I did something I have not done in many years: slept on a bench at the airport. My overnight at Washington Dulles reminded me of the days of my youth and how I used to stretch my travel budget by sleeping in airports. How was it? Honestly, not so bad.
Sleeping At Dulles Airport
For the first leg of my trip to Bangkok, I flew on United Airlines from Los Angeles to Washington Dulles, arriving at 12:47am. My connecting flight on EgyptAir was departing at 12:00pm, giving me just over 11 hours at IAD.
Certainly, for most people it would have made sense to get a hotel room for the layover. But not me. A few thoughts went through my mind:
- I had work to do and could not count upon the wi-fi working on eEgyptAir
- The new IAD Polaris Lounge opened at 5:00am, cutting my “terminal time” to effectively four hours
- The Polaris Lounge not only had shower suites, but sleeping pods, fast wi-fi, and a full-service dining room
- I hate waiting for an Uber or hotel shuttle at Washington Dulles and arriving at 1:00am during the pandemic meant I’d likely be on my own to get to the Hyatt Regency or another airport hotel
- If I was going to review the Polaris Lounge, I’d have to get back to the airport very early anyway
So I stayed. In fact, I did not even intend to sleep…that was the goal at least. But I had worked during the flight to Washington and I was quite tired. With fatigue setting in, I figured I’d take a quick power nap and then get back to work.
As I made myself comfortable, a kind United agent noticed me and brought me over a blanket…what a kind gesture (even though I had come prepared with a duvet in my carry-on bag). Thankfully, the benches at Dulles do not have immovable armrests that would have made sleeping impossible.
My one-hour nap turned into a three-hour nap…so it goes. During the night, the lights were out but announcements continued to be played and CNN was playing loudly in a nearby gate area. But I was able to shut it out…and I slept well.
By 4:00am I woke up refreshed and got back to work. The Polaris Lounge opened an hour later and I had a great morning there before proceeding over to the B Gates for my flight to Cairo.
There’s something pathetic about sleeping on airport bench…especially now that I’m no longer a kid. Yet it just made sense for me. With the Polaris Lounge opening at 5:00am, I felt going to a hotel and getting back early would have been too much of a hassle.
What would you have done if you were in my shoes?
1am-5am reservation in the Sleepbox lounge in concourse A, which I believe just reopened, then hit up the Polaris lounge
Its Sleepbox went out of business at Dulles.
Sleepbox is completely gone at IAD. Not a trace left of it remains.
If i were to take a nap like that, I’d do it in the United Club lounge, which would surely have been open to tide you over until the Polaris Lounge opened at 5 am.
What lounges are open between 1am and 5am?
I could have done the same, especially at Dulles.
@Matthew – I think you mean – something you have *not* done in many years?
Spent the night LOL…come on man! You spent 3 or 4 hours lying on a bench…not the same at all.
How unusual for Matthew to resort to hyperbole in one of the titles to his posts…
Pierre, yep. Maybe I spent four hours on a bench before the lounge opened isn’t click baity enough. I know, I know, I clicked too.
The only time I had anything like that was an 8 hour DBX layover between SFO and MLE. Plane arrived around 7pm and the MLE flight was at 3:30am. Given that I had just spent 15 hours in the air I already didn’t know which end was up so to speak. We opted to exit DBX and go out to dinner, using a friend’s shower (he just happened to be in town and staying at a hotel). We got back around 11:30 and spent four hours at a crappy buy in lounge but it was better than no lounge.
On the return we had a five hour layover from like 3am to 8am. We elected to stay outside. My companion slept while I, being the AVGeek I am, decided to roam the airport as I had not been to DBX before (or since). Seeing 5 A380s lined up at the gate next to each other was an impressive sight back then. This was before the all A380 terminal had opened. Biggest most expensive Duty Free shop area I’d ever seen.
I think you mean DXB, instead of DBX?
I read the title as “airport beach” and got really confused.
Why bother? I’d personally find a sympathetic agent to re-route me to connect in the west coast and take the red-eye back to the east coast. Many times when I misconnect to the last flight to LGA, I would ask if it’s at all possible to connect in the west coast to take a red-eye into JFK.
What do you do to protect your belongings when you’re alone and asleep?
My wife and I were in a similar circumstance at IAD a few weeks ago. We just took the shuttle to the Hyatt Regency. Then again, we weren’t trying to review the Polaris lounge. As long as it worked for you.
I live in a white house not too far from IAD. As loyal supporters, you and your wife would have been welcome to crash at our place. All I’d ask in return is a few sniffs of your hair.
Biden Derangement Syndrome..,.
