Travel Etiquette for Smooth Journeys

Aug, 09, 2010

The world is divided by two kinds of people: those who exhibit good manners and those who exhibit bad ones. Why does it seem that air travel and bad manners are inseparable? Travel should be an adventure, at least that’s how the famous novelist John Steinbeck put it: “A journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.” Good manners can help to make your adventure a good one rather than a bad one.

For a smooth journey before your trip, when you’re up in the air, and at your destination, “Traveler Be Aware.”

Before Your Trip

Be Prepared for Your Adventure. Create a packing list, much as you would a shopping list. It helps to divide it into three sections: clothing (ties and cufflinks; suits and dresses; coats and sweaters; comfortable walking shoes), toiletries (nasal spray and contact lenses; toothbrush and mouthwash; sunscreen and Band-Aids), and miscellaneous (pens and sunglasses; games and laptop; umbrella and a portable reading light). Be sure and group your items in plastic Ziploc bags for things you may need in flight, such as your eye mask, earplugs, etc. (and put lotion and any other liquids in four-ounce bottles in a separate plastic bag to carry on the plane). Remember that packing “light” is packing “right.” That way you’ll have more room for your purchases!

Better Safe Than Sorry. Let your credit card companies know ahead of time the places you’ll be visiting, or they may place a hold on your card while you’re shopping! Alert your alarm company and newspaper carrier that you will be away. Do take and leave behind a detailed flight itinerary with emergency contact information for family members and work associates.

At the Airport

Hassle-Free Check-in. Check in ahead of time online whenever possible. “Anticipate” the flow of traffic at screening checkpoints: Place items such as jackets, metal belts, laptops, keys, and phones in plastic bins at the beginning of the line, not when you’re about to walk through the metal detector (which could be more than once for international flights). Never argue with airport security agents; you will lose every time and be red-tagged in the process!

Use Your Time Wisely. The wait time at airports can be long, but it can also be a great source of free time. You may be bored watching the clock until flight time (which is likely to be delayed). What can you do? What can’t you do? Try a long walk before flight time, or purchase a book-reader device to free your carry-on luggage of extra weight. A massage or manicure prior to flight time can also be very relaxing.

On the Plane

Captain Is King. Observe the pilot’s instructions at all times, especially when you’re asked to be seated. If not, your flight and trip could be delayed. The same rule applies for the seatbelt sign: It is illuminated for your safety. Raise your window blind before take-off and landing if you’re in a window seat. If anything happens, you’ll want to see out immediately.

Dining Etiquette. Unless you’re in first or business class (lucky you), come prepared with your own non-pungent food (so the smell of garlic, strong sauces, etc. doesn’t permeate the entire cabin). Have your credit card ready to swipe for beverages or movie headphones not included in the ticket price.

Travel Safety

Travel With Confidence. Think safety in numbers. Remember to leave your fine jewels at home so you will not be a target for theft. Never flaunt your wealth on either domestic or international soil, or give out your hotel name or room number to anyone! If leaving your room, don’t leave the maid’s service tag on the door. Why advertise your absence?

Tourist Beware. Scam artists are out in numbers, especially given the downturn in the economy. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Wear a money pouch (they’re ideal around the neck), and keep your credit cards with you to avoid identity theft. Have exact change at bus or train stations so you’re not a moving target.

At Your Destination

Learn About Where You’re Going. If traveling internationally, it pays to learn some common phrases such as hello, thank you, and where’s the train station? Study up on the laws, culture, gratuity guidelines, and weather patterns of the places you’ll be visiting (do you really want to travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season?). No matter your destination, think globally but act locally.

Map Your Destination. Traveling in the twenty-first century is challenging. To reduce stress, organize and map out your trip ahead of time. If renting a car, invest in a headset so you can be “hands free” to focus on the road.

The English philosopher George Moore once said: “A man travels the world in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” When traveling anywhere, follow the Travel Golden Rule: Always place yourself in someone else’s shoes, and don’t forget to take your manners with you!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and

Follow Lisa Mirza Grotts on Twitter.[/author_info] [/author]

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