Turns out, there is a better way: A few big airports around the world are adding short-term and overnight private mini-rooms with stretch-out beds airside of security. You can rent by the hour for quick naps or overnight for longer stretches:
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-- Yotel (www.yotel.com) operates more full-featured "cabins" at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Even the smallest include sink and shower, as well as the expected bed, desk, TV, and computer hookups. The cost is actually lower than the cost of Minute Suites, starting at 40 euros (about $52) for a four-hour minimum. Yotel also operates at Heathrow and Gatwick, but outside security -- a lot less useful.
-- Napcabs (www.napcabs.net) operates really small cubicles at Munich airport, including just bed and counter but no plumbing, with rates of 15 euros per hour during the day and 10 euros per hour overnight. And Sam's Snooze provides similar accommodations at the Delhi airport for $10 an hour (see details through www.newdelhiairport.in).
If you just feel gritty after a long trip and don't need a lie-down bed, some big airlines operate premium facilities airside at their most important hubs that include shower facilities, clothes pressing, and other welcome services. Unfortunately, as far as I know, they're limited to business and first-class passengers. Many years back, I tried United Airlines' facility at Heathrow (after using a frequent flyer upgrade) and found it the best way I know to start recovering from an overnight flight. Unfortunately, those facilities aren't available to the folks in economy class who really need them the most.
If you're willing to exit an airport's security areas, you have lots more options. Quite a few big airports have onsite hotels that are connected directly to a terminal by either a walkway or the airport's internal people-mover system. Many of these hotels rent rooms by the hour during the day for naps, showers, or just relaxation. And some airport-area hotels that aren't directly connected do the same. But having to leave and re-enter security can be a real deal-breaker, and I know of no inside-security facilities other than the ones described.
Airside sleeping accommodations -- even if minimal -- can be a real benefit when you have a really early flight and want to be at the airport the night before, when you arrive really late and prefer to crash quickly, and especially if you have an extended connecting time. I'm surprised that such accommodations haven't caught on more quickly. Maybe you'll see more in the next few years -- let's hope.
Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at email@example.com. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through www.mybusinesstravel.com or www.amazon.com