The best way to spend your downtime without getting robbed or going insane.
Photo by: Will Fisher
You step off the plane into a foreign terminal. Confusion sets in amidst a sea of unknown faces and languages. As the sun sets, the last 7 € bagels and 9 € beers are sold and the hum of the airport dies down to an eerie silence. Your mission: kill a massive overnight layover and survive to tell the tale.
Step 1: Get your Bearings
Photo by: Kinden Kuo
Setting up base camp at the nearest food court is a bad idea. Remember that at most airports, restaurants and shops (and sometimes entire terminals) close for the night. If you don't do proper recon, you could find yourself curled up next to the drinking fountain with nothing but a couple of sugar packets and a spork. Start by using the remaining airport staff for intel to find out what stays open all night. Normally there will be a café and, if you're lucky, maybe even a bar. Don't forget to ask about other essentials like accessible bathrooms and the holy grail of the overnight airport stint -- a power outlet.
Step 2: Hold Your Ground
Photo by: Daniel Lobo
With food, water, and power secure, you're ready to dig your foxhole. But remember, you are not alone. Other backpacking battlers will be on the prowl, fighting for their space and yours. Make sure you're quick and vigilant when you hear, "hey, can I charge my phone here for a second?" and "can you watch my stuff over there for a few minutes?" These seemingly innocent requests could be Trojan horses used to take away your precious high ground.
Step 3: Strength in Numbers
Photo by: Terry Presle
Not all of these sleepless soldiers are looking to take you down. It's not easy finding a comrade while braving the harsh terrain of international airports, but finding another lonely soul is imperative to improving your mobility throughout the night. If you can team up with someone you trust and are willing to share your space, power, and food, you'll be handsomely rewarded with carefree bathroom breaks, stretching your legs without your baggage and maybe even catching a little shuteye.
OTP Tip: No matter how much your new friend wants to spoon, when in the company of strangers, make sure to hug your electronics and passport real tight if you decide to doze.
Step 4: Tough That Shit Out
Photo by: Rolling Okie
You're the king of the hill, queen of the castle. Even the passing pilots envy your strategic genius. But now what? Your mission has only just begun. How can someone possibly kill eight... ten... twelve hours without succumbing to the physical and emotional pain involved in such an ordeal? The answer is preparation. Entertainment is a must, so make sure you load the right jams and shows onto your computer or phone. One movie after another can get old. Choose a TV show with plenty of cliffhangers that will keep your interest all night. Rations are the next necessity. Trail mix, light sandwiches, water, and fruit juice are the best options. Fast food and energy drinks are tempting to any cadet's late night cravings, but the combination of a sleepless night, junk food, and jet-lag may leave you barely breathing once your mission is completed.
Some airports have hotels built right into the terminals. If you think you're the bonafide James Bond of backpacking, you can try to bullshit your way to a bunk. Try asking for the manager and get creative with your backstory. For example, maybe you're sailing down the rivers of Vietnam searching for rogue tourist living with the natives? Maybe a movie deal is the works? Get enough people excited about the possibility of free PR and your room may be comped.
Written by: Ben Gorman