At my first attempt at writing this, I was thousands of miles away from home, nestled in a chair outside a Burger King, underneath the yawning roof of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport’s noisy domestic terminal.
Let’s amend that sentence.
‘Nestled’ is not the optimum verb to use to describe the way in which I was unceremoniously cramped into the makeshift den I had created by arranging two tub chairs to face each other, my lanky limbs contorted at impressive angles to occupy the tiny space, like something out of ‘The Exorcist.’ This sensational start to my night at Atlanta does not build an image of a seasoned traveller, immune to the perils and inconveniences that mere mortals encounter on their globetrotting, a walking compendium of travel-related wisdom.
… my lanky limbs contorted at impressive angles to occupy the tiny space, like something out of ‘The Exorcist.’
I am an ant under this traveller’s feet. But regardless of this ant’s ineptitude, I did spend one particularly uncomfortable and sleepless night within the confines of Atlanta Airport, and after considering my blunders, have compiled a list of pointers for any future travellers hoping to survive an overnight stay with some vestiges of sanity.
Bring warm clothing
After several hours, I felt like Robert Falcon Scott must have felt in his final moments, stranded and frozen on his last polar expedition.
You could be headed to the tropics. I don’t care. Bring long sleeves, a cosy hoodie. Certain airlines, such as Delta, provide blankets for free. Airports like their air-conditioning, and there is nothing quite akin to the ongoing torture of being perpetually blasted by a vortex of sub-zero winds while you are trying desperately to get some shut-eye. After several hours, I felt like Robert Falcon Scott must have felt in his final moments, stranded and frozen on his last polar expedition. Raw, vulnerable. Exposed to the elements. I shed a tear for my past self. And Rob.
If you’re extra lucky, like we were, you’ll also be treated to a tremendous, honking alarm that blares uninterrupted for a good 40 minutes during the wee hours.
Flights generally stop overnight, but apparently, the airport doesn’t sleep. You can find quieter spots, and noise does die down as the night progresses, but you won’t be able to escape the identical official announcements that play throughout the airport and politely interrupt your rest at intermittent intervals throughout the night. If you’re extra lucky, like we were, you’ll also be treated to a tremendous, honking alarm that blares uninterrupted for a good 40 minutes during the wee hours. Sensitive sleeper or not, a pair of earplugs won’t go amiss.
Do some research
Perchance spend a while googling your intended airport, and see what previous hardy travellers, your comrades-in-arms, recommend. Where is the most desirable, comfortable place to spend the night? Where are the armless chairs? Nay, where are the sofas? For us it was concourse F, the international terminal. We only saw this the next day.
Don’t gorge on the plane food
If you can, set up camp near a bathroom. It certainly won’t hurt.
To be fair, this one may be a little specific to me – or to anyone with a sensitive stomach. The flight over from Heathrow was rather empty, and there was apparently a surplus of food to spare. The hostesses were rarely off their feet, showering us with meals, sandwiches and snacks. Apparently, the abundance of pre-packaged food unsettled the delicate mechanisms of my stomach. The urgent need to search the terminal for a bathroom, an oasis in a desert, was the last straw in ensuring the elusive tranquillity of sleep remained out of my clutches. If you can, set up camp near a bathroom. It certainly won’t hurt.