Travel Etiquette Guide: 11 Rules for Traveling Abroad

Travel Etiquette Guide: 11 Rules for Traveling Abroad

We leave for South Africa tomorrow and as I have been preparing, travel etiquette has been on my mind! 

I believe we can all agree that some of the worst faux pas you will ever encounter happen when traveling. The Instagram page, @passengershaming, exists for a reason – view at your own risk, my friends!

Read on for my top 11 travel etiquette tips.  


Before Your Trip


1. Learn a few key phrases. 

Learning a few important words and phrases, such as “hello,” “good morning,” “please,” and “thank you” can have tangible benefits in addition to showing respect. In fact, in many places (France, in particular) servers will be kinder to you for having shown the effort and not simply expecting them to speak English.


2. Research local customs. 

Take a moment to do some research before your trip regarding the etiquette and local customs of the place you plan to visit. Some might surprise you, such as: 

  • Tipping after a meal in Japan can be considered rude or insulting to the server. 
  • Showing the sole of your foot or shoe is considered disrespectful in many Asian countries.
  • Giving a “thumbs up” with your hand equates to a rude gesture in Turkey. 
  • Eating with your hands is common in India and the Middle East, but using your left hand, which is viewed as unclean, is impolite.
  • Visiting Buddhist monuments in Nepal? Do not take photos unless given permission.


3. Consider the local religion and sensibility when packing. 

Some places are more conservative than others and we should aim to dress respectfully when sightseeing and experiencing their cities and towns. 

For example, in Muslim-majority countries and cities, even those which specialize in tourism such as Dubai, it is important to dress more conservatively. Covering the arms and legs will help you and the locals feel more comfortable. 

Similarly, when visiting temples in Asia or Catholic churches in Italy, the shoulders must be covered.


Getting There…


4. Choose a “pulled together” look. 

Please, please, for the love of all that is holy, can we put an end to pajamas at the airport? On my last flight I saw not one, but *two* pairs of Spongebob pajama pants!  

Of course, we all want to feel comfortable on a long-haul flight. But seeking comfort does not have to come at the expense of polite society. I assure you, it is possible to look both pulled together and be comfortable. 

Kindly join me in the classy comfort of a chic airport travel outfit!


5. Be prepared for the security line. 

We all know the drill by now: you must take your phone, laptop, and bag of toiletries out of your bag and put them in the trays provided. You will likely need to remove your belt, shoes, or hat. 

Be ready for this before you get to the front of the line to keep things moving smoothly.


6. The person in the middle gets both armrests. 

This debate has been closed for quite some time and the general rule is as follows: 

  • The window seat gets the armrest nearest the window. 
  • The aisle seat gets the armrest nearest the aisle. 
  • The middle seat gets both the center armrests. 

The middle seat is arguably the least pleasant to be in, they deserve both armrests.


7. Be mindful of your fellow passengers. 

Further to the above, mind your airplane behavior. General rules to take note of include: 

  • Always use headphones when watching something or listening to music. Consider a headphone splitter if your children are watching something together. 
  • Avoid reclining your seat during mealtimes. 
  • Keep an eye on your children’s behavior. Children on airplanes is an inherent challenge but do your best to keep them from kicking the seat in front of them and bring activities to keep them quietly occupied.
  • If you know you will need to get up a lot during your flight, try to book an aisle seat in advance. 
  • Face masks and mists have become a trendy activity on flights, but in my opinion, these are best left to before and after your journey. This is especially true of mists which are hard to contain and can disturb other passengers.


8. Avoid heavily scented perfumes or strong-smelling foods on the plane. 

Airplanes are confined spaces that have the added problem of closed-loop air systems. Because planes rely on a pressurized environment to keep us safe, air must be continually recycled within the cabin. Thus, strong smells do not dissipate easily. 

Smelly foods and strong perfumes are inconsiderate to other passengers who are unable to escape the scent, especially those sitting closest to you.  And do not get me started on using nail polish on the plane – yes this happened to me on a flight once and the entire plane had to suffer the consequences of one person’s inconsiderate decision.


At your Destination


9. Be Respectful.

Remember, you are a guest in this place. Treat the land and its people with the utmost respect. That means cleaning up after yourself in public spaces, treating people with courtesy, and offering praise, never criticism, of a location and its cuisine.  

Furthermore, if offered a local delicacy as part of an experience or excursion, it is impolite to refuse. Unless you have a genuine dietary requirement or allergy, try the item and show that you enjoyed it, so as not to offend. It should go without saying that you should never turn your nose up when offered local cuisine.


10. Do not leave your hotel room or rental in an overly messy state. 

When checking out, make sure to leave the room in good condition. For example, you do not need to make the bed but pull the covers up. Place trash in the receptacles rather than leaving it on countertops and dressers. Leave towels as indicated on the card provided (usually the floor). Remember to leave a tip if it is customary in your location.


