Those cheap, early morning flights from Gatwick airport can really stuff you over, when you realise there’s no trains heading from the city to the airport at that time of the morning.
You may contemplate catching a taxi in the early hours of the morning, then balk at the price.
You check the night bus route from where you’re staying in the city. How can an hour-long drive take three hours on three different buses?
You consider booking a hotel room at the airport before your trip.
But London is expensive and you’ve totally blown your budget. Nor can you justify shelling out the cash for a room you’re only going to spend half the night sleeping in.
So, you make a decision. You’re going to have to catch the last train south and spend the night sleeping at Gatwick Airport.
Yep. Those cheap Ryanair flights to Europe may seem like they’ve saved you a pretty penny. But, they will cost you emotionally.
What you need to know when sleeping at Gatwick airport
So, does Gatwick airport close at night? Nope, and you certainly can spend the night there.
I spent a night at the airport in 2014 when I was broke AF sleeping in Gatwick airport.
It is by no means something I’d recommend anyone else do. But it can be done and probably successfully.
Yet, I somehow managed to do everything completely wrong.
So, here’s what not to do when sleeping at Gatwick Airport.
If you’re spending more than a night there, here’s a guide to Gatwick Airport that will come in handy.
Can’t bring yourself to sleep in the airport?
Don’t assume you’re actually going to get any sleep at Gatwick Airport
Let’s look at this situation realistically. You’re sleeping in an airport terminal. You’re not going to have the most fulfilling, deepest sleep of your life.
Far from it, probably.
So, don’t book the early morning flight and refuse to book out a hotel room when you actually have something important to do the next day.
Like a job interview, which may or may not have been my situation (and no, I did not get the job, why do you ask?).
Don’t settle on one place to sleep in
When I realised I would have to spend the night sleeping at Gatwick airport, I arrived at around 9pm.
It was fine to wander around for a bit. I eventually found what looked like a nice comfortable bench to sleep on. There was a television nearby, playing a quiet documentary.
Dropping my suitcase to the ground, I positioned my backpack and travel pillow accordingly.
I jammed my earplugs in my ears, snuggled up under my coat and pulled my hat down over my eyes.
I felt quite cosy and content. Maybe, just maybe, I could pull this off!
At this point, the documentary ended, and a Bette Midler gig inexplicably took its place.
Suddenly, everything was upsettingly loud. I could hear every word Bette was bellowing at the top of her lungs, as though I were front stage at the concert itself.
I turned to face away from the TV, but the thing with sound is, you can still hear it even when you are looking away from its source.
I squeezed my eyes shut and practiced my deep breathing exercises. Miraculously, about an hour after the concert ended, I did manage to drift off into a fitful sleep, punctuated by the ringing of phones, coughing and general chitchat of my fellow airport patrons.
Don’t forget your ear plugs
There will be people coming and going constantly.
You are absolutely going to need them.
Don’t presume other people are going to respect the fact that people are trying to sleep
People can be oblivious asshats, particularly when travelling.
One lady drifted over at about two in the morning, dragging her suitcase loudly behind her and yabbering away on her mobile phone.
I felt a pretty violent rage towards her and tried to move on by focusing on my happy place, until the feeling passed. (It didn’t. I just fell back asleep.)
Don’t forget to explore the entire terminal
This was where I made a fundamental error.
I was sleeping in the South Terminal and didn’t realise that if I’d just walked upstairs towards security, I would have found a designated corner with comfortable chairs, reserved for early morning travellers (and probably a heck more peace and quiet too).
A quick kip there would’ve been much more comfortable, before jumping on my flight a few hours later.
If you’re wondering where you should sleep at Gatwick Airport, that’s where you should head to.
Sleeping at Gatwick Airport can be done… but I wouldn’t recommend it
Gatwick Airport is my London airport of choice (well, besides City because it is carefree and beautiful), but I travelled a lot smarter after this incident.
For one thing, I made sure I booked flights that were accessible by morning train, as much as possible.
Sleeping at Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal
A few years ago, I had a flight to New York which left at 6am.
I briefly contemplated spending another night sleeping in Gatwick airport, but I’m still rather traumatised from the experience, almost a decade on.
So, I booked a room at the Premier Inn at Gatwick Airport – arriving in the late evening by train.
Check in was super smooth (I thoroughly recommend checking in online to save time) and the hotel was clean and quiet. The room so nice that I was actually quite sad that I wasn’t able to spend more time hanging out in it.
Booking accommodation cost me money that I would have rather spent on food or books. However, I felt far less like a zombie woman the next day and actually enjoyed my trip to NYC.
Sleeping in Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal
The Yotel Gatwick Airport is also an option worth considering, particularly if you’re leaving from the South Terminal.
They’re a Japanese-style capsule hotel. The compact rooms have actual beds, showers and a 24 hour room service menu, with light meals, snacks and beverages.
Should you sleep in Gatwick airport?
Whether or not you spend the night sleeping at Gatwick Airport is up to you (and how much you enjoy your sleep).
I personally wouldn’t recommend it, but it can be done.
And I know sometimes you’re stuck with a layover and you don’t have a choice.
Just don’t do what I did! Find that quiet corner near security and try to enjoy your night.
Have you ever slept at Gatwick airport, or any other around the world?
Please note, this was written before March 2020, so some information may be out of date, with changing restrictions from COVID-19. We’ll do our best to keep information as current as possible.