Stranded Overnight In The Airport: Tips to Survive

Whether you’re traveling for business or for pleasure, there’s not much worse than missing a flight. Except, of course, missing a connecting flight, which means you’ll also be stranded in an unknown city (and perhaps country, or worse, without any of your checked baggage). Most likely, your travel plans are altered due to a circumstance beyond your control, be it erratic weather conditions or worse, plane maintenance.

In my case, going from JFK to HKG it happened to be both. I scheduled a direct flight with a 4 hour stopover in LAX, which normally would leave plenty of time to catch my overnight flight to Hong Kong. Except we were 6 hours late leaving New York. This caused me to miss that last flight out of Los Angeles and spend an extra 12+ hours in the airport. I could’ve bought myself a hotel room. But I decided not to, since I was trying to save money! Had I anticipated my delay in travel plans, there are so many things I’d wish I’d done differently. In case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here’s a few key tips to survive so you can have as comfortable a time as possible.

Don’t forget your airplane pillow(s)!

Lots of people have the circular neck pillows for long haul plane journeys now, and I couldn’t imagine flying without one. They’re especially great to clip onto the outside of a backpack or a suitcase, allowing you to maximise the space within your bag for clothes and accessories. The real travel experts don’t just stop at 1 pillow. They carry 2- the classic neck one and a secondary pillow that you can fold flat. It blows up into a small square and allows you an extra cushion - convenient for camp sites, upgrading the comfort of your window seat and occasionally a life saver for the dreaded moment of sleeping on a floor or chair in the airport.

Keep some toiletries in your carry on

This is a big tip to remember. A lot of people forget about this, especially when they want to bring over 100 ml of their favorite shampoo or conditioner and liquids. I completely understand, but cannot stress enough how important it is to have some backup toiletries with you in your carry on. I didn’t and felt so disgusting after just a few hours without being able to brush my teeth or wash my face. Since the LAX airport shut down at night, except for a few night guards and cleaners, there weren’t any 24 hour convenience stores I could pop into for a toothbrush or soap. I wish I had one of Convenience Kit’s travel packs with me.I love their kits, especially the ones made for women because they come with all my favorite brands from the US like Garnier and Dove. This one is my favorite and for less than $12, it’s a great value. In NYC these products would cost me ~$3 each so the kit saves at least $10-$15! There are also male kits like this one for the testosterone travelers. And for those of you traveling with kiddies, there’s kits for them, too.

Join priority pass

For those of you who are eligible, its $100 a year to register for membership. They mail you an entry card (there’s also a digital app) that gets you into 1,000s of airport lounges all over the world. Some American credit cards even waive the fee for you. Having a Priority Pass membership seriously enhanced my layover experience that night in LAX. As soon as the lounges opened up at 7 am I went in for free breakfast, a coffee and a nice hot shower. 

Don’t forget a change of clothes

As a general rule of thumb, I usually carry a small sweater or jacket to put on in case the aircon is blasting on the plane or in the airport. But since the 3 different airlines I flew all didn’t want to claim responsibility for my baggage, all my clothing got lost in transit. I’m still not sure how, considering I only went from NYC to LA to Hong Kong, but its good to be prepared for when these things happen. I didn’t get my bags until 2 days later in HK. This rarely happens, but it would’ve been nice to be prepared with at least a clean pair of underwear or two. I’d pack a few extra necessities in your carry on - socks, sunnies, and your seasonal needs like a swimsuit or a hat and gloves. This should hopefully help hold you over for a day or two if your luggage were ever lost. It also helps to wear a neutral outfit when you travel. I was lucky that I had a black dress on (and even luckier I had a little sister in Hong Kong who shared some of her clothing with me). The dress was an easy cotton piece that dries quickly and it didn’t look too obvious when I wore it a 2nd day in a row. Hopefully these tips are a helpful reminder for your next adventure- although let’s hope you won’t get stranded in the first place!