11. Do not expect the place you’re visiting to be like the place you came from. 

A brief PSA to all our American friends complaining about the lack of iced coffee in Europe right now… Try something new! You’re in a beautiful country with beautiful traditions, customs, and cuisine. The purpose of travel is to experience a different culture so “do as the Romans do!”


Would you like more etiquette advice?

I hope you enjoyed these travel etiquette tips! Follow along here or on my Instagram for more etiquette tips and mindful manners to help you live more elegantly and gracefully.

12 Restaurant Etiquette Tips for Dining Out

12 Restaurant Etiquette Tips for Dining Out

Restaurant Etiquette

More than simple table manners, there are a number of courtesies and etiquette rules to follow when dining in a restaurant. 

1. Honor your reservation. 

A no-show or late arrival cost the restaurant and staff money in lost revenue and tips. If you make a dinner reservation, be sure to honor it. If for any reason you can no longer attend, let the restaurant know as soon as possible so they can fill the table.

2. Dress appropriately. 

When dining in a high-end establishment, dress the part! Did you know that a number of restaurants are considering bringing back dress codes? I am all for it! 


3. Wait for your server to come to you. 

Snapping, waving, or yelling to your server is simply not appropriate. Wait for them to come to you. If you desperately need their attention, try to catch their eye line but nothing more. 


4. Keep the table clear of personal items.  

Cell phones, purses, wallets, sunglasses, and the like should not be placed on the table. Leaving your phone on the table in particular is a distraction and shows that you are not fully present with your dining companions. You should not use your phone for the duration of the meal. Pro Tip: if you are waiting for an important call, place your phone beneath your leg on your seat. 


5. Treat your server with the utmost respect. 

Look at your server when they are speaking and when you are ordering, say “please” and “thank you.” If something is wrong with your meal, communicate this politely and discreetly. 


6. Wait for everyone to be served before you begin eating. 

If the food is hot and everyone else has been served, be sure to tell your companions they may begin without you. 


7. Use non-verbal etiquette cues to communicate with your server. 

Non-verbal cues in the form of cutlery positions can tell your server whether you have finished or are still working on your dish. Use the open position to indicate you have not yet finished, and the closed position to indicate they may take your plate (explained in more detail here). Similarly, a napkin placed upon your seat means you have only left the table temporarily.


8. There is no need to explain when leaving the table temporarily. 

If you need to use the restroom, there is no need to explain where you are going. Simply say, “please excuse me,” when leaving the table. 


9. When a woman approaches the table, a man should stand up. 

This also goes for when she gets up to leave the table. This is a traditional etiquette rule but I believe we should continue to honor it. Note: this practice applies to social situations, in a business setting this is not done. 


10. If you require separate checks, tell your server in advance. 

It is far easier for a server to split the bill if they are aware in advance. They can keep track of what each person orders and keep them on separate checks. However, it is important to note that this is a courtesy, not a right. Many restaurants limit the number of separate checks and/or how many cards can be used to split a bill. Large parties should plan ahead when it comes to how they will pay. 


11. Tip fairly and generously. 

Basic restaurant etiquette and standard practice in the United States is to tip 20% for good service. Even if you felt your service was not up to par, you still must tip. Restaurant staff are paid significantly below minimum wage, as tips are intended to make up the bulk of their income. Whether you agree with the practice of tipping or not, cutting into someone’s wages because they made a simple mistake is unfair and unkind. 


12. Push your chair in when leaving the table.

Pushing your chair back into its proper position is simply good manners. It helps keep aisles clear in tight spaces and looks much tidier. 

I hope you have found these restaurant etiquette tips helpful! If you are interested in polishing your poise and learning more about social, business, and dining etiquette, follow my Instagram for everyday tips or reach out to book a one-to-one training.

Fitness Studio and Gym Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

Fitness Studio and Gym Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

Gym Etiquette Do's and Don'ts

Gyms and Fitness Studios are shared spaces where we visit to improve our health and feel better, both mentally and physically. Using these spaces with kindness and consideration makes for a better experience for all involved and ensures we leave these places feeling better than when we entered! Follow these gym etiquette tips to be a better patron.

Do check your gym and fitness studio’s rules. 

Most gyms and fitness studios have rules of conduct for members and guests. Because every gym is different, it is important to take the time to read and follow these rules. They can typically be found on the website or in the locker rooms.

Don’t arrive late to classes. 

Entering a class after it has started is disruptive and often means people have to shift around to accommodate you. Arriving to classes ten minutes early or at the very least, by the start time, is simply good manners.

Do put things back where they belong. 

