We all have that travel story. “Remember in (insert year) when we were in (insert city), and there was that person who (insert crazy thing)? I can't believe somebody would do that! I'd be so embarrassed.”
While most situations aren't that serious, travel etiquette is nothing to skimp on when planning your next trip. Whether you're going across the region or traveling globally, there are a few things you should look up before you hit the tarmac. From airplane etiquette to knowing the plane's rules, being prepared is always good.
Not to brag, but we travel a lot here at Pack Hacker. Our team memebers have collectively traveled to hundreds of countries, and we've learned a thing or two on our journeys that we’re here to share with you. Plus, we have a Pack Hacker Pro Community full of avid travelers and gearheads who have helped us create this list of travel etiquette dos and don'ts to help you get by.
Before you offend anyone, let's dive in!
On the way to the airport
- Your Uber, Lyft, or taxi driver isn’t your chauffeur and doesn’t work for you. They (and their car) deserve your respect. Don’t leave trash behind, and be sure thank them on your way out the door!
- You should know where you’re going—it isn’t on your driver to know what terminal your flight is at or where your airline typically departs. Asking politely is fine, of course.
- Tipping for good service is the norm in most countries when using public and paid transit—either with cash or through the app.
- Many drivers are rewarded for getting good reviews on the app. Always give a good rating for good service, and be lenient when it isn’t what you expected. You can affect someone’s livelihood because you are upset at the moment.
- If you’re taking public transit, look up the route before you get on the bus. It isn’t the driver’s responsibility to tell you how to reach your destination. Some questions are acceptable (and probably expected), but they’re a driver, not a tour guide. It’s simple travel etiquette!
- No matter how you arrive at the airport, ensure you don’t leave anything in the car, bus, shuttle, etc., before you go. Smaller items, like toiletry bags and tech organizers, are easy to miss if they somehow make it under the seat. Regardless of the mode of transportation, it’s leaving as soon as you get out!
- Be prepared to go through security; nobody wants to wait for you because you weren’t ready to follow airport etiquette Before you get in line, have your travel backpack packed and travel documents (like a passport or ID) ready.
- You should be just as kind to the TSA agents as you would be to any other public servant. They’re doing their job and aren’t out to get you, even if some rules might be hard to understand or accept.
- If you see something peculiar, actually say something. There’s a reason for the hundreds of ads you’ll see at the airport. Your actions can save lives! However, every little thing isn’t reportable, so use your best judgment.
- You shouldn’t ask a stranger to watch your stuff. After all, you don’t know what they’re up to. If something comes up and they have to dip, they’ll leave your things behind. Why make it awkward? You’re in the airport, and everything is packed; take it with you. This applies to travel etiquette in most places in the world.
- Take phone calls and FaceTime video chats from a secluded place, not in the middle of the terminal or boarding area. Some folks may be trying to sleep or unwind between flights, so not disturbing them is airport etiquette.
- Don’t cut in line. Nobody likes that. You’re all going to the same place, and the plane isn’t leaving without you. This is near the top of the list regarding plane etiquette, and you haven’t even left the ground yet.
- Get to the airport on time. Nobody wants to deal with you rushing through the terminals. After all, you’re going on a trip. Why not start on a good note?
- Have all your documents ready to make the line go faster. A sling or travel wallet is a good idea for these items. No matter where you’re going, not holding up the line is travel etiquette.
- Give the people around you space—there’s usually a lot of it at the airport. Letting people have their personal space is a part of airport etiquette. You’re about to be packed like sardines on a plane. Enjoy the fresh air while you can!
- Be kind and courteous to flight attendants; they work for the airline, not you. Let them do their job, and the flight will run smoothly. It’s proper airline etiquette!
- Don’t hog the overhead bin—it’s space for everyone, not just for you.
- If you’re traveling with kids, ensure they act how you’d want someone else’s children to behave if you were flying solo.
- However, be understanding if there’s a crying baby or a child who makes an isolated mistake. After all, we’ve all been there, and being compassionate for others on your flight is a part of plane etiquette. The parent probably feels worse about it than you do! Bring a set of Loop Quiet Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you’re sensitive to noises.
- For the love of everyone’s nose, don’t bring stinky food on the flight. The whole plane shouldn’t have to suffer because you needed to bring some Limburger cheese. We’ll call it smell-resistant airplane etiquette!
- Try to get a good read on the people to your left, right, front, and behind to practice proper plane etiquette. Some might want to chat; some might not. Headphones are a universal sign that somebody wants to be left alone.
- As your seatmate puts headphones or an eye mask on, you can ask them if they want to be notified when food or drinks come by. Nobody wants to be awoken from a deep sleep for a soda if they don’t want one, just like nobody wants to miss a hot breakfast after a red-eye flight.
- The middle seat gets both armrests. No if, ands, or buts! That’s airplane etiquette numero uno!
- Be conscious when reclining your seat. You don’t need to go all the way back, just enough so your head doesn’t fall forward while sleeping.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol on the flight. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to drink it! It can mess with your sleep, dehydrate you, and leave you more tired when you arrive. Save the drinks for when you land.
- Clean up after yourself. The flight attendant assists the pilots and passengers; they aren’t your personal janitor. If you wouldn’t do it at home, you shouldn’t do it on a plane. That’s travel etiquette and general human decency!
