If you need a bed in a pinch: A review of Sleepbox at Dulles Airport
Most travelers don't plan to sleep in airports on their journey. Sure, there's the occasional overnight connection that requires advance planning for a bed along the way. However, the majority of the time you need a place to sleep between flights, you don't know about it ahead of time. Leaving an airport is a pain, and airport hotels can be quite pricey at times.
Sleepbox, a new entry in airport sleep facilities, has set up shop at Dulles Airport (IAD) as a first step to offering travelers better choices. I got to try it out recently on a trip with family.
Sleepbox at Dulles Airport
Sleepbox has installed 16 pods at Dulles that travelers can rent out in 30-minute increments. You'll find them hiding in plain sight in the A Concourse. The easiest way to find Sleepbox is to take the train to Concourse A. As you proceed up the escalator, you'll see the Sleepbox location on your right.
Alternatively, if you're walking through the airport, follow signs to the train stop in Concourse A between the international terminal and the regional jet terminal. Proceed down the first set of escalators (or one elevator), pull a U-turn and you'll see Sleepbox on your left at the end of the hallway. There's plenty of helpful signage along the way.
The Sleepbox app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Though Sleepbox has an attendant at the facility 24 hours a day, they weren't able to help me make a reservation, instead directing me to the app. A Sleepbox representative informed me that the people managing the front desk do have the ability to help make reservations if you don't have access to the app.
The app serves two purposes: It allows you to make a booking and pay for it, and it can also get you access to your pod and control the temperature and lighting in the pod. I found the app easy to use.
When you're making your booking, you'll be required to upload a picture of your ID and a selfie as well as your flight information. It's a bit unclear to me what the information is used for. I get that airport security wants to know who's sleeping overnight, but it struck me as a bit odd to need my picture and ID in the app.
(We checked with JT Genter, TPG's senior points and miles writer, and he confirmed that Minute Suites asks for ID too.)
Inside your Sleepbox
There are two sizes of Sleepbox, though the general length of the room and bed are the same. The compact room is really just a bed with a small area to stand beside it. The standard room has a bit more space for luggage and a couple of drawers along with a mirror. Unless you have a ton of luggage, there's probably not a ton of extra value in the larger room, since it doesn't buy you a true desk or any other features.
Inside the room are a bed, two pillows and blanket. The bed itself is more comfortable than I might have expected. It's not going to win any awards for comfort, but it'll do the job for a quick nap. I tested it for about an hour and found no issues.
Inside my Sleepbox, I was able to control the brightness of the lights, the color of them (mood lighting!) and the temperature in the room.
While my kids found the different colors of the lights amusing, they don't have much purpose for business travelers.
The nightstand has plenty of space for electronics while they charge, as well as a double outlet and two USB ports. You'll have no problem charging your gear while you sleep.
Adjusting the thermostat in the room did noticeably heat and cool the room. I would imagine most travelers can get the temperature comfortable enough for their liking in the Sleepbox.
Lighting and sound fall into the "very good but not great" category. The Sleepbox has a window that looks out onto a quiet hallway reserved for Sleepbox. The attendant should keep anyone other than guests from walking down the hallway. There's an option in the app (as well as a light switch) that allows you to frost the glass. I can't really imagine there's anyone who would prefer to have a window into their bedroom. Even with the glass frosted, it still lets some light into the room. If that's the sort of thing that bothers you, bring an eye mask.
Sleepbox did a solid job picking a quiet location in the airport. However, the pods are not soundproof. Most people should be able to get a quiet nap. But when I tested it with my MacBook Pro at 50% volume playing music right outside my door, I could hear it from inside. Still, while there's no guarantee you'll have quiet, I think it's highly likely. Choose Sleepbox 5, 6, 7 or 8, since they're the furthest from the concourse, if quiet is your main goal.
Lastly, the bed does have a fold-down panel that acts like a desk. It's sturdy but not terribly functional. It's far enough away from the head of the bed that I had to sit up on the bed with no back support to use it. That's fine for quick e-mail replies but wouldn't work for a business traveler for any length of time.
Pricing and Priority Pass
Sleepbox currently charges between $30 and $31.25 per hour for a compact room and $42 and $43.75 for a standard or handicapped-accessible room. And if you have Priority Pass from any non-American Express cards you're entitled to one free hour and a 20% discount on longer stays. Sleepbox has also informed us that all first-time stays will earn 20% off the entire stay.
Sleepbox is a welcome entrant into the market of in-airport sleep options. The primary competitor in the space, Minute Suites, offers more amenities in some of their locations, as our Zach Honig found out on a stop at one of their newest locations at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). You'll pay a bit more but you'll also get more space and more of a traditional desk at Minute Suites. Priority Pass members also get their first hour free there as well.
For my money, the thing that would put Sleepbox over the top in terms of value would be access to showers, even for an extra fee. If you have a layover after an international flight, the shower can be just as valuable as the nap. With no airport hotel connected directly to Washington-Dulles Airport, Sleepbox is certainly the most convenient option. The hourly price could add up quickly if you needed to crash for a while, but with a free hour via Priority Pass and a 20% discount, Sleepbox is great for short stays.