Make lasagna in your hotel room coffee pot! Skip security lines by demanding a wheelchair! Duct tape a cushion to your head to make a low-cost travel pillow! The internet is full of hacks and tweaks to make the sometimes-arduous task of travelling a little more bearable.
While the never-ending torrent of travel tips and tricks might make us more efficient travelers, is the internet and modern technology making us any more enlightened or pleasant travellers? Judging by the eye-watering miasma emanating from the guy next to me on a recent transatlantic flight (travel hack: adjust air vents to blow away offending smells), not everyone is getting the message about how to be a considerate traveller.
I recently polled some globetrotting experts on how best to navigate the modern travel world and make the experience more pleasant for everyone.
The first rule of being a well-mannered traveller starts even before the vacation does. Setting up a polite, but firm “out of office” reply lets clients know you’re away, and serves as a diplomatic way of telling your colleagues to leave you the hell alone.
Joanne Blake of Style for Success, a company that provides etiquette training for corporations across Canada, acknowledges the importance of getting that message right. “An out of office reply with a notification that you are on vacation with dates that you are unavailable usually works well,” she says. “However, in addition, I would add the name and co-ordinates of a contact person that could assist in your absence. For solopreneurs this is a bit trickier but you can still set boundaries. Your auto responder might say that you are on a much-anticipated vacation with limited access to email and will only reply to urgent requests. All other emails will be answered promptly when you return (and give the date of your return).”
Now that everyone knows you’re out of the office, you’ll be back soon and everything is in capable hands, it’s time to just relax and enjoy the flight. At least until that uncouth behemoth in front of you decides to fully recline the seat after the aircraft has barely left the ground. Personally, on any flight shorter than six hours, I try to keep the seat to a maximum halfway recline, unless the person in the seat ahead goes in for a full recline – then all bets are off.
Travis Pittman, CEO and co-founder of TourRadar, a website designed to help connect travellers and tour operators, relies on a less complicated set of calculations to determine his recline arithmetic. “It really comes down to leg room and the size of person behind you,” he says, “But most importantly it would be great if people simply turned around and asked: ‘Would you mind if I recline my seat back a little?’ A plane is a very small space to share a lot of time with strangers so it is best to start the journey together on the right foot.”
Pittman is right: Few environments are more intimately shared and yet more private than an airplane seat. Even as the size of those spaces keeps shrinking, people are more and more inclined to treat their seats as extensions of their own home.
In darker corners of Instagram, that impulse has even led to the arrival of hashtags like #inflightroutine, #inflightskincare and, of course, #skinonfleek, in which flyers indulge in full on beauty regimens throughout the course of their journey. At the outer edges of this phenomenon is something called #planemasking where people adorn full-on hydrating face masks. While there’s no disputing that dry airplane air can take a toll on a person’s skin does that justify exposing other passengers to the sight of you looking like Michael Myers from the Halloween movies?
“An airplane is an extremely dry environment,” style, beauty and lifestyle expert Liv Judd Soye points out. “Sometimes, I’ll spritz a little face mist on. There is etiquette, but it’s also your tiny little private space, so it’s important that you’re not spraying your neighbours, and you don’t want to use any products that are too heavily scented. It’s like dousing yourself with free duty-free perfume before getting on the airplane, I hope most people are conscious of not doing that.”
As far as going full face mask, however, Judd Soye is a pragmatist: “I think it’s about me-time and looking after myself in and the air, and if people feel like a sheet mask makes sense, good for them. Well done. I wish I had the courage to do that.”
Alright, you’ve made it to your destination, your complexion is absolutely glowing, now you might want to share a bit of your vacation on social media. Is a minute-by-minute update on Instagram acceptable? Should Facebook be treated to every sunset, snack and selfie you can snap?
Katy Rockett, North America managing director for Exodus Travels, acknowledges that selfies are now an accepted part of the travel experience, but says there are limits.
“While the stigma has subsided, there are definitely still situations in with the selfie must be avoided," she says. "Where personal safety is concerned, think cliff edges, near wild animals, etc., that perfect Instagram shot simply isn’t worth the risk. There are also a handful of sights and attractions that have banned them altogether. The worst offender, however is taking selfies at locations of religious or tragic historical significance. That’s never acceptable.”
What about vlogging? Maybe you like to post videos to Instagram Stories, but are worried that the instant replay of your holiday is obnoxious. Are there ways to be less annoying?
Marc Telio, president of Entrée Destinations, a provider of luxury tours across Canada and into Alaska, knows that social media exists for more than just self-promotion. “One of the rules of posting is to make sure there’s value to the audience,” he says. “I post to acknowledge people that I want to promote in the world. I post to show gratitude."
"Ultimately, social media can be used to spread hate, but fundamentally, it’s awesome for opening up people and bringing the world to them. Travel kills ignorance and cuts down barriers, so in my view, as many people in the world that know about that, the better.”
Special to The Globe and Mail
Editor’s note: Travis Pittman’s company is TourRadar, not TravelRadar, and Katy Rocketts is North America managing director of Exodus Travel, not marketing director. This version has been corrected.