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Travel Etiquette

Don’t Hog Seats in the Boarding Area

  • Planes are full, airports are busy, space is tight on board and in the gate area.  Be kind and leave the seat next to you open so someone else can sit there. 
  •  Too often I see people placing their luggage or newspapers on empty seats, even as the boarding area fills up and other passengers are left standing.
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Board With Your Zone

  • This one is plain and simple.  Airlines assign boarding order for a reason, and it helps if everyone can just follow the rules. 
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  •  In many cases, people who board first paid for the privilege, so it’s only fair to honor it.

Use the Space Under the Seat In Front of You

  • Perhaps the greatest stress a frequent traveler faces is the risk of having to check a bag because the overhead bins are full.  Many times I’ve seen the bins packed with small purses, backpacks, and other items that could easily fit under the seat. 
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  • You’ll have easier access to your items, your fellow passengers will appreciate having space for larger carry-ons, and we’ll all avoid flight delays caused by last minute checked bags.

Check Before You Recline

  • Anyone who has ever flown has encountered the frustration of the person in front of you reclining the seat into your space. Yes, you have a right to recline, but wouldn’t it be nice to look behind you before you do it?  Give that traveler behind you who is working on a computer a chance to close his laptop before your seat crushes it.
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Let People In Front of You Off the Plane First

  • The plane pulls up to the gate and every person on board wants to be the first off the plane.  Clearly that can’t happen, and we are a civilized society, so a simple rule will help keep people from being trampled upon arrival. 
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  • If you are standing in the aisle, make sure the people in the row in front of you have a chance to exit before you start walking forward.  Most people follow it, but every so often there’s a renegade who apparently didn’t receive the memo. Now you have.

Middle Seats Get the Armrest

  • I don’t know anyone who likes to sit in a middle seat, do you?  Let’s give those unlucky travelers a break and at least let them use both armrests.  If you’re seated at the window or the aisle, I think you can survive with the one armrest that’s dedicated to you.
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Don’t Slam the Hotel Room Door

  • Once the business traveler survives the stressful flight experience, she is almost home-free when she gets to the hotel.  But there’s one big thing that can ruin a hotel stay:  noise.  Few hotels are soundproofed enough to keep loud noises from penetrating the sanctum of your room, and the worst offender here is the slamming door.  

Image result for Don’t Slam the Hotel Room DoorWhen you enter and exit your room, why not close it gently?

Keep the Volume Down 

  • Continuing with noise-in-the-hotel theme, loud TVs and phone conversations can also drive your neighbors crazy.  It’s easy to feel like you are safe and sound in your room and forget that sound travels.  Especially late at night, turn it down so others can make the best of their precious hours of sleep.

Wait for the Next Elevator

  • Perhaps one of the most controversial issues of our time – should people in the elevator push the “door open” button?  Or should new arrivals just forego the closing doors and wait?  My vote is for the latter. Just be patient, wait a few minutes for the next car to come.  Hopefully others will do the same for you as the doors are about to close and whisk you away.
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Walk on the Left, Stand on the Right

  • Every moving sidewalk I’ve ever seen in an airport has signs that say exactly that.  So why do so many people straddle the entire width with their luggage, and just stand there like a lump of coal?  
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  • Frequent travelers are busy and every minute counts, so why not step aside and let them get by you?  And for you busy travelers whizzing by on the left – watch your rolling suitcases so you don’t club people as you whisk by.
  • Good manners make a difference in any setting, but particularly when travelling, where the way you are greeted – in a hotel, a shop, a bar – probably reflects how well, or badly, the previous travellers behaved.
    Your actions create ripples that affect people you will never meet.
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With that in mind, we asked Musson to help define the essential rules for 21st-century travel. 

  • Her commandments, which cover everything from dress codes to hotel behaviour, have  at  their essence, a single concept: respect.
  • “Respect your fellow travellers, respect the culture you are visiting, and always consider how your behaviour will affect others,” Musson says.


BEFORE YOU LEAVE

RULE ONE : LEAVE THE CUT-OFFS AT HOME

  • Qantas’s introduction of a dress code for its business and first-class lounges caused some controversy, but  Musson thinks it does not go far enough. She is adamant that people should make an effort to dress appropriately on a plane, just as they would when going to an office. 
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  • “A dress code on tickets would go a long way to making travel more pleasant,” Musson says. “People seem to think, ‘What is the least amount of effort I can get away with?’, which leads to many crimes against good taste.
  • “I’d include proper shoes, long trousers and dress shirts, and collared shirts. Singlets are revolting. And it is simply not appropriate to get on a plane in slippers and a tracksuit.”
  • That applies when you get to your destination, too. “What may be fine in your neighbourhood is not appropriate elsewhere. Cut-off denim shorts, for example, are only appropriate for the beach; just leave them at home.”

