I book flights with crappy layovers and sleep in airports to save money. It's totally backfired, but it's still worth the risk.

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I book flights with crappy layovers and sleep in airports to save money. It's totally backfired, but it's still worth the risk.
The author (not pictured) has saved a lot of money by booking flights with multiple layovers and sleeping in an airport.Turker Minaz/iStock / Getty Images Plus
  • I book flights with unfortunate overnight layovers and sleep in airports to save money on travel.
  • Recently, this trick backfired when the airport I was in closed its secure area at night.
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As a travel writer, I'm used to putting up with less-than-stellar conditions to save a few bucks.

One way I do that is by booking flights with multiple connections and unfortunate layovers and sleeping in airports. I don't do it often, but I've found it's much cheaper than buying a direct flight. It's actually a well-documented hack, and there are entire websites dedicated to helping travelers sleep in airports.

Recently, I tried this trick on a trip from New York to Asheville, North Carolina, and learned it's not quite as foolproof as I thought.

I booked a nightmarish flight that would save me $120 if I spent a few hours sleeping in the airport

In April, I was off to a sponsored media trip where a public-relations firm would pay for up to $200 of my travel.

Unfortunately, on the spring weekend I was traveling, most reasonable-looking flights from New York to Asheville cost about $350.

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But I didn't need reasonable. I just had to be in Asheville on Thursday.

Eventually, I found a tantalizing alternative: Fly out of New York City the night before, land in Boston at midnight, fly to Philadelphia at 6 a.m. the next morning, and land in Asheville at 10 a.m.

It was a nightmare flight with its multiple layovers — but it would save me $120, which felt worth it.

All I had to do was leave a day earlier and then spend six hours in the middle of the night at Boston Logan International Airport. It was more than enough time to get some shut-eye.

Just as I found a spot to sleep in, I realized my plan wasn't going to work

When I landed early in Boston, the plan was looking good. By 11:30 p.m., I had scoped out a couch.

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It wasn't easy, though, because a lot of the airport furniture seemed to be designed to discourage people from sleeping on it. Benches were rigid and uncomfortable, and softer seats were divided by armrests.

The best I could find in Logan was a couch shaped like an "S."

I book flights with crappy layovers and sleep in airports to save money. It's totally backfired, but it's still worth the risk.
Some airports have couches that can be just comfortable enough to sleep on.Chris Ritter

I was nearly asleep when a security guard walked up to me and asked if I was planning on sleeping there. When I said yes, the guard told me that they were clearing the terminal at midnight, which they did every night for security reasons.

I later learned that many airports empty out and close off the areas after security at certain times, while others stay open to travelers 24/7.

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The guard told me I was welcome to sleep outside the terminal at baggage claim. However, sleeping there seemed almost impossible.

The rigid, plastic benches there were barely large enough to sit on, much less recline across. I considered sleeping in one of the black leather chairs with armrest dividers, but I was exhausted.

I caved and called a good friend from college who lived in town to ask if I could crash on her couch for a few hours before my flight at 6.

My plan to skip a hotel and sleep in the airport backfired hard. Although my friend was gracious enough to bail me out, transportation to and from her apartment annihilated nearly all the money I would've saved by booking the nightmare flight over the direct one the next day.

With airline ticket prices still at record highs, I can't say I won't try sleeping in an airport again. But I now know that this travel hack requires a fair amount of research, not just a tolerance for roughing it.

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