11 Things Not to Do on a Plane

When we board a plane, the goal is simple: to get to our destination as safely and pleasantly as possible. But sometimes we get in our own way. To be a safer and more courteous traveler, don’t make the following 11 airplane mistakes. Avoiding some of these behaviors will keep you from getting on your fellow fliers’ nerves; avoiding others could even save your life. Read on to learn what not to do on a plane. 1. Don’t try a new medication for the first time. Where would you rather be when you discover that Ambien makes you hallucinate or that you’re allergic to your new iron supplement — at home, with easy access to your doctor and a local hospital, or in a metal tube hurtling 35,000 feet above the Pacific? Never take a medicine in flight that you haven’t already taken for a test run at home. 2. Don’t tune out the safety briefing. Yeah, yeah — the briefing is boring, you’ve heard it a million times and you already know how to buckle a seatbelt. As tedious as it seems, though, the information could save your life one day. At the very least, take a few seconds to figure out where the nearest emergency exit is and how many rows away it is from your seat. (In a dark or smoky cabin, you’ll want to be able to count the rows by touching the seats as you make your way toward an exit.) Don’t Miss Top Travel Tips — Sign Up for Our Newsletters 3. Don’t joke about bombs. No one is going to laugh at your one-liner about guns, weapons or anything else that could be taken as threatening — particularly not the flight attendants, who have the power to remove you from a flight if they think there’s even the slightest chance you might pose a security risk. (Note: The same advice goes for customs people and TSA agents.) 4. Don’t recline your seat during mealtimes. One of the biggest debates in the travel world is whether it’s okay to recline your seat at all (see The Etiquette of Seat Backs and Elbow Room and The Great Seat Back Debate: Is It Rude to Recline?). Whichever side of the issue you take, I think all of us can agree that once the food and drink carts start rolling down the aisles, it’s only courteous to make sure your seat is upright so the person behind you can have full access to his or her tray. 5. Don’t eat stinky food. Speaking of mealtimes, give your seatmates a break — don’t show up for your flight with a tuna sandwich or a plate of onion rings. Not only will they stink while you’re eating them, but they’ll also ensure that you have bad breath for the rest of the flight. 5 Foods to Avoid Before Flying 6. Don’t drink too much. No one will complain if you have a glass of wine with dinner, but over-indulging in alcohol can have consequences ranging from dehydration to even getting kicked off the plane for disorderly behavior. Remember: No one wants to sit next to the guy who reeks of alcohol, passes out on your shoulder or throws up on your shoes. 7. Don’t abuse the flight attendant call button. The flight attendants’ first priority is to keep you safe, not to cater to your every whim, so use discretion when deciding when to hit that call button. If you’re feeling ill, or you’re thirsty on an overnight flight when the lights are out and getting up would wake your sleeping seatmates, feel free to hit the button. If the flight attendants are already serving dinner and you decide you need a drink right now, suck it up and be patient. 8. Don’t put your carry-on in an overhead bin where you’re not sitting. As pet peeves go, this is one of our biggest — when the person in 33A puts her carry-on in the bin above row 16, ensuring that there won’t be enough space for the people actually sitting in row 16 to stow their own bags. This means people in the front of the plane end up having to put their bags toward the back, which leads to passengers trying to go against the stream of traffic when it comes time to deplane. Do everyone a favor and use your own overhead bin space unless there’s no alternative. 7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-On Bag 9. Don’t put a bag overhead if it’s small enough to go under the seat in front of you. In other carry-on shenanigans, please don’t be the person who puts your rolling suitcase and your backpack and your coat into the overhead bin on a full flight. Leave space for other people’s stuff by putting your personal item under the seat in front of you, and squeezing your coat into the empty spaces left after everyone else has fit their larger bags into the bin. 10. Don’t inflict your feet on other passengers. We have no problem with people slipping off their shoes to be more comfortable on a long flight — with a few important exceptions. First, your feet should be as unobtrusive as possible to everyone else (so don’t prop them on top of a seatback, or wriggle them into the gap between the wall of the plane and the poor person in the seat in front of you who just wants to lean against the window without getting a faceful of your bare toes). Second, put your shoes back on before you go to the lavatory (because ew). And finally, if you know you’re prone to bromodosis — the polite scientific term for smelly feet — be considerate of your fellow passengers and leave your shoes on.
