Monday Mornings with Madison

Travel Etiquette: Dos, Don’ts, and Super Don’ts

The solstice — which heralds the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere – officially begins on June 21st this year.  In addition to hot weather, summer also ushers in the end of the K-12 school year and summer break for colleges and universities.  It is the time of year when families and professionals alike take vacations.  And it is also the time of year when many professional associations hold business conferences.  All in all, it makes for a very busy travel period.  That is why, in addition to packing sunscreen and sunglasses, travelers should also make sure to pack their best manners and patience.  Travel can be daunting and it can also bring out the worst in people.  Without a huge supply of good graces and respect for others, one person’s bad manners can ruin someone else’s good time or worse.

Case in point.  It was a year ago that the government of China felt compelled to issue a set of official conventions to be followed by Chinese citizens when traveling.  The guidelines were posted on the Chinese central government’s website.  Behaviors that the Chinese government was hoping to eradicate amongst Chinese travelers included “spitting, littering, cutting in lines and defacing historic treasures”.  What prompted this edict was the behavior exhibited by one 15-year old Chinese tourist visiting Egypt last year who carved his name into a 3500 year old Egyptian artifact/relic.  In addition to causing an international uproar, the teenager’s rude behavior was harshly rebuked by his own people.

All would do well – whether traveling for business or pleasure – to follow well-established protocol for what is and is not socially acceptable behavior when going out into the world.  Here are a few tips and cues to keep in mind (and share with others) when traveling…. And don’t assume you know better.  While everyone agrees that bad manners are annoying or offensive, sometimes we don’t realize it may be us. Read on to ensure you don’t offend others!

Be The Change You Want To See In The World

If we want to be treated with respect, consideration and fairness, then we need to be the change we want to see in the world.  The fundamentals of good etiquette are comprised of demonstrating four key behaviors:

  • respect for others,
  • consideration/thoughtfulness about others’ needs,
  • self awareness, and
  • fairness.

Most of these guidelines are unnecessary if every person strives to demonstrate those key behaviors.  That said, sometimes it just helps to be told “this is just bad manners.”  Here are some dos and don’ts (and some really, really don’ts) when traveling.

Airplane Travel

Do arrive early to the airport.  Don’t try to cut, muscle or manipulate your way to the front of the security line.  Everyone’s time is valuable.

Don’t hog seats in the boarding area.   When planes are full, space is tight not only on the plane but also in the gate area.  Be kind and leave the seat next to you open so someone else can sit there.  Don’t place your luggage or newspapers on empty seats when the boarding area is crowded.

Do board your flight with your zone. Each airline has its own method for boarding.  Obey the rules.  Don’t try to cut in line.  Airlines have boarding protocols for a reason.  In many cases, people who board first paid for the privilege, so it’s only fair to honor it.

Do carry on two pieces of luggage and check additional bags.  Don’t carry on three or four bags taking up extra space in the overhead bins.

Do put your coat, backpack, and/or purse under the seat in front of you.  Don’t put those items in the overhead bin and stress out another traveler who will be forced to check a bag because the bins are full. Smaller bags and coats can be moved to the overhead bin after all passengers have had an opportunity to store their carry-on suitcase (if there is still room).

Do use the available space above your seat to place your own bags… but don’t move, touch or remove someone else’s bag in order to accommodate yours without asking that person’s permission first.  And really, really don’t push or mash someone else’s bag in order to make room for yours.

Don’t put your bags in the overhead bin at the front of the plane so that you don’t have to hassle with carrying it to the space above your seat.  As you walk down the aisle, do look ahead to your seat to see if there is a space above it.  If there is, your bag should go there. If not, use the space directly across from your seat or nearest to your seat. If there’s no room there, then put it anywhere available.

Do be aware of your surroundings and others when boarding the flight.  Walk to your seat carefully carrying your bags in front or behind you.  Don’t hoist your backpack, purse or bag on your shoulder and then bash every person sitting in an aisle seat with your bag as you pass.  If it happens by accident, apologize.  It is very rude to pretend not to notice that your bags have hit and hurt others.

Do share the armrest.  The unspoken rule is that the person in the middle seat gets both armrests while those by windows or aisles get only one armrest.  If there are multiple idle seats, share the armrests judiciously and equitably.

Do speak courteously and kindly to airline staff, especially flight attendants.  Although they do serve food and beverages, they aren’t waiters.  They are the ones who might save your life in an emergency.

Do travel with children, but pack carefully.  Be sure to bring quiet activities to keep each child entertained.  Also bring snacks and drinks in case the flight is delayed on the runway.

Don’t travel in an airplane if you are sick and contagious.  Airplanes are incubators for germs.  Your coughing and sneezing can infect many and more quickly in a plane than practically anyplace else.  For a nominal fee, travel insurance allows a traveler to reschedule a trip in case of illness.

Do use both hands to pull bags out of overhead bins at the end of the flight.  Don’t allow your bags to bonk others on the head or crush their feet as you prepare to deplane.

Do let people in front of you deplane first.  When the plane pulls up to the gate, every person wants to be the first off the plane.  Make sure the people in the row in front of you have a chance to exit before you start walking forward.

Don’t sit in an aisle seat and then decide to stay put until everyone else has deplaned, blocking others in the row from deplaning.  Having an aisle seat does not entitle you to hold hostage other travelers because you chose to deplane last.


Do have good hygiene, clean clothes and comfortable but proper attire.  When traveling in close quarters, it is especially important to have fresh breath and smell nice.  Clothes should be comfortable.

Don’t engage in personal grooming on the plane.  No nail clipping, hair brushing, tweezing, flossing, trimming, etc.  The close proximity, shared air and the detritus are reasons enough.  This is a super don’t.

Don’t play movies or music on your laptop, tablet or phone that others can hear (use headphones) or that is inappropriate for some audiences.  Be considerate of others’ sensibilities.

Hotel Stays

When you enter and exit your hotel room, close the door gently.  Noise can be stressful.  Few hotels are soundproofed enough to keep loud noises from penetrating the sanctum of a room, and the worst offender is the slamming door.

Do keep the volume down on voices, TV, phone conversations, etc.  Loud TV and phone conversations can drive the person staying in the neighboring room nuts, especially late at night.

Do push the “door open” button for those approaching the elevator, if it is possible.

Do tip the maid that is cleaning your room.  Since there could be a different person cleaning the room each day, don’t wait until the last day to leave a big tip.

Do tip bellmen, housekeeping, room service, valet and/or the Concierge for services they provide.

Do use an ‘inside voice’ when on a cell phone or speaking to friends or family in any common areas such as the lobby or a restaurant.  The entire place does not need to hear you.

These fundamentals and a smile can go a long way when it comes to traveling.  Bon voyage.

Quote of the week

“Etiquette is all human social behavior. If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if somebody comes up the mountain, then you’ve got a problem. It matters because we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities.” Judith Martin


© 2014, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux