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Travel Manners: Etiquette When Traveling

Updated on September 7, 2013

Vacations are a great way to get away from the stresses of everyday life, however, it is important not to leave your manners behind when you travel. By keeping your manners in tact during a vacation, you will not only make the trip a better experience for yourself, but also for others you are traveling with, as well as others you encounter. There is never an excuse for being rude or unkind while traveling, no matter how out-of-sorts you feel when on your trip. If you are unsure whether your behavior will come off as rude or impolite, then you can always treat others how you would like to be treated as a general guideline.

Prepare for Travel Ahead of Time

The better prepared you are for your trip, the easier it is to cope with the effects of traveling, and the more pleasant the experience will be for everyone. There are several things you can do to be sure that you are fully prepared for your trip. Take your travel preferences into consideration before planning your trip.

Ask yourself what type of climate you prefer. Do you prefer to travel alone or with others? What age group of people do you prefer to be around? For example, if you are in your 50's and don't want to spend your vacation in the midst of partying college students on spring break, then you should avoid booking a trip to Cancun during the months of March and April. By planning ahead you are setting yourself up to have an enjoyable time. Being flexible is the key to having a peaceful trip. It is important to be adaptable, as well as tolerant.

Deciding on a travel companion plays an important part of the planning procedure. Choosing between a romantic partner and a group of friends as travel companions is almost more important than deciding where to go. You have to take into consideration what the other companion enjoys and incorporate activities that you both will benefit from. Being happy is a crucial factor in being polite and minding your manners. The less conflict that arises during your travels due to preparedness, the easier it will be for everyone to be polite and keep their manners in check.

Once you have chosen your destination, comb through the itinerary and select activities each of the travel companions enjoys.. This will help you set expectations and know what each person wants to get out of the trip. In order for everyone to benefit equally from the vacation, it means that small sacrifices and compromises may have to be made.

For example, if children are going on the trip, the adults may have to sacrifice some of their adult activities in order to squeeze in time to go on an excursion for the kids. Some travel companions like to constantly be doing things, while others like plenty of downtime. In this situation, compromise is probably the best solution. You can make an agreement that one or two days of the trip can be spent doing things separately to ensure each person gets what they want out of the vacation. Be considerate of everyone's feelings. It helps to exercise patience and common courtesy.

General Transportation Etiquette Tips

The basic rule of etiquette while traveling, no matter what mode of transportation you take to get there, is respect others. The modes of transportation we use to travel usually have cramped spaces and are extremely uncomfortable. Breaches in etiquette that normally go unnoticed or overlooked in everyday life can easily escalate to tense situations while traveling.

While avoiding stress entirely during your trip will be next to impossible, there are still a few ways to ensure that the ride there goes as smoothly as possible and doesn't add to the stress. The following tips will help get you prepared for a smoother journey:

  • Make sure your travel documents are in order before arriving. You must ensure that you have proper identification ready, as well as boarding passes or tickets. Usually you will have to present a passport or driver's license/identification card with your boarding pass in order to get on the bus, plane or train you are boarding. It helps to look ahead of you in line, look for a sign at the beginning of the line, or ask an employee what you need before entering the line and have it out. Sometimes it helps to separate your driver's license from your billfold where you usually keep it and temporarily keep it together with your boarding ticket in case you have to show the two pieces of information several times in combination with each other.
  • Don't be a target for thieves. Pickpockets love to target tourists because they are an easy target. Never bring your valuables with you out into the streets, and instead leave them at the hotel in a safe. Keep any cash, money, and credit cards in a wallet that hangs around your neck under your clothes. Thieves can easily snatch things out of backpacks and pockets without you ever noticing them.
  • Double-check schedules. Nothing is more frustrating than missing a plane or train because you misread the schedule. Not only that but it is not uncommon for travelers to experience all kinds of unexpected cancellations that can leave them sitting unaware at the gate for two hours. Busy airports and train stations are frustrating and confusing enough, especially when trying to understand schedules and information displays in a foreign language.
  • Allow a large window of time.The best way to reduce stress and anxiety while waiting to check in at a railroad, airport, or bus station is to allow yourself double the amount of time as your first impulse dictates. If your first thought was an hour for waiting, then add an hour to it just to be safe. If you are traveling abroad, add another two hours. If you are going through immigration, just expect huge delays no matter what. If you expect to wait longer than you end up waiting, then it is more of a relief than a frustration. If you are crunched for time, it becomes a frustration.
  • Dress for a long journey.Wear layered clothes that can easily be added and removed to adjust for temperature changes, especially if you are fated to spend many hours in the same outfit. By layering your clothing, you can adjust to the temperature changes while still looking nice and well dressed.
  • Keep your children entertained. Bring activities that will keep your children entertained and keep them from becoming restless and bored. There are plenty of travel games and activity pads for children to do. There are electronic travel games (make sure they have volume control features because the sound could stress out other passengers and it is impolite) that use AA batteries that can easily be replaced if the battery dies. It is important to consider the other passengers and respect their rights by not allowing your children to become nuances. Don't allow them to horseplay, run along the aisles, or infringe on other passengers.
  • Mind your own business.Don't intrude on the person sitting next to you by interrupting what they are doing to make small talk. If they are clearly engaged in something, as a general rule, they don't want to be bothered. Even if it is a long trip and you will be sitting next to this person for the next several hours, don't bother them with nosy questions or try to engage in friendly chit chat if they are busy. A polite introduction or acknowledgment is plenty. There will be some point in the trip, especially if it is a long journey, that they will shut their laptop off, close their book, or disengage in the activity; and when they do, then it is ok to interrupt. Take the hint if you are receiving sharp, one-word answers to questions and back off.
  • Be a conscientious sleeper. If you have the opportunity to catch some sleep on the ride to your destination then try to rest or not fall into a full, deep sleep. Sleeping is a bad idea if you know that you are a wild sleeper and could lean over and encroach on the person next to you. Nobody wants your head in their lap on the ride to your destination; it is cramped already. Also if you are a loud snorer, then you might consider trying to stay awake too and save yourself the embarrassment of the whole plane or bus laughing at you. Let's face it, it is just bad manners to snore loudly, lay your head in the lap of a stranger or drool all over yourself (others have to look at you).
  • Use common courtesy with electronic devices. Please note that if you are using a portable dvd player, iPod or mp3 player, or doing anything that makes noise, it is best that only you hear the noise. That means wear headphones. If you forget your headphones, then you can ask to borrow some or buy some from an airline attendant or bus driver (sometimes). You can also buy some at the next train depot, bus terminal, or airport. It is never okay to blast your music or movies for the entire bus, train or airplane to hear. Don't blare your headphone volume so loud that the person next to you can still make out the words. Loud typing could also bother the passenger next to you, so it is best to ask in this situation, whether the typing will bother them.