AT THE AIRPORT

RULE TWO: DON’T DITHER

  • There’s a lot of queuing involved in travel, from the check-in counter to the security scan. Use that time to prepare for what you know is coming.
  • “People who arrive at the counter and then start fumbling for their passport and boarding pass are just annoying,” says Musson. 
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  • Similarly, as you wait in the security queue, you can start to get ready by undoing your belt, checking whether you have coins in your pocket, finishing that bottle of water, or unzipping your laptop case. It makes things easier for you and for everyone waiting in line behind you.

RULE THREE: DON’T PLUCK YOUR EYEBROWS

  • Everyone has their own favourite way of passing the time while waiting to board.
  • Some people read. Some send emails. And some catch up on their personal grooming. Traveller’s spies have seen everything from toenail clipping to eyebrow plucking and even pimple squeezing. We have even seen it happening during the flight. 
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  • “It is so revolting!” declares Musson. “I sat near a woman on the plane who was doing her nails, until the flight attendant told her she wasn’t allowed to have nail polish because it is flammable. If you would normally do it in the privacy of your bathroom, don’t do it elsewhere.”

RULE FOUR: WAIT YOUR TURN

  • Pushing your way forward – whether in the security queue or when trying to board – is an absolute no-no. That also applies at the other end, when you are waiting for your luggage.
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  • “Behaviour at baggage carousels is appalling,” says Musson. “If we all just took a step back, everyone would have a clear view of the bags as they descend onto the carousel.” 
  • Musson says she has developed a technique to exact revenge on those crowding closest to the carousel. “When I grab my bag, I give it a good swing, so they have to scatter. I’m not punishing them,” she says with a smile, “I’m helping them learn how to be better travellers.”

ON THE PLANE

RULE FIVE: SAY HELLO

  • Humans don’t do well in confined spaces. On a plane, as is the case in a lift,  we rarely acknowledge each other, an etiquette fail according to Musson.
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  • “Saying hello is the very minimum social interaction that qualifies as polite,” she says. “It establishes a baseline, telling your neighbour that the person who they will be sitting next to for several hours is a reasonable person.”
  • For the same reason, Musson advises that people travelling with children should ensure that, when making the rules clear to their children (no kicking the seat in front, no playing with the tray, and so on), they do so loud enough for people around them to hear.
  • “If people know you are monitoring your children, they can relax a bit, rather than spending the flight worrying about how badly your children might behave,” Musson says. “Travel is stressful enough; help make it easier on everyone.”

RULE SIX: THE SEAT RECLINE

  • Few issues make tempers flare as quickly, but Musson says this one is actually fairly black and white. 
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  • “Don’t recline your seat unless the flight is over three hours long,” she says.  “If it is a long flight, you can recline your seat, but not until after drinks service. And always recline slowly.”

RULE SEVEN: BE MINDFUL 

  • Some people like to watch movies. Some people catch up with work. Others read or play games. Whichever you choose, remember that you are in a public space.
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  • “If you are playing a video game, turn the sound off, so you don’t disturb the comfort of your fellow passengers,” says Musson. “If you are on a flight on which you can make calls, do so quietly.”
  • Conversely, if you choose to work on a confidential document, do so at your own peril. “One of the most fun things you can do on  a flight is read over someone else’s shoulder,”  Musson says. “If you don’t want people to know just how large this year’s losses are, wait until you are in your hotel room before working on that spreadsheet.” 

ON THE ROAD

RULE EIGHT: TIP APPROPRIATELY

  • Some Australians still struggle with the intricacies of tipping around the world, but Musson says the rule is simple.
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 “Check the customs for that country. In America, the standard is 17 per cent, but you have to remember that these people are earning seven dollars an hour.”

  • Tipping takes various forms, from putting money aside for a staff member who has given you excellent service, to pressing a few dollars into the hands of the doorman who has hailed you a cab. Musson counsels not to forget the people you never meet. 
  • “It is appropriate to leave a tip in an envelope next to the television for your room attendant.” 

RULE NINE: KEEP QUIET

  • Most of us know the feeling of lying awake in a foreign hotel room, strung out with jet lag and waiting for the sleeping pill to kick in.
  • Most of us also know the frustration of finally dropping off to sleep, only to be woken by a slamming door as another guest heads off for an early flight.
  • “You are leaving early; the rest of the hotel isn’t,” says Musson. “Yes, you are probably wrangling bags, but you can still close that door without slamming it.” 
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  • The same applies to revellers coming home from a good night out: continuing your conversation in the corridor can wake up a dozen or more people. 
  • Keeping quiet when things go wrong is also important, according to Musson. 
  • Of course you should complain to a manager if something is wrong with your room, but few things can put a downer on your holiday as quickly as a fellow traveller constantly reciting their litany of complaints.
  • “Keep it to yourself,” advises Musson. “There is a difference between quietly discussing what has gone wrong with your travel companion, and airing it to other people. They don’t want to know.”

RULE 10: BE A WORLD TRAVELLER

  • Travel is challenging. Things go wrong; foreigners do things differently to how they are done at home, says Musson.
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  • “Keeping an open attitude is an important part of being a good traveller. Be open to learning new things; don’t fret if there is no Vegemite on the buffet, and accept that things won’t always go the way you would like them to.” 

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