As a young budget traveler, Canadian Donna McSherry found herself needing cheap accommodation -- very cheap accommodation. So she slept in airports.
Now, as a travel agent in her late 20s, she avoids sleeping overnight in the terminals, but still grabs some Zs during flight delays. And she manages Sleepinginairports.net (www.sleepinginairports.net), the world's greatest resource for people looking to conk out in airport terminals, Wal-Marts, Greyhound bus luggage bays and other inappropriate places.
Sleeping in US airports has declined in recent years, but travelers do still end up stuck in terminals. "Flight cancellations, weather delays and crappy connections will always happen and are probably the most common reason people sleep in US airports," McSherry says.
With more than 1,700 listings for airports from Aberdeen to Yangon, the site gets gets about 200 hits a day, McSherry says. And it's not just for the narcoleptically inclined. Reading the reports on this brutally-honest site can tell you whether you even want to pass through an airport at all.
"Researching any airport you plan to be traveling through or plan to sleep overnight in should be as important as the hotel you stay and pay to be in.? Delays and cancellations happen, and if you're not prepared you will be in for a very long and miserable airport visit," McSherry says.
Avoid, for instance, Port Moresby, New Guinea, McSherry's award-winner for worst airport in the universe. "What I couldn't handle was the shoot-out which happened in the terminal between the cops and a local gang which resulted in 3 dead youths, 1 dead cop and 2 dead airport workers who happened to be standing 10 meters from me," wrote an anonymous poster to McSherry's site. Simferopol airport in the Ukraine, meanwhile, is bribe-ridden, while in Lagos, Nigeria, one traveler actually witnessed two muggings inside the airport terminal.
Within the US, Pittsburgh has gotten high marks, as the airport is quiet, with good shopping and eating choices. Boston Logan, which is small and plagued by huge construction projects, got lousy reviews: "All chairs and benches have arm rests so there is no possible way to stretch out, and if you lay on the floor the cops will roust you," one correspondent says.
The most fascinating part of McSherry's site, though, is the "Other Weird Places" section. This is stories of the truly hard core variety: people who've slept in instant photo booths, in the public toilet cubicles at five-star hotels, and at 24-hour Wal-Mart SuperCenters. "We crashed on a comfy leather couch toward the back of the store. I woke up a few times starlted by the loudspeaker, but I would do it again," the Wal-Mart sleeper's report reads.
That may not be our idea of a good night's sleep, but it makes a great read.