Air Travel Etiquette Tips

Airlines are one of the most stressful and busiest places that vacationers have to visit. The number of people is usually running at max capacity or beyond and is enough to cause stress to airline attendants, passengers, and staff that translates into anxiety and rudeness. Remember that everyone is on edge and could snap at any moment and do your best not to push others to that point. The following tips are designed to help you reduce the stress of traveling via airplane and help make everyone's experience better:

  • Use the restroom before you leave the terminal. You could be stuck on the tarmac with seatbelt lights on for quite a while and restroom access will be off-limits.
  • When boarding and exiting the aircraft be considerate of those around you. Travel along the main aisle at the same pace as those in front of you and don't rush them. Keep your bags either on your back or directly in front of you. Be careful when retrieving your bag from the overhead bin and do not let it tumble down on top of anyone
  • Stay in your seat. Plan ahead and have anything you plan to do or read in a bag at your seat. Don't get up 100 times to get out different activities from your suitcase. The space is cramped and unless you are on the aisle seat, you are brushing your butt up against someone each time you walk past them. It is annoying, especially after the second go round. If you are the type that has to use the restroom or stretch your legs often then plan ahead and reserve yourself an aisle seat and respect other passengers' space.
  • Share the armrests. Be fair and don't hog both the armrests. The seats are designed to allow you both to have one.
  • Give warning before reclining your seat. It is very frustrating when someone in the seat in front of you crashes into your legs or jostles your tray and drink without warning. Doing so can cause a person who is already at a high stress level to become unpleasant and possibly rude to you.
  • Don't call the airline attendant unless it is an emergency. Use the “call attendant” button sparingly. In fact, you should probably only use it in the case of an emergency or urgent matter when the pilot has turned on the seat belt lights. Otherwise, excessive use of the “call attendant” button can cause frustration to the attendant who is actually busy performing job duties and not just sitting around doing nothing. The flight attendants walk up and down the aisles regularly so you can save most questions until one passes by.
  • Know the rules for baggage. Call ahead and know the rules for baggage. Everyone who flies pretty regularly knows there is a rule that limits the number of liquids and how they are stored on carry-on luggage. There are also items that are restricted from being allowed as carry-on luggage, such as sharp objects and aerosol cans. It is best to look at the rules on the airlines website prior to packing so that you don't waste precious time and money (they make you throw these items away at security check-points). If you can't go on vacation without your jumbo shampoo and conditioner bottles then be prepared to spend the extra money checking your bags. Don't even try to make it through security unless you have your liquids in clear, travel-sized bottles. The same goes for knowing the weight limit for checked baggage—if you don't find out beforehand and prepare, you could be faced with paying extra or tossing some of your stuff.
  • Prepare yourself ahead of time for the security checkpoint. Before you jump into the security line, know what items must be removed from their bags and have them ready to be pulled out. You can dress accordingly the day you plan on traveling by wearing shoes that are easily removed and omitting a belt from your outfit. Shoes and belts are items that most airports will require you to remove through security. Holding up the entire line so you can unlace your hiking boots, remove them, and then put them back on and lace them back up is annoying to people in line behind you. Everyone is trying to move as quickly as possible when going through security—keep that in mind if you don't want to cause problems.


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    • crissytsu profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas

      Your're welcome! I'm the type of person who does all my small talk with the other smokers before anyone boards the plane. Once I'm on the plane, being kind of shy, I don't like sitting next to strangers, much less having to feel obligated to carry on a conversation. I usually try to look busy so I'm not bothered. I completely understand where you are coming from, especially if you are genuinely busy. Thanks for the vote.

    • Miss Mimi profile image

      Miss Mimi 

      6 years ago from On the road again

      Nicely put. I regularly fly back and forth between Europe and North America, and I especially appreciate that you've pointed out proper airplane behaviour and that you should take a moment to observe your seat partner before trying to start a 4-hour conversation. I can't count the number of times I've been completely jet-lagged, trying to book a gig, choreograph a routine and find new finale music all at the same time and the person sitting next to me keeps trying to chat. I love meeting new people and making small talk, but sometimes I have to get work done en route. Thanks for putting this out there, voted up!


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