Some travelers get to know a place through its museums and monuments, others through its scenic landscapes or traditional cuisine. But for globetrotters who love to shop, there’s no truer way to experience a place than by haggling with merchants in a bazaar, browsing the handcrafted wares of local artisans or sampling designer duds at the poshest boutique in town. Shopping abroad can be exciting and rewarding, but it’s not without its pitfalls. The intricate art of haggling is often a challenge for visitors used to fixed prices at their mall at home, and the sea of cheap knock-offs and tacky souvenirs in just about any major tourist destination makes it difficult to tell when you’ve found a true local gem. Become a savvier shopper with our tips for avoiding fakes, haggling like a pro and getting your goods home at the end of your trip. Finding Genuine Local Goods When Shopping Overseas How do you know whether that cute handbag is a genuine designer item or if you’re getting a good deal on that amazing carpet at the Turkish bazaar? Our rule of thumb is simple: research, research, research. Sure, window shopping and spontaneous spending are fun, but if you’re looking to make a major purchase, you’ll want to do your homework to make sure you’re getting a good deal — and the real deal. If you know you’re in the market for a certain item, such as blown glass in Venice or a traditional kimono in Japan, do some reading ahead of time to learn what to look for when shopping at your destination. Which qualities ensure that the item is genuine? Which scams should you keep an eye out for? A good guidebook can be invaluable here, offering purchasing tips as well as recommendations for reputable shops and markets. Another good bet is to consult the concierge at your hotel; he or she will be able to point you to trustworthy vendors that specialize in the types of goods you’re looking for. The local visitors’ bureau is another good bet. And, of course, the internet offers a wealth of information on any type of shopping you can imagine. Hop online before or during your trip to gather the wisdom of other travelers. Once at your destination, shop around before purchasing to familiarize yourself with the range of merchandise and prices available. (Hint: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.) Tour guides often take travelers to preselected shops for purchasing souvenirs, but use caution — your guide may get a commission on anything you buy, often resulting in inflated prices. You may get a better deal at a shop you find on your own. For big-ticket items such as jewelry and art, make sure to get a certificate of appraisal or authenticity at the time of purchase — and, if possible, pay for your goods with a credit card. That will help protect you if you get home and discover that an item isn’t actually worth what you paid for it. Top Holiday Shopping Destinations How to Haggle In North America and many parts of Europe, haggling is a bit of a dying art (unless you’re on a used car lot!). But throughout the rest of the world, bargaining and bartering are a vital part of any transaction — and you’re unlikely to get a good deal unless you can master your own negotiating skills. It’s important to be familiar with the culture of the place you’re visiting, as your haggling strategy will vary a bit from country to country. For example, in some parts of the world, it pays to be assertive and forceful when negotiating a price; in others, you’ll do better keeping your tone soft and pleasant. Check your guidebook or do a Google search for a rundown on local haggling customs. CultureCrossing.net is another good source of information on cultural norms, listed by country. No matter where you’re traveling, bring a positive attitude into the transaction. Think of haggling as a game — a competitive but ultimately fun and friendly exercise. Don’t get angry or insult the seller, even if the negotiations aren’t going your way. At the end of the day, both you and the merchant should feel happy with the outcome of the deal. Never enter a haggling situation unprepared. By the time you approach the seller, you should have already shopped around and determined approximately how much the item you want to buy is worth. We suggest having two numbers in mind: the price you’d ideally like to pay and the maximum amount you’re willing to spend. Here’s a handy tip: If you’re paying in cash, set aside the money that you’re prepared to spend and keep it in your wallet; move the rest of your bills elsewhere. This serves two purposes. You can give the merchant visual evidence that this amount is the most you can possibly pay (“See? This is all I have!”), and it also helps prevent you from going over your own self-imposed price limit. On a related note, be sure to carry plenty of small bills so that you can pay the exact price of your item. Occasionally a merchant will claim that he can’t make change for larger bills, hoping to convince you to let him keep the excess amount. Make the seller begin the negotiations by waiting for him to make the initial offer. If you’re not sure how much to counteroffer, a good rule of thumb is to halve the initial price and negotiate from there. (As noted above, though, this strategy may vary from country to country.) Traveling with a companion? Discuss who’s going to do the talking and what you’re willing to pay before you enter the shop and start haggling — that way you can present a united front (and your husband won’t ruin the deal right off the bat with an opening offer that’s higher than the maximum you want to spend). Don’t show too much interest in the item you’re negotiating for, no matter how desperately you want it. Looking too eager tells a savvy merchant that you’re willing to pay a pretty penny to avoid walking out without that must-have item. In fact, you should be willing to walk; when you do so, you’ll often find the merchant following you into the street with a new, lower counteroffer. Don’t rush the transaction. Negotiating a deal that works for both parties can take time — so enjoy the process and go with the flow. (This is a tactical advantage too; if you appear to be in a hurry, the seller may think you’ll settle for a higher price just to get out of there.) That said, if the negotiations have gone on for a while and you’ve reached a stalemate over the last $5 or $10 difference in price, it may be time to let it go. What will you regret more — leaving behind a unique memento of your trip or spending a few extra bucks? Remember, too: Odds are that if you’re traveling in a developing country, the merchant probably needs that additional $5 or $10 more than you do.

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