Sleeping in the airport.

Sleeping in the airport.

Backpackers are being forced to sleep in 24-hour McDonald’s with airport terminals shutting down overnight. MATT ROSSLEIGH tells you one of his experiences and gives you the 6-step guide on sleeping in airports if you get the chance.

With airport terminals in Australia closed after 11pm, backpackers are being forced to sleep in nearby 24-hour McDonald’s restaurants before their early morning flights.

Kicked out of the terminal, which shuts down overnight, travellers are not willing to pay the $100+ cost of booking a nearby hotel for the evening.

An article published this week by the Daily Telegraph in Sydney said the nearby McDonald’s was home to backpackers overnight who were using the restaurant to get some shuteye.


Despite several hotels nearby, backpackers camping out at the Sydney Airport Gateway McDonald’s in Mascot this week said airport staff had “recommended” they have a nap at the 24-hour fast food franchise.

Earlier this week The Daily Telegraph observed at least eight people shacked up at the McDonald’s on one night.

“I’ve never spent so many hours in a McDonald’s,” said Anja Heins, who was awaiting a 6am flight to Cairns.

“They kicked us out (of the airport) at 11pm and said come back in the morning.”

UK resident John Haycock asked: “Why on earth can’t they open the terminal? It’s not very comfortable in here and it’s hard to sleep.”

Sydney Airport said the terminal could not open during curfew hours for security reasons, and suggested backpackers check into one of several nearby hotels.


When I’ve been backpacking I’ve had to do the same sort of thing, and a time when I was travelling in Laos comes to mind.

We had an early morning flight to Cambodia and thought we would just stay in the airport terminal before we were kicked out as the airport was closing.

A nice taxi driver drove us to a very cheap B&B for the evening but the point is it would have been far easier to nap in the airport instead.

I understand there are some security issues but this isn’t the case everywhere with many terminals around the world staying open overnight.

If you plan on backpacking in Europe many airports stay open and you have the ability to take a nap instead of finding accommodation elsewhere. However, be prepared to show airport police confirmation of your flight the next day before they kick you out.

London Luton, London Stansted, Amsterdam Schipol, Munich, Helsinki Vaanta, Milan Bergamo are just a few examples of airports which don’t close down, however there isn’t that luxury of 24-hour terminals in Australia with only Melbourne and Darwin remaining open.

If you plan on being rough one night instead of going for the luxury of the hotel, here are a few tips:

Nobody will suspect a thing.

Nobody will suspect a thing.

1.     Sunglasses

 Some airports will let you stay but are hesitant, slip on the sunglasses and no-one will suspect a thing.

2.     Alarm Clock

 Don’t be that person who gets such good sleep they sleep in and miss their flight the next morning. Make sure your phone is charged and multiple alarms set.

3.     Make it Comfortable

 Your backpack can be your saviour here and makes a great pillow replacement. Jackets, coats and towels can also be substitutes for blankets.

4.     Food

 Stock up on it. While terminals might stay open all night the food outlets don’t. So get in before they close for your sugar fix throughout the night.

5.     Protect your Valuables

 If there are no overnight lockers then there are a number of ways to keep your belongings safe. Sleep with an arm or leg over your bags so you’ll notice if someone tries to rob you, lock your bags and store your key somewhere safe on you or face the zippers towards you so it will make a noise if someone tries to open them.

6.     Beware of the Bomb Squad

 This is for all the single travellers out there. If during the night you have to use the bathroom it’s best to take everything with you. The last thing you want is to come out and see the bomb squad going through your belongings.



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