How to Travel and NOT Be a Jerk!

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I just returned home from two weeks in… Vietnam.

Everyone who asks me where I went for spring break gets a shocked look in their eyes when I say, "Vietnam" and not "the beach" or "New York" or "Atlanta." If I had not been asked to go there to conduct an etiquette training session, I wouldn't have gone there, but I'm so absolutely glad that I did because Vietnam is a fascinating place.

Getting to Vietnam required a lot (understatement) of travel. It took 39 hours one way to be exact with a 13 hour layover in Abu Dhabi on our way to Ho Chi Minh City. During my many hours of travel, I saw parents struggle with their kids, and passengers struggle with others' kids. I also stayed in five hotels during my two weeks away, and rode in trains and every other mode of transportation you can think of, and along the way, I saw many, how should I say this… many travel etiquette faux pas!!

I thought it might be helpful to everyone if I just reviewed some of the basic travel etiquette tips for you before you head out on your next trip, and you can even share these tips with those you have seen let their kids run up and down the hallways in hotels, take off their shoes in the plane with knowingly smelly feet, or act like a jerk to service people.

Tips for traveling without being a tacky tourist, a loud American, or, plainly, a jerk.

1. In hotel hallways be considerate of others. Especially late at night and early in the morning don't talk loudly, hang out in the hallway, or let you kids run up and down.

2. Don't take up more space than you really need. Like in an airport terminal, on a bus or train, don't lay your stuff all over while others have no room to sit.

3. Keep your voice down. Don't be a loud American by talking too loudly in a public place or talking on your cell phone when others can hear you.

4. Don't complain about things that cannot be fixed. No air conditioning in your room? Can't get a good Wi-Fi or cell phone signal? If nothing can be done then don't waste your breath.

5. Be in the moment and put your cell phone away. Don't walk down the street texting, surfing or taking selfies. Look around you and see the roses.

6. If traveling abroad remember these key things:

  • Not everyone speaks English! Try to learn key phrases from the country you will be visiting. Trying to speak their language goes a long way.
  • Learn their customs by Googling the country or getting a guide book that will tell you key things you need to know. Before you head to Marrakesh, know, for example, that in Morocco, it's considered unacceptable for non-Muslims to enter mosques.
  • Understand tipping policies. In some countries you tip and in some you don't.

7. Know things might go wrong and stay calm. And if things do go wrong (delays, lost luggage, etc.) politely talk to who can make things right and don't take frustrations out on those who can't help you.

8. Travel light. No matter your length of stay, limit yourself and those you are traveling with, to only having one roller suitcase (preferably one that does not have to be checked to avoid lost luggage and extra fees), and one backpack. This will make traveling much easier. If you need a car seat, consider renting one at the airport instead of having to carry yours.

I'm NOT traveling light here! This is me near the Mekong Delta in Vietnam "wearing" a 140 pound wild python!

Me near the Mekong Delta in Vietnam wearing a 140 pound wild python!

Looking for an etiquette class for your kids? I am offering two classes in the near future in the Lake Norman area, but if you'd like one for your group or school please email me at Information on my classes, videos, and other etiquette tips can be found on my website –
Impressions: A Modern Cotillion for the New Generation. Fall class now open for rising 5th – 8th graders. Information and registration HERE.