suitcase or be on the lookout of a large suitcase missing. Therefore, if you are traveling with a small handbag, my advice would be to try and explore the airport only in the unlikely event that you can’t sleep. You could find your gate earlier so that you won’t have to search for it at the last minute. You could also check some of the stores that you would like to visit as they open very early in the morning, sometimes around five a.m. I couldn’t sleep due to the stress I was feeling at the time and in hindsight not leaving my seat to do all those things was not such a good idea.
  3. I was completely mute. Talking to other people who happen to be in the same situation as you can sometimes prove to be beneficial for both parties. There were people around me around the same age as me and I decided to come out of my shell and talk to them just an hour before departure. Because they were both from different countries than me, I got to learn a few things about their culture. I find asking those things fascinating, just as long as I don’t offend and tire the other person. At least that hour until departure was spent pleasantly in the company of others. Of course, I am not saying that should you find yourself in such a situation you should start blabbing about yourself or start inquiring after other people’s life in a manner of interrogation, but if you have eight hours ahead of you in the airport that gives you plenty of time to scour the people around you and their behaviors and start your short hangout with them.
  4. I brought half of my library with me. I am exaggerating, but you get where I am going with this. I put as many books and crosswords as I could possibly fit in my-already-overstuffed handbag. And I was right to do that. As a bibliophile I very much enjoy the company of books. When being “held” up in an airport for so many hours and without being able to charge my laptop (as was the case in London) I find it very comforting that I have books, newspapers, crosswords and any kind of stationery to pass the time pleasantly. For any reason that you can’t pack any, I hope that you are lucky enough to find a 24/7 open bookstore at the airport.
  5. I bought M&Ms as a meal for the whole day and night. Suffice to say that this was another big mistake. First of all, I don’t know what I was thinking. Secondly, that played an important part in my insomnia. I get the part where I craved sugar (who doesn’t) but I think I was hit by it. It was the only thing that I ate through the whole day and night! Of course I couldn’t sleep. Do I need to advise against it? Just eat a regular meal before, during and after.

Well, there you have it! Some of the do’s and don’ts when you have to spend a whole night at the airport. There are, of course other things to be done or be avoided, but I guess it depends on the airport that hosts you at the specific time of your travel. I just listed some of the circumstances I went through to set some guidelines for such a situation. That being said I hope you are always prepared as well as possible and I wish you a pleasant trip whenever and wherever you are going!

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