Stuck in LAX

Last weekend I was on my way to Phoenix to attend my cousin’s wedding. I was flying standby as I always do, which I have previously written about here . This is a story about how I didn’t follow my own advice and realized just how good it really is. I made the mistake of thinking that the direct flight from New Orleans looked wide open (having plenty of extra seats open for standby passengers). I assumed (what’s that quote about assuming and jackasses?) that I would for sure get on and I didn’t prepare for the possibility that I would get stuck in the airport. As my luck would have it there was a cancellation earlier in the day, and all the people from that flight took up all the seats on the flight I was trying to catch. So…I missed that flight, and I had to get creative with how to get to Phoenix via an alternative route. Long story short I ended up in LAX (Los Angeles) having to spend the night. I had foolishly worn shorts, left my toiletries bag in my large suitcase (which I had checked), did not bring a sweater or jacket, and had no extra clothes with which to use as a pillow…pretty much all the things that can make sleeping in the airport less uncomfortable than it has to be. Also, LAX is not a good airport to crash in. All the chairs have armrests separating them, so there are no three seats together in a row (the best spot for catchin’ z’s in an airport). I bought a travel fleece for $16.00 at the store and ended up having a very restless night switching back and forth from the armchairs to the carpeted floor in an attempt to sleep at least a few hours. In reference to my earlier post about sleeping in airports, I must add a few things…if you’re traveling standby never assume you’re going to get to your destination that day and always prepare for a night in the airport just in case. If you check your bags bring a backpack or bag with:

  • Light sweater
  • Change of clothes
  • Small toiletries bag
  • Wear pants
  • Entertainment (deck of cards, laptop, mp3, book)

Although a very sleepless night, it helped my see that my own advice wasn’t useless after all. So if you’re ever traveling and there’s the slightest chance that you could get stuck in an airport, ye be forewarned.


Wishful thinking…

Sleeping in Airports

WHY? I’ve slept in a number of airports including Phoenix, Boston, Basel, Houston, and Frankfurt to name a few. Sleeping in an airport wouldn’t be my first choice but I’m usually traveling on a budget and once in a while it just makes sense to get a free night’s stay and save some money instead of paying to sleep in a bed for a few hours. It’s the same idea as taking an overnight train or bus and sleeping on it and killing two birds with one stone.  Airports are a nice option because they’re relatively safe, they have bathrooms, drinking fountains for water, and most importantly, they are free!


  • When you find yourself in a developed country, which is more expensive for us budget backpackers
  • When you won’t get a full night’s sleep in your hotel or hostel anyways due to an early or late flight
  • When you are have a short layover or connecting flight the next day
  • When the city center is far away from the airport
  • Four seats, no armrests = good night sleep

WHERE? Find a nice corner tucked away where there isn’t a lot of pedestriantraffic. The best place to crash out is a row of at least 3 chairs that don’t have armrests dividing them. Second best is a carpeted corner somewhere. The least favorable spot but sometimes necessary is a hard floor.

HOW? Depends on your personal comfort needs and what you’re traveling with. If you brought a sleeping bag, perfect. Otherwise when sleeping on chairs wearing a comfortable sweater and using a shirt or something as a pillow is just fine. When you’re sleeping on the floor, a bit more preparation is necessary, especially the non carpeted floors. In those situations I’ve emptied my backpack of clothes, and used them to make a sleeping pad using my jacket as a blanket.

Safety: Keep your backpack or suitcase within arm’s reach at all times. When sleeping on the floor keep your bag in between you and the wall or by your head. Don’t leave and valuables in plain sight and keep your money  on you.

Ever seen one of these in an airport? I feel safer knowing I can be defibrilated if need be. Right next to the beer no less.