June 1, 2004 -- With summer travel comes summer storms, summer overcrowding and summer flight delays. So even if you've never bunked down in an airport, you still might find yourself trying to ignore the drone of CNN Airport Network to catch a few Z's.
Enter www.sleepinginairports.net, the ultimate guide to the ultimate budget sleeps. With more than 2,000 listings for airports from Aberdeen to Yangon, the site lists the good -- Singapore's nap lounge, complete with alarm clocks -- the bad, such as the murderous shootout one groggy traveler witnessed in Papua New Guinea, and the ugly, such as the carpet at San Francisco International Airport where you really, really, don't want to put your head down.
The guru of airport nappers, Toronto travel agent Donna McSherry, doesn't kip at terminals any more. She just rakes in tales of folks laying down their heads in airports, Wal-Marts, Greyhound bus luggage bays and other improbable places.
Sleeping in US and Canadian airports isn't as popular as it once once, McSherry says. Airlines don't make many overnight connections in the US, and overnight delays aren't all that common. But in Europe and Asia, airports aren't just for delays -- they can even be destinations.
Take the airport in Malaga, Spain, a big hangout for British package holiday tourists. If you arrive on a late bus from Madrid, reports on McSherry's site say, you can crash at the airport easily, and even drink yourself to sleep. As one report reads (all typos intact): "Just wanna say that i didn't sleep... bar open 24 hours ang got hammered, even recomend it as a night out!!!"
Languor in London
McSherry says London's Heathrow and Stansted airports have rested a lot of weary heads recently. A slew of international airlines make late-night connections at Heathrow, making it a prime place to get stuck longer than you'd like. Watch out, though: one guy actually got run over by a floor cleaning machine when he settled in on Heathrow's floor.
Stansted is home to super-low-fare airline Ryanair and a slew of charter carriers, all of which unleash a wave of flights around 6:30 AM each morning. Do the math: Stansted is 45 minutes from London, you have to check in 40 minutes before your flight, and airport hotels may cost three times the price of your ticket. Buses from London to the airport start at 2:30 AM, but who wants to get on a bus at 2:30 AM?
It's no wonder Stansted has become a veritable youth hostel for the UK's budget travelers. There's a 24-hour general store in the airport, free showers in the departure lounge, and staff don't hassle backpackers. The major downside: Stansted is so popular with overnighters "you need to arrive by about 11 pm at the latest if you want to secure a bank of padded seats to sleep on," a report on sleepinginairports.net says.
Ryanair spokesman Paul Fitzsimmons pointed out there are plenty of hotels near Stansted, but "compared to the price of a Ryanair ticket, of course anything's going to be extortion. A bus fare's going to be the price of the airline ticket," he joked. "If [travelers] want to have an overnight in an airport, godspeed."
From Sleeping in Airports to Living in Airports
After eight years collecting airport tales, McSherry is taking her site to the next level this summer. She's planning to add links to airport Web sites, maps of terminals, and lists of amenities like bars and lockers. Expedia (www.expedia.com/daily/airports/default.asp) already has information on 65 airports for people stuck there, but Expedia's pages are oriented more to business travelers than to budget travelers.
"There will be a little more useful information that I think will add to the humor, so people can actually use [the site] not just for a couple of laughs but actually to plan their visits to the airport," McSherry says.
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