- Bring some headphones if you plan to listen to music or podcasts, make phone calls, or FaceTime someone. If they can hear your media or call clearly, it’s an invasion of their personal bubble and violates airplane etiquette.
- Use the call button sparsely. Odds are, you’ll see the flight attendant making their rounds shortly.
- If you have in-flight wifi and can make calls or Facetime, keep them short and sweet (while using headphones). Nobody wants to hear your conversation, even if it’s only your half! Plus, some airlines prohibit calls even when connected to WiFi, so it’s probably best to avoid it entirely.
- Taking your travel shoes off to get comfortable is okay, but keep your socks on! That’s gross! Nobody wants to wake up and see your feet. This is another example of smell-resistant airplane etiquette.
- If someone asks, you don’t have to switch seats, but it’s the nice thing to do. If it’s a like-for-like change, or you plan to sleep through the flight anyway, why not? Being kind is an essential part of travel etiquette.
- Be wary of how you’re sleeping. If you’re prone to flop around, prepare with a neck pillow and a blanket wrapped around you so you don’t flop over your seatmates.
- If there’s turbulence, stay calm. Most of the time, there’s nothing to worry about. If there is, do you want to spend your last few minutes screaming about it?
- When leaving the plane, file in order, front to back. It’s easier that way, and upsetting the balance will slow everything down. In addition to being airplane etiquette, it’s typically an airline rule.
- If somebody is about to miss a connecting flight, let them go ahead of you. It’s what you’d want if you were in their shoes! Or, if you’re about to miss your connecting flight, notify the people around you when you land and they’ll likely be happy to accommmodate. This applies to many situations and should be considered general travel etiquette—ask, and you’ll likely receive
- Don’t be overly loud. Not everyone at the hotel is on your party schedule! Some folks might be trying to sleep for a big day ahead of might have small children.
- Do your best to check in and out on time. It’s easier for the hotel and makes cleaning up and getting your room ready for the next guest quicker. Think about it like the dentist’s office—as soon as one patient is late, the whole schedule can get out of whack.
- Your kids are your responsibility, not the hotel staff’s. Keep an eye on them, especially if there’s a pool.
- If tipping is the norm where you’re staying, tip your hotel staff, from the bellhop to the kitchen workers.
- Politeness goes a long way, whether you’re chatting with the cleaners in the hallway or the hotel owner in the lobby. Being kind can make someone’s day and start yours on the right foot.
- Other guests have the same rights and privileges that you do. Give respect and courtesy, and you’ll get it back!
- Don’t use anything that you don’t need! This will make you a more sustainable traveler and is easier for the cleaning staff. You don’t grab condiments you don’t need or like from the local burger joint, do you? Put down the extra shampoos!
- Keep your guests to a minimum. You didn’t rent a venue; you rented a place to rest your head and hang out. A small gathering is louder than you think, which can disturb other guests.
- If you plan to reuse the towel that you showered with that morning, hang it up. This means that the cleaners won’t take it and replace it. A towel doesn’t need to be cleaned after every use, so you can save water and power resources by reusing them.
- If there’s complimentary breakfast at your hotel, only take what you need. It isn’t fair to the next guest if you take all the bacon and put it in your refrigerator for a late-night snack. Making a small lunch or snack for later is okay, but don’t be greedy. Being a good neighbor should be on your travel etiquette bingo card.
- Keep your room fairly clean. Before leaving, tidy up. The cleaners shouldn’t have to do an incredibly deep clean because you feel like leaving your room a pigsty.
- It’s essential to look up the customs of a place before you go on the trip. You don’t want to land and realize you’ve brought items that will offend people living where you’d like to explore. For example, many religious sites require specific clothing or footwear to enter places of worship, such as knee-length skirts or covered shoulders.
- Suppose you’re visiting a place that speaks a different language than you’re used to; practice before you hit the road. We like to learn key words and phrases so we can greet strangers, say excuse me, and say goodbye with a quick thanks. A little effort goes a long way.
- There are different tipping expectations depending on where you’re going. Look up your destination ahead of time to see if they find tipping insulting (like in Japan, China, or South Korea) or if it’s practically required (like in Egypt or the United States). Small bits and pieces of travel etiquette can go a long way.
- Do your research and dress appropriately. You don’t have to support someone’s beliefs to show them respect while you’re visiting their country. After all, it’s theirs, not yours, and you’re there to experience the world they’ve built, not convert them.
- It’s a common stereotype that English speakers are arrogant when somebody doesn’t speak their language. Don’t be that person! After all, you don’t know their language, why should they speak yours?
- Certain gestures have different meanings in different places. For example, a reverse peace sign (palm towards your body) means something completely different in England. Offending someone, even on accident, is never a good idea.
- Be prepared with apps and maps. You can communicate with your phone. Don’t be helpless!
- Never make assumptions while traveling, especially if you’re far from home. Just because something is one way where you live, in a movie about a place, or in a different location you’ve been, doesn’t mean that it’ll be like that where you’re going.
At the airport
At Cruising Altitude
At your accommodations
On the trip
So there you have it! Travel etiquette for the modern-day explorer. Hopefully, you’re more prepared for your next trip, whether it’s across the pond or to the grocery store. Happy travels!