At the gym, one of the most common complaints you will hear is regarding people not re-racking the weights they have used. It is a nuisance for the next person who has to find the weights they need. It also poses a tripping hazard. Standard gym etiquette is to put things back where they belong. That goes for foam rollers, yoga mats, props, and towels (yikes!), which must go into the receptacles provided.

Don’t linger. 

When the gym is busy, be expedient with your equipment use. A common sight in the gym today is people taking selfies before their squats or scrolling on their phone after finishing a set. At peak times when people are waiting to use equipment, it is important to avoid lingering as much as possible. 

Do treat equipment with respect. 

Just because it does not belong to you, does not mean you should be careless with it. Treat equipment with respect. Avoid dropping weights on the floor or letting machinery slam shut.

Don’t take phone calls or spend time scrolling. 

General rules regarding cell phone etiquette are that one should step away from others when taking phone calls, never use speakerphone in public, and when scrolling in a shared space, the volume should be switched off. These all apply to the gym. Similarly, when it comes to a studio class, your phone should be switched off entirely or left in a locker if possible. More cell phone etiquette tips can be found here (the hill I will die on, *wink!).

Do wipe down equipment and accessories after use. 

As a general courtesy (and gym etiquette must), use an antibacterial wipe, spray, or a gym towel to wipe down equipment after you use it.

Don’t give unsolicited advice. 

This has become a more common gym problem, where many people feel they can correct another person’s form or give their opinion without being asked for it. If you find yourself of the receiving end of an unsolicited opinion, try this response: “I appreciate your feedback. I have to finish my workout now. Thank you.”

Do keep music to a minimum.

When listening to music with headphones take care that the volume is not so high that others can hear it. And please, do not play music on the speaker of your cell phone.

Don’t arrive to a gym or fitness studio less than fresh… 

This should go without saying, and yes I understand that for obvious reasons, most people prefer to shower after a workout. However, these are shared spaces and if you are not smelling particularly fresh, it is unpleasant for the other patrons. Ensure your gym clothes are clean and your gym shoes are not biohazard-worthy when you remove them. 

Are you looking to polish your poise? 

Perhaps you would like to incorporate etiquette education into your next team-building exercise, host a speaker at your networking event, or help your staff members hone their soft skills.

Kindly reach out today to learn more about Lisa’s etiquette offerings, including in-person and virtual presentations, one-to-one training, and group classes.

Parking Etiquette Tips: Consideration and Safety Above All

Parking Etiquette Tips: Consideration and Safety Above All

Parking Etiquette Tips Blog

Parking lots can be wild places. There is a lot of traffic moving in various ways, cars in both forward and reverse, numerous pedestrians and often small children, too. Taking care to make safety a priority and respecting the etiquette rules of parking can make it a safer and more courteous place for everyone. 

Park Between the Lines

Sometimes getting into a space can be awkward but if you are uneven, take a moment to straighten out so that your fellow drivers are able to get into and out of spaces (and their own vehicles) safely. 

Go Slow

Kindly mind your speed. Parking lots are busy spaces and our speed should reflect this. Obey the sign posted limit and if there is none, the given rule is a maximum of 15mph in a parking lot. The most common parking lot incident is between cars backing out of spaces and cars driving down the aisle. Slower speeds protect against fender benders and keep pedestrians safe. 


Handicapped Parking Spots

This is my most important parking etiquette tip of all! On a recent visit to Starbucks, I watched not one but TWO different people pull into the handicapped parking spot and run inside for their order within the span of drinking my cup of coffee. Neither car had a placard or identifying license plate, and there were no passengers in the vehicles. To say I was appalled is an understatement! 

This should go without saying but never, and I mean never, park in a handicapped parking spot if you are not handicapped. I would also say that if you have a handicapped passenger who will not be getting out of the car, you are not eligible to use the space either. 

Another note regarding handicapped spots, often people will park partially in the diagonal lines of a handicapped parking place thinking there is extra room there. This is NOT the case. This area with the diagonal lines is specifically designed for wheelchair ramps. If you park in these and a person with a wheelchair returns to their car, they will not be able to get inside it. Always park within the lines to leave the appropriate amount of space. 


Use Your Turn Signals 

This goes for any time you are on the road (I am looking at you, Floridians!), but is especially helpful in parking lots. Not only does your indicator help other drivers know where you are going or parking, but it also helps pedestrians. 


Drive in the Correct Direction

Going the wrong way down an angled aisle is very unsafe as you are at odds with the vantage point of anyone backing out. Follow the arrows in the parking lot with care. 


Do Not Park in Reserved Spaces

A friend of mine lives in a complex near a very busy area and has to regularly have cars towed from her assigned parking space. In fact, on numerous occasions, she has had a car towed, gone to retrieve her vehicle from street parking, and returned only to find a new car has taken its place. This is despite the space having a clear signpost with her name. 

