Nobody is a perfect traveler. In fact, you may ruin travel for yourself and for others, and figuring out how to fix it is one of the many learning experiences that travel affords us. But if you spend a lot of time on the road, you’ll find yourself seeing—or even making—some of the same mistakes over and over. To invoke a well-known quote: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
How to Ruin Travel for Other People
Making some of these mistakes can not only make travel miserable for yourself, but also for others. Are you guilty of doing these 12 things that can ruin travel for other people?
Failing to Prep for Security
This is so easy to avoid—simply put away everything except your ID and boarding pass. Everything. And do it before you are anywhere near the front of the line.
Take off your watch, empty your pockets, stow your phone, unlace your shoes, toss your bottle of water, take off your belt … there’s no reason to hold everyone up at the front of a long security line because you didn’t take care of these things.
Not Following the Boarding Process
A study by Hipmunk found that 6 percent of people try to board their plane before their group is called. This practice causes congestion and agita for everyone involved; while it’s fine to queue up near the gate to protect your “spot,” leave enough space for other folks to get through.
Not Following the Deboarding Process
I’ve never heard a flight attendant explain the deboarding process, but it’s understood that the plane empties out from front to back, one row at a time. This is the smoothest and fairest way to do things, so when a few passengers ram themselves forward a few spots, it creates unnecessary confusion that causes slowdowns for everyone else around and behind them. We all learned how to exit a room politely in elementary school, so there’s no excuse not to do it on a flight.
Crowding the Baggage Claim
The same goes at baggage claim. Everyone understandably wants to get out of the airport as quickly as possible, but since we can see bags coming out of the chute, it’s easy enough to know when to step forward without blocking traffic like you’re a crossing guard.
Calling the Front Desk Without Doing a Little Research
The front desks of most mid-tier and economy hotels are short-staffed these days, and calling them for things like Wi-Fi passwords or what time breakfast starts—things most likely explained somewhere in the room—keeps them from checking folks in and fixing real problems.
I was guilty of this just last week. I wanted to watch baseball and couldn’t find it on the TV. After a cursory look I didn’t see the channel listing card, so I called the front desk—who assured me it would be somewhere in the room. It turned out it was underneath the room service menu.
Checking into hotels is hassle enough without fellow travelers like me extending the misery with unnecessary calls to the front desk.
Slamming Your Seat Back on the Plane
This is an old one but always worth mentioning. Opinions differ over whether it’s acceptable to recline your seat at all—but if you decide to do so, do it slowly and take care not to whack the person behind you, send their ginger ale flying, crush whatever device they are using to watch a bad movie, or scare the wits out of them. A look over your shoulder, a slow recline, and an appreciation that they are a bit less comfortable are in order.
Failing to Stow Your Carry-on Bag in the Most Space-Efficient Way
The best way to put a carry-on in the overhead bin is so the longest side goes front to back. I travel with a formidable bag when traveling for photography assignments, and still can almost always do this except on the smallest planes. Unless you have something really unusual—a guitar, sports equipment, etc.—this works with most bags.
One other suggestion: Please don’t take up a ton of overhead space with your blazer or stylish hat. Put it on top of another bag or under the seat.
Yapping on Your Cell Phone on the Plane
Recently I’ve seen some folks not only speaking too loudly on their phones once the plane has landed, but also slowing everything down in the process. I couldn’t care less if you’re trying to impress people around you by bellowing about your important meeting or deal, but impinging on their time as a result is unforgivable. Chat if you must; just keep the deboarding process moving.
Failing to Stick to Your Assigned Space on the Plane
An easy way to ruin travel for others is to encroach on their space—or their five senses. That means you shouldn’t put your feet on the armrest in front of you, hog the armrest, bring “aromatic” food on board, or listen to music without headphones. If you wouldn’t want to deal with it from others, don’t do it yourself.
Constantly Getting up for Stuff from the Overhead Bin
Having a plan for the plane should be part of your packing process at home. Things you need in flight should go under the seat in front of you; things you won’t need go up in the bin. That way you’re not repeatedly disturbing the person sitting on the aisle or getting in the way of the flight attendants.
Posing for Photos in Dangerous Spots
Doing goofy/annoying/nutty things mainly to fill Instagram feeds bugs a lot of folks, but I’m not here to spoil your fun—go for it. However, please draw the line at risking your life for a photo while others look on.
If you want to risk falling off a cliff for a photo your friends will like and forget within hours, that’s up to you, but don’t force the rest of us to be witnesses.
Whining About Other People’s Travels
Most travelers I know work 51 weeks a year, and in their meager five days off rally to cram in a trip that required extensive planning, careful budgeting, and considerable stamina—and then their friends and family want to complain about it. What a way to ruin travel for other people! Every time someone says “Oh, rough life,” or “Stinks to be you,” or “Poor guy/gal,” a piece of our collective enthusiasm for life on Earth dies a little.
What other ways do you know to ruin travel? Post your thoughts in the comments.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 18 Easy Ways to Have a Better Flight
- 9 Ways to Sleep Better on Overnight Flights
- 18 Ways to Keep the Peace with Your Travel Companion
Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.