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TRAVEL

Online guide to airport lounging

By Barry Neild for CNN

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Almost all frequent fliers inevitably end up forced to sleep in an airport

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- As any frequent flier knows, there are certain inevitabilities to air travel, such as dry throats, swollen feet and painful in flight entertainment.

And sooner or later, no matter how well you've scheduled your connections, there will be the unavoidable 12-hour airport stopover.

Experienced business travelers will usually find their way to the nearest hotel, but when bad weather or strike action conspire to ground flights en masse, these fill up swiftly, leaving passengers without a bed for the night.

While spending the night in an airport lounge is not the most attractive prospect, there are ways to make the most of a bad situation.

Enter Donna McSherry, a Canadian travel agent who has turned lounging in lounges into an art form through her web site Sleepinginairports.comexternal link.

For the past decade, McSherry has been compiling her online guide to airport survival, earning rave reviews from travelers who have helped her compile lists of the best and worst terminals for taking a nap.

"When I was 20, I went off on my first trip as a backpacker to Ireland. So as to save money and not to miss my flight, I spent the night at the airport on my departure," she told CNN.

"There were lots of other people camped out there, and I realized I'd stumbled on a secret.

"The following year I did the same thing when I traveled to Switzerland, and then I got the idea for my Web site."

With more than 3,700 anecdotal and irreverent entries submitted by slumberers from around the world, the site has become an essential resource, attracting both budget travelers and high flyers.

For Toronto-based McSherry, the trick to airport comfort is preparation. A well-packed carry-on case will help ease terminal boredom during lengthy stopovers.

'Golden pillow'

"Don't rely on the airlines to make you comfortable, bring your own accessories -- things such as an inflatable pool raft, music, a good book, food and water," she said.

And which are the best and worst? According to McSherry, her first airport experience still ranks as her favorite.

"They had couches with big cushions and benches that were like beds. I couldn't believe I was having such an amazing time. Geneva on the other hand was terrible. Bucket seats and marble floors. It was not a comfortable experience. "

McSherry's readers have contributed to a more comprehensive survey, presenting "golden pillow" awards to the sleepiest airport lounges and exposing the least comfy.

Sleepinginairports.com's top five

1. Changi, Singapore: Free Internet access, reclining chairs in designated snooze spots, a luxury spa and lounge so quiet that students visit just to study for exams.

2. Amsterdam Shiphol, The Netherlands: Comfortable chairs and a casino to while away the hours.

3. Auckland International, New Zealand: Few announcements, couches and a mini-theatre.

4. Helsinki-Vantaa. Finland: Showers, couches and Internet.

5. Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong: Overstuffed chairs, children's play area , courteous staff.

Worst five

1. Jackson, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: One contributor saw seven people die in a gang shoot-out.

2. Boston Logan, Massachusetts: Uncomfortable seats with arm rests, cold air conditioning, lots of security announcements.

3. Mumbai, India: Dirty, smelly and full of mosquitoes.

4. Cairo International, Egypt: Improving, but yet to lose its reputation for terrible toilets, rats, dogs and lice.

5. Chicago O'Hare, Illinois: Known as "O'Hell" for its uncomfortable plastic seats, buzzing fluorescent lights and unpleasant smells.

This month's CNN Business Traveller looks at how changes to sleep patterns impact performance and health.

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