I recently had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania for an epic safari in the Serengeti. It was an unforgettable experience, but the process of getting there and back was daunting. My first flight from Los Angeles to Doha, Qatar, was 16 hours, followed by a 6-hour layover and another 6-hour flight to Arusha. The way back was similar, but this time with a 9-hour layover in Doha. This was not my typical flying experience, so I knew I needed a plan.
How I Handled My Long Layovers
After spending considerable time researching all of my options, I moved forward with two strategies: one for my outbound and one for my returning flight.
For my outbound flight, I spent most of the 6-hour layover in the Priority Pass Lounge of Hamad International Airport called Al Maha. This large and comfortable lounge is well equipped to handle hundreds of guests, but at times it does close when it reaches capacity. Fortunately, they had space when I arrived. I ate, read, and chatted with other guests. The food was good, the staff was very friendly, and it was a nice way to spend several hours between flights.
However, for the 9-hour layover of my returning flight, I knew I needed sleep. So a few days before departing for Tanzania, I reserved a sleeping pod at Sleep ‘N Fly. These compact spaces offer a bed, pillow, blanket, reading light, and outlets. Different size pods are available and can be reserved from 2 to 24 hours.
Finding Sleep ‘N Fly Doha
The most difficult part of this experience was finding the Sleep ‘N Fly. I had watched a YouTube video with specific instructions on its location but still found myself wandering aimlessly for about 15 minutes before a kind airport staff member gave me directions. Fortunately, there is a large information desk in the airport in front of the famous yellow teddy bear sculpture, and they are happy to direct you.
Getting A Few Hours Sleep
Check-in at Sleep ‘N Fly was quick and easy since I had prepaid online. The receptionist walked me to my pod and told me I could stay for up to 5 hours. I had only booked four, so I was pleasantly surprised.
The pod is small and easy to use. I put away my carry-on bag, took off my shoes, plugged in my cell phone, turned off the lights, and quickly went to sleep. 3 hours later, I woke up and realized I had slept soundly. I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep, so I gathered my bags, checked out, and headed to the nearby Starbucks for breakfast.
While I kept the bed flat the entire stay, it is possible to move it into a seated position as well. This would be a great option if you wanted a quiet space to read or work.
You are allowed to leave and return to your sleeping pod during the reserved time. This is a good option if you want to grab a drink or snack during your stay.
What I Liked
I was able to sleep soundly because the pod is soundproofed and I heard nothing from my neighbors. For someone who can’t sleep on flights, getting 3 hours of really good sleep before my 16-hour flight to Los Angeles was definitely appreciated.
I also approved of the cleanliness. Each pod is thoroughly cleaned between guests, something I watched a staff member doing as I was departing.
What I Didn’t Like
While the Sleep ‘N Fly is next to the airport bathrooms, it would be nice if they had their own restroom facilities. I know similar businesses in other airports do offer these. Airport restrooms are large, bright, and not always clean. Facilities just for the guests would be ideal.
Don’t Rely On Your Priority Pass
Priority Pass Lounge access is one of my great joys when traveling. It’s a membership that allows access to thousands of airport lounges around the world. Technically, Sleep ‘N Fly is available to pass members for a significantly discounted rate.
However, you can’t make advanced reservations with the pass, and the sleeping pods often are fully booked. While I was checking in, several pass members were turned away. So if you really want to sleep like I did, pay full price and book online at least a day in advance.
Alternatives For Getting Rest During A Long Layover
If Sleep ‘N Fly doesn’t appeal to you, there are a couple of options. First, Oryx Hotel is located in the airport. And while it’s not cheap, it would provide much more space, private bathrooms, and probably a more comfortable bed. If my layover had exceeded 9 hours, I definitely would consider this.
The Priority Pass Lounge and Qatar Airways Business Class Lounge offer quiet rooms where guests can lay rest. These rooms were full at the lounge I visited, so it was not an option for me.
Finally, adding a day or two to your trip to explore Doha is a fun option. There are many hotels in the city at all price points. My trip was already 16 days long, so I didn’t want to extend it any further, but Doha has many sights and attractions.