Any traveler knows that sinking feeling of boarding a plane only to get stuck with a less-than-desirable seatmate: someone who hogs that narrow, coveted armrest or brings an oversized duffel that encroaches on your legroom.
If you’ve ever resorted to a passive-aggressive nudge or, on the contrary, suffered through hours of transatlantic claustrophobia, you have experienced firsthand what not to do in this scenario.
It’s just one of the possible frustrations that you might encounter when you leave home. But how you react can make all the difference, whether you’re dealing with that seatmate, a reckless taxi driver, or a bad case of food poisoning.
Knowing the dos and don’ts of travel etiquette will help you go from an amateur to a sophisticated globe-trotter. You’ll feel empowered to haggle at a market abroad and be informed about what to do if you get hotel bill shock.
So before you wave your napkin to an inattentive waiter as a white flag of surrender, brush up on your etiquette with these strategic travel tips.
1. How to Cope With Noisy Hotel Neighbors
…call the manager on duty. He can dispatch security. He’ll also know when your rowdy floor mates are checking out.
…ask for earplugs. Most hotels expect some type of noise pollution, be it from tropical birds, traffic, or a wailing toddler.
…take matters into your own hands. You want the hotel to be involved early on in case the culprit is uncooperative.
…demand that other guests move for your sake. If you want a quieter space, expect to switch rooms yourself.
2. What to Do When You Order Wine You Don’t Like
…speak up. A lot of customers feel intimidated by big wine lists and sommeliers, but it’s okay to trust your palate.
…snap a photo of the label and add it to an album of wines you’ve loved or loathed; use it to guide you on future selections.
…judge too early. As the wine opens up, you might change your mind.
…suffer through a poor choice. The sommelier’s goal is for you to be happy with your selection.
3. How to Cope With an Aggressive Masseuse
…lay down the law before the lights dim. Share your preferences, and if you’re ticklish or injured.
…use body language. Raising your hand or finger tells your therapist to pause, and is less awkward than breaking the silence.
…leave things to chance. When booking, request a therapist with a lighter touch, or specify a gender.
…be vague. Using a 1–10 scale will ensure the right pressure, e.g., 6 (moderate) rather than 9 (very intense).
4. How to Cope With a Reckless Taxi Driver
…pay the fare. Your receipt may be helpful in reporting the driver. Tipping, however, is optional.
…record the medallion or car number. Local authorities rely on passenger feedback to keep unsafe drivers off the streets.
…yell. Your driver is a professional. Phrase your complaint as a personal preference—not an attack.
…stay in a cab if you feel unsafe. If your driver doesn’t respond to feedback, ask him to pull over and then find another ride.
5. How to Cope With an Overzealous Tour Member
…book trips where multiple guides are present at all times. One is there to handle special situations just like this.
…talk to your guide, not to the traveler in question. Guides are trained to handle a variety of personalities.
…isolate the individual. That will only make him more likely to further monopolize your guide’s attention.
…be too quick to judge. As the group dynamic shakes out, needy travelers tend to settle down.
6. How to Cope With a Space-Hogging Seatmate
…assert your territory early on: claim your overhead and under-seat space, and put the armrests down.
…be sensitive about passengers of size. Alert your flight attendant discreetly; you may be able to switch seats.
…resort to dirty looks, or subtle little pushes. Being passive-aggressive only escalates the problem.
…be greedy. Airplane etiquette says that the middle-seat passenger has rights to both inner armrests.
7. How to Deal with Hotel Bill Shock
…heed the warnings. If the hotel informed you of resort fees and the like, you share some of the blame.
…play up your loyalty. Point out that you are a member of the hotel’s program, or a repeat customer.
…accept responsibility for fees buried in fine print. They should be clearly presented to guests.
…be afraid to stand your ground. If the front desk can’t help, ask for the general manager or guest services director.
8. How to Deal With Food Poisoning While Traveling
…ask the local pharmacist for a loperamide-based drug (like Imodium), to prevent dehydration.
…seek medical attention if you experience signs of dehydration, such as dizziness or dry mouth.
…jump back to solid food. Start with electrolyte-fortified liquids (coconut water), then move on to rice and bananas.
…kiss your entire vacation good-bye. Food poisoning usually subsides within two to four days.
9. How to Make a Tight Flight Connection
…ask to be moved closer to the front of the cabin just before landing, so you can make a quick exit.
…run straight to the gate for your connection—even if it’s past your departure time.
…despair. A flight won’t wait for one passenger, but system-wide delays might result in a lucky break.
…book tight connections through large airports. Anything less than a 90-minute window is unrealistic.
10. What to Do When You’ve Accidentally Damaged Your Hotel Room
…assess the mess. One that only requires cleanup costs less than one that calls for replacing broken furniture and fixtures.
…fess up. The hotel will find out regardless—and you’ll want to be there to plead your case.
…fret if the damage is small and unintentional. Hotels will often let you go without penalty.
…assume you can walk away scot-free. If the damage is major, you could be responsible for repairs and lost revenue.
11. How to Photograph Locals Without Offending Them
…ask for permission. If words fail, show your camera and wait for a reaction before shooting.
…strike up a conversation. Compliment the subject’s family, ask a question, or share a laugh.
…push too hard. If the subject says no, find someone else to photograph.
…try to be sneaky. You risk affronting someone who’d rather not be photographed.
12. How to Cope With an Inattentive Waiter
…get the attention of another waiter or waitress and ask for help tracking down your server.
…ask for the manager. If you feel you are being ignored, it’s important to speak up.
…snap your fingers, wave your napkin in the air, or try to draw attention in any flagrant way.
…assume it’s bad service. In some cultures it’s customary for guests to signal to waiters when they are ready for the check.
13. How to Haggle
…determine what you’d like to pay. Ask trusted locals what they’d spend.
…enjoy yourself. A sense of humor and patience are equally important.
…be afraid of lowballing. Make your starting offer at one-third of the price.
…indicate how badly you want an item. Be willing to walk away, and you’ll almost always get a better deal.
14. How to Cope With a Snoring Seatmate
…ask for earplugs—most flight attendants will have them on hand.
…rouse the snorer gently. A subtle trick: open an air vent.
…expect your flight attendant to wake anyone up. Each flier has the same right to rest.
…feel trapped. If another seat is available, you may be able to move to a quieter spot.
15. What to Do When You’ve Been Pickpocketed
…find the nearest Western Union. You can get cash wired to you within the hour.
…report a stolen passport to police and consular authorities; a replacement may be issued within 24 hours.
…expect a new bank or credit card to arrive immediately. It could take a few days to reach you abroad.
…forget to cancel all cards immediately.Some card providers charge fees for fraudulent use.