This woman lives in a parking impacted area and pays for her space. She should be able to park when she returns home. It is important to respect rules when they are given. If the space is reserved, find another (and avoid an unpleasant towing fee in the process!)

This also goes for spots that are designated for certain types of cars, such as Electric Vehicles. If your car is not electric, the spot is not available. 


Respect the Order of Arrival 

In a busy parking lot, the person who was waiting gets the spot. Hopefully, they have used their turn signal to indicate this. 


Avoid Unnecessary Traffic Jams

When dropping off someone who is “just running in,” do not wait at the curb for them. This impedes the flow of traffic and makes people move around you. Plus, it can affect visibility for pedestrians who cannot see the incoming traffic moving around your vehicle. Simply take a lap around the lot and return when your passenger does. 

Shopping Carts

Always, always return your shopping cart to the designated area. Even if this means going all the way back to the storefront. Returning your cart is a common courtesy that protects other vehicles and respects the store employees. And remember, pushing the cart up onto the curb does not count! 


Learn More

We hope you found these parking etiquette tips helpful! Are you interested in learning more about etiquette? Would you like to host a Business Etiquette seminar as part of a team-building, seminar, or employee training program? Get in touch to learn more about Lisa’s etiquette offerings.

Thanksgiving Etiquette Tips for Hosts and Guests

Thanksgiving Etiquette Tips for Hosts and Guests

Thanksgiving Hosting and Guest Etiquette Tips

Whether you are hosting or attending, holidays such as Thanksgiving should carry certain formalities and courtesies. Following good host and guest etiquette leaves a lasting impression and ensures that fun can be had by all. 

Thanksgiving Etiquette Tips for Hosts

Taking on the role of the host is quite the responsibility. Whether you are catering to a small group of four or a large extended family and friends, organization and firm boundaries are your friends here.

  1. Ask about dietary requirements in advance. It is crucial to check whether your guests have allergenic, religious, or personal dietary requirements. If a guest is vegan for example, and you plan to put pork in the green beans, you will need to take care to not only make a separate batch but ideally use separate cooking utensils to avoid cross-contamination too. Respecting a guest’s dietary requirements is a great courtesy that requires prior planning. 
  2. Have your guests arrive an hour before you intend to serve the meal. This allows time for mingling and a cocktail while you put together final touches, and accounts for anyone who may be running behind. 
  3. Ask for help if you need it to get dinner out on time. There is no award for martyrdom when it comes to hosting! No one wants to be the frantic, frazzled host (nor do guests want to experience this).
  4. If a guest refuses alcohol, do not pry or pressure them to partake. Likewise, apart from asking about dietary restrictions and accommodating them, do not ask for the “why” behind their personal choices. 
  5. As a host, it is your role to guide table conversation when necessary. If a controversial topic comes up, be direct and change the subject before things get out of hand. Maintaining and communicating a rule of no politics at the holiday table will ensure everyone stays comfortable despite differing viewpoints. 
  6. Apart from clearing the table, wait until after guests have left to begin cleaning up. Nothing spoils the fun faster than the clanging of dishes! 


Thanksgiving Etiquette Tips for Guests

We all want to be good guests when attending an event or visiting a person’s home. Keeping these tips in mind for Thanksgiving and the holiday season alike will always leave a positive impression.

  1. Arrive on time. This goes for any occasion. As a guest, it is important to arrive on time for any event, but particularly when someone is cooking for you. Arrive early and you may catch your host during last-minute preparations. Arrive late and you may cause everyone to wait for you. Your host is working hard on multiple dishes and timing them so they are all ready at the same time. It is a balancing act in itself, try not to create added stress by arriving too early or late. 
  2. Ask what you can bring. If your host declines, bring a small hostess gift such as a scented candle. If you opt to bring flowers, make sure they are in a vase. The last thing your hosts need as guests are arriving is to be finding a vase for flowers. 
  3. Do not get into a conversation around politics or any other controversial topics. This is mentioned above but it applies to guests too! Leave the tricky subjects for another time (or never!) 
  4. Know when to take your leave. Thanksgiving is a marathon for most hosts to prepare and after you leave they will have to clean up and likely do other chores. Do not overstay your welcome.
  5. Send a handwritten thank-you note within a few days of attending to show your gratitude to your host.

I hope you have found these Thanksgiving etiquette tips helpful. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend full of good manners and good cheer!

With a wink and a smile,
Lisa Lyons




Curious About Further Etiquette Education?

Get in touch today to learn more about my etiquette offerings, including in-person and virtual presentations and classes for your next event, team-building exercise, or function.