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How to Humiliate Yourself at the Airport

It’s easier than you may think to embarrass yourself at the airport. Spare yourself some sideways glances by avoiding these humiliating airport faux pas.

Listen to Music Without Headphones

This also goes for movies and anything else that will subject your fellow terminal dwellers to whatever volume level you so choose. Airports and public transit are basically what headphones were made for, so why would anyone not use them?

Even if you’re watching or listening with a travel buddy, no one else at the gate wants to hear your taste in music or television, especially if it’s bad. Share a headphone splitter or settle for actually talking to each other instead. You’ll have plenty of headphone-worthy down time on the plane.

Go Bare Foot

Whether it’s in the security line, an airport lounge, or on the plane, bare feet have no place in the travel process. Airports and planes are teeming with germs and bacteria, and your toes should never grace the floor. Sure, security makes you remove your shoes—but planning to wear socks or bringing a pair along to throw on when it’s your turn to cross the body scanner isn’t a bad idea.

Cozy socks can actually be one of the small pleasures of flying—slip into a pair just before take off to make yourself more comfortable on a long flight. Just don’t forego shoes for a trip to the bathroom.

Over-Pack Your Bag

The sight of a frazzled passenger removing things from his suitcase to lower its weight can provide some comic relief in the baggage line—unless it’s you.

Packing an overweight bag is easy when you’re returning from a long trip, especially if you’re using discount airlines that are strict about space and weight limitations. A small digital luggage scale can help you avoid this conundrum.

Lose Valuables You Didn’t Need to Remove

Getting through security is stressful enough without having to keep track of any loose jewelry or personal valuables as you rush to collect your things. While you should leave most pricy accessories in your carry-on bag or at home, the TSA doesn’t require you to remove small items like rings, necklaces, or earrings. Some people do, though, and lose them in the security process. The last thing you want is to crawl around the conveyor belt looking for runaway valuables. Most items smaller than a watch or belt buckle can stay.

Bring Liquids You’ll Have to Throw Away

This one isn’t just embarrassing. The 3-1-1 Liquids Rule has claimed a lot of non-duty-free alcohol, beauty supplies, and souvenir items travelers are forced to throw away. Don’t get all the way through the scanner just to discover you’ll need to dump out something you were hoping to take home in your carry-on. Know the security rules you’ll need to obey, especially if you’re traveling in another country.

Enjoy One Too Many at the Bar

By all means, mingle over a drink or two on a layover. But know your limits, especially if you plan on making it onto your flight. If you seem intoxicated, the plane’s crew could decide not to let you fly. In a recent, extreme example of this faux pas, police said an apparently intoxicated British Airways passenger tried to open the aircraft door in mid-flight. Most people won’t take it that far, but just being drunk or smelling of booze could get you in hot water.

Look Like a Slob

No one looks perfect after a flight, but that’s no excuse to dress like you’ll be sitting on your couch at home all day. Alternatives to ill-fitting layers and baggy sweats are easy to come by, and just as comfortable. Opt for thin yet warm athletic leggings or long underwear, and scarfs or sweaters that can double as a blanket on a chilly plane. Comfortable shoes don’t have to be an eye-sore, and hole-riddled sweats have no place outside of your home.

Miss Your Flight

Sprinting through the terminal with a carry-on loudly rolling in tow should be the official mascot of airports everywhere. Regardless, no one wants to be that person. Heed all those warnings about giving yourself more time than you need to get there, and look up the airport’s layout ahead of time so you can allow extra time to take a shuttle to your gate if needed. Missing flights happens to the best of us—especially when there’s a delay and a short layover involved—but it’s largely avoidable if you plan ahead.

Leave Your Bag Unattended

Causing an airport-wide panic is probably easier than you’d think it is—especially in the world we live in today. Leaving a bag unattended for even a few minutes can attract a lot of attention and create a lot of fear, and leaving it with a stranger can subject you to unexpected dangers like accidentally becoming a drug mule. (Trust us: It happens.) Keep an eye on your stuff at all times—yes, even when you just have to use the bathroom or refill your water bottle.

Have a Meltdown

Being behind schedule or getting bumped from an over-packed flight is frustrating, but being demanding or unsympathetic (aside from being just plain wrong) can get you some unwanted attention, especially if an Internet-savvy person decides to document it online.

Customer service workers and flight crews all have an endless supply of cringe-worthy meltdown stories, and yelling about a flight delay isn’t going to get you in the air any faster. Know your rights when it comes to flight, baggage, and cancelation issues, but approach the problem with a level head.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip. Follow her adventures on Twitter @shanmcmahon_.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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