I’m flying from Prague to Miami, and even though I swore less than 6 months ago I would never do this again, of course I booked a 26-hour flight itinerary. In my defense, I bought it using miles so I was going to take whatever they had.
When all was said and done, I was looking at an 8-hour layover in Helsinki. This is the perfect amount of time for a good meal, some sightseeing and a couple of drinks. Only problem? It was from 11 pm to 7 am. And as adventurous as I am, I didn’t want to spend an hour each way taking a late night bus in and out of Helsinki to eat at one of the only places serving food after midnight: McDonald’s.
So as I weighed my options of walking around by myself in a sleeping city and maybe going to an all-night club or roughing it at the airport, I came across the solution to all my problems. Helsinki is one of the only airports in the world that houses GoSleep pods. And immediately I became way more interested in checking this out than I was in seeing Helsinki in the dead of night.
What are GoSleep pods?
You know those sci-fi movies where people go into a deep sleep in an artificial cocoon while they’re shot into space? It’s basically that. At Helsinki Airport’s Terminal 1 next to gate 12, you’ll find rows and rows of these private sleep pods. This is the Schengen zone terminal, which means you must have a valid boarding pass that will allow you into the area.
The GoSleep pods are basically fancy chairs that recline all the way into beds, not unlike the beds on a first class flight. You can stow your carry-on luggage under the bed while you sleep, which eliminates one of the biggest worries about sleeping at airports. Someone would have to wake you up and get you out of the pod to get to your stuff. Inside the pod, there’s also USB chargers so your phone and tablet can recharge while you sleep.
You can manually close the pod by pulling the shade down over your body, though some people sleep with the shade partially open. I imagine if you’re claustrophobic, the whole idea would be a nightmare.
What’s a nap gonna cost you?
There are several different rates depending on the length of your stay:
The overnight rate is 49 euro, which allows you to “check in” after 8 pm and gives you lounge access until noon the next day. You can book online in advance via booking.com and though the rates probably vary, I got a pod reserved for 45 euro instead of 49. You can also book it by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and this way you don’t pay until you arrive. This overnight rate includes a pillow and blanket.
If you’re looking for a shorter stay in the GoSleep pod, you have to book via email. Booking.com only gives you the option to book for the whole night. But if you want it for 5 hours, it’s 39.90 Euro, including the pillow and blanket. If you book it for only 3 hours, it would be 22.50 euro, but you’d have to rent the pillow and blanket for a fee.
All things considered, it’s a pretty expensive place to take a nap. But I’ve done that overnight dance around a random airport for a clean, safe place to sleep and FUCK THAT.
So how was the GoSleep experience?
After a short evening flight from Prague, I arrived in Helsinki around 11. I was starving and everything at the airport was closed except for the GoSleep counter so I had to go to bed hungry.
When you check in, they give you a blanket, pillow, ear plugs and a sanitary paper like doctors use that you can use as a bedsheet.
So I stowed my bag, made my bed, and climbed into my pod. At first, I was a little scared of closing the overhead curtain shade, but when I did, it was awesome. You’re in your own little world, a protective cocoon. The space was roomier than I expected so I threw my coat and purse behind my head, charged my phone and iPad, and sprawled out. Since the area is monitored by the person at the front desk, I wasn’t scared of anyone taking a peek while passing by. Though the holes right above you do make you feel like you might see someone’s eye at any moment. But other than that, the space is comfortable and comforting and not at all creepy. Then again, I’m the kind of person that would probably shiv someone in prison to score a room in solitary. If you don’t like small enclosed spaces, this might not be for you.
And of course, as you would expect after paying money to get a comfy place to rest your head, I couldn’t sleep. For one, I was fucking starving. I hadn’t eaten since 2 pm. I was also already mentally drafting this post, which tends to happen even when I’m not actually writing or interested in doing so. I was texting everyone I know about my pod. And I was listening to people around me fart for the first hour or two. I’ve stayed in a handful of hostels in my life, but never heard this much flatulance in my life. I guess people really let go when they know we can’t see them.
That’s my biggest complaint about the pod: you can hear everything. When people walk around or when the cleaning crew is waxing the airport floors. The farting. For a couple of hours, I could hear the attendant checking in other travelers in hushed tones. It felt like being in an opium den except instead of smoking, people pay to fill their sleeping pod with farts.
I started to get comfortable in my little nook so I took off my shirt which was sweaty from travel. Then I took off the bra, because I was never gonna sleep comfortably in a bra. And that’s how I ended up topless in my pod. I’m not sure if that’s how it works, but there’s definitely enough room in there to get naked so fuck it. I regretted that slightly when I had to use the bathroom at 3 am and in a sleepy daze had to put all my clothes back on. Luckily, the bathroom is right in the GoSleep relaxation center. In the morning, you can also use this to brush your teeth and make yourself look somewhat human again before venturing out through the airport.
I ended up having a pretty ragged night of sleep, but mostly because I couldn’t stop writing in my head and worrying about not hearing my alarm with the earplugs in. But when I did sleep, I slept like a rock. And I had an odd sense of being in my bed in my apartment when I woke up in the middle of the night. Thankfully I came to my senses before I emerged from my sleeping pod half naked to use the bathroom.
Would I recommend it? Fucking yes. This is the most ingenious thing I’ve ever seen. And the pod is freaking amazing. I wish I could buy one for my house like the motherfucking crypt keeper to keep the light out of my face in the morning. And getting up an hour and a half before my flight and already being at the airport with enough time to have breakfast and wander to my gate is the most luxurious travel experience I’ve ever had.
You can find the GoSleep pods in a handful of airports around the world including Dubai, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and Hamburg.