I do this often when I travel. Not because I want to save the money but because I want to save the inconvenience of leaving airside security, catching a shuttle, staying at a nearby hotel only to get up early to get back to the airport for the 6AM flight. It is too much bother and rarely relaxing. Now, I bring a small blanket, a set of ear plugs and a toiletry bag to get a good noghts rest. My favourite airport if SFO. My worst is LAX where I almost always get a hotel.
I’d do a Bose noise-canceling headphones, but I’m too nervous that somebody would approach me while I am asleep
I don’t really get why any savvy traveler would do this unless you were flat broke. Assuming you are on PAcific time you could get a good nights sleep at a nearby hotel, arrive well rested for your flight. Plus I would not “sleep” with my carryons which contain valuable tech not to mention passports etc. Why take the small risk of theft?
I just don’t get the excitement over an airport lounge you’ve visited hundreds of times. Yes it’s nice but sleep is much more dear to me. 30 min is plenty to stuff your face before the flight (as if that’s needed if you are flying in biz class).
Next time use a minimal amount of points or cash at an airport hotel.
He hadn’t been to the newly built IAD Polaris lounge yet and wanted to do the review for us readers who click on that stuff (despite that most lounges are pretty much the same! we click..).
Agree a normal traveler wouldn’t force coming back to the airport so early and would rest at the hotel the full morning.
Regarding securing valuables at airports. I have thought about this for travel particularly if I’m on a train and want to catch a nap. There are apps to sound an alarm if a phone is moved. Put it in the bag.
On pacific time the 1am arrival was 10pm at night and 5am opening of club was 2am – so yeah not a huge deal to do this vs leaving, though surprised you slept so long in the terminal as opposed to being woken up and continuing to work until polaris opened.
I’ve done this many times. Paying for a hotel just isn’t worth the price if y9u’re only going to sleep for 4 hours (and probably sleep poorly knowing the time crunch). My favorite airport is Seattle. Worst experience was Honolulu where I made the mistake of exiting the airport terminal and directed to a crowded outdoor sleeping area with cement benches.
Very nice because you could sleep flat. I wonder what airports chase you out?
I have not slept in an airport for many years. The last time was in the late 20th century in Brussels.
Matthew has an editorial mission which makes sleeping in IAD worthwhile. I would not have needed to go to the Polaris Lounge at 5 am so I might have slept in a hotel.
There’s a million decent hotels in the area including Marriott at IAD. I get wanting to check out the Polaris lounge but probably didn’t need need to be there right when it opened. But hey it’s mostly a free world, unless we’re talking COVID vaccination, so go for it.
Some airports like SIN and I believe TPE and NRT have sleeping / napping chairs with overhead shades for this purpose.
During my younger days, I recall travelling from Sydney to London Heathrow with a 9 hour stopover In Hong Kong. I had never been to Hong Kong before , so rather than wait out all that time in the airport terminal, I cleared Customs and took the train into Kowloon. I had a lovely time, enjoying a delicious dinner, a trip up Victoria Peak and took loads of selfies with the Hong Kong skyline in the background. By the time I boarded my onward flight to London, I was totally exhausted. But I was able to tell all my friends that I had been to Hong Kong, even though it was never part of my planned trip…
One January evening we were flying IAD-SFO-SMF. The airplane IAD-SFO was three hours late because it was coming from IAH and there was an ice storm there. When we got to SFO our connection to SMF had left, so we dozed on the floor by the window at gate 77 until the lounge opened at 0500. The United agents in the Club got us on the 0640 flight to SMF and we had a LONG shower once we got home.
For those of us that have recently slept on an airport bench, pathetic is a strong “fighting” word
You’re an idiot. There are cheap chain hotels near airport.
It wasn’t about money…I explained that if you actually read beyond the headline.
Then why not make a reservation at the Dulles Marriot? With a 12pm departure you surely didn’t need to me at the Polaris club the moment it opened. But I understand times are tight.
I so enjoy reading your comments.
I get the reasoning behind why you did it, and it even got you an extra article to get some attention (no judgment), but I’d have just found a way to get some hotel time.
If I were in your shoes, I’d have not written this article about something nearly anyone else has done. Slow news day? Can’t wait for the next installment on breathing & walking at the same time!
Well you read it and commented on it…
I definitely have done a fair share of sleeping in airports due to 6AM flights. It’s sad to say but more and more airports are removing any type of comfortable seating in favor of fixed armrest seats, and several airports I’ve frequented have pop music blaring all night on the intercoms. I once missed a flight at LAS and sleeping in the terminal was so bad I seriously thought of sleeping in the parking garage. So glad I had some earphones tho, but it wasn’t enough.