21 Unwritten Rules Of Travel (And The 4 I Disagree With)

Travel is a grind for everyone.  Business travelers are unhappy that every seat on the plane is full.  Infrequent travelers are unhappy with all the fees.  We’re all unhappy with the service.  Which brings us to some unwritten rules of airplane travel.

Point me to the Plane brought this list to my attention.  I got a good chuckle at the list, nodding my head in places.  But, I flat disagreed with 4 of these unwritten rules of travel.  You can find the full list on the Thrillist website, but here are the 4 I disagree with:

Never ask if you can skip someone in the security line.

I don’t see a hard and fast rule here.  Put simply, I always arrive at the airport with more than enough time to get through security.  If someone rushes up, covered in sweat and begs to cut the line, I let them.  Why?  Because we’re all going to be in that spot at some point.  Traffic, flat tire, overslept, it happens.  Have pity on your fellow traveler when they need to cut the line, and only ask to cut when you’re truly in danger of missing your flight.

No hot food of any kind on a plane.

Airplane food generally sucks.  Flights are full and long.  I have no issue with someone bringing hot food on a plane.  I understand it might smell, but it’ll go away.  You won’t be permanently injured because your seat mate brought on a stinky dinner.

Unwritten Rules Of Travel

If  you can’t lift your own bag, don’t carry it on.

This is just plain stupid.  What if you have a broken arm but you’re in a rush?  Elderly and can’t get that bag over your head.  If the airlines got better about handling checked baggage, I might be tempted to tell you to check that bag.  But, they’re not.  Be a courteous fellow passenger and help them lift that bag into the overhead bin.  You’ll appreciate the help someday when you need it.

Don’t recline in economy.

I get the whole “don’t recline in economy” movement.  I really do.  There’s this sentiment that we’re all in it together.  And yet, the seat reclining in front of you isn’t going to kill you.  In most cases, it doesn’t even recline that much.  Taller folks have concerns here, and I get it.  When asked by another passenger to not recline my seat, I’ve obliged.  It’s only happened once or twice.

My Favorite Unwritten Rule

While I’d love to say it was number 8, my favorite is the obligation to switch seats.  If you’re traveling on your own and two people are split up, try to figure out a way to make it work.  I’m not saying you need to swap an exit room aisle seat for a cramped middle seat with no extra legroom.  But, within reason, help out that mom separated from her child, or the husband and wife who want to sit together.  You’re likely to be in that situation in the future.  I don’t specifically believe in karma, but this is such an easy thing to help out with.  Do the right thing.

The post 21 Unwritten Rules Of Travel (And The 4 I Disagree With) was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Just curious, have you ever see or experienced an airline separated the seating of mom and her young child? While I think every humane person would not object to swap, is airplane/gate agent really separate them?

    1. I have already been denied a seat switch my daughtet 4yrs old at the time one elderly lady refused saying her grandchildren were going to come sit next to her instead a very young couple bless their soul separated so we had side by side seats

    2. I’ve been in this situation plenty of times myself. We often book last minute due to how unpredictable my husband’s work can be. Sometimes when we book, there either are no seats left to select or we get the last four or five seats that are scattered around the plane.

      Some airlines are better than others about moving seats but other simply won’t help and you are left to figure it out yourself once you board.

    3. Ever flown on United Airlines? I’ve seen this happen plenty. GA: “Sorry no seats left””. GA throws boarding pass and green tag in your direction. “You’ll have to ask the flight attendant for help”. FA: “sorry we are not allowed to move passengers around. Who told you we could do that?” Welcome to the friendly skies !

  2. Whoa, big disagreement on the food. Completely obnoxious to the others that didn’t have time to buy the food (or had common courtesy). This is just as bad as roommates blaring the TV. You’re not the only one in the experience!

    Otherwise, the other rules don’t seem too bad. Reclining is annoying and should be met with hesitation, but we can all recline in response.

    1. ed, going to have to disagree. There are enough travel disruptions that there are plenty of times I can’t get a meal between flights (see my broken plane last week). I don’t do it often, and I’d much prefer to eat in the terminal. But, if the choice is to grab something to eat on the plane or not eat a meal, I’ll choose the former. I generally focus on things that don’t have an odor.

  3. I’m interloping on this conversation but here might be a opportune time to pose my question. Was I in the right or wrong?
    Here is the situation: 1. My carry-on has a laptop, a tablet, and a CPAP sleep machine. All need to be taken out if not in the TSA Pre line. I have two artificial hips. I also have bouts of very painful plantar fascia. I need to always walk with orthotic arches in my shoes. Even at home I have them in my slippers. Hey – I’m old. At Savannah Airport I choose the TSA Pre line but that side only had the old fashioned metal detectors. When I got in the metal detector, they said take off your shoes. I said – I’m over 75. They said – makes no difference. This kind of machine, you need to take off your shoes. I said – I’ll walk over the the other side and use the body scanner machine. They said no you can’t, you have already put your bag through this machine. I said why the hell not. I have done that at other smaller airports with similar lack of proper equipment. They called the supervisor. I thought – here comes the voice of reasoning and understanding. She said – lower you voice sir. I explained quietly the whole situation including why I didn’t want to take off my shoes and that I was willing to take my bag, remove the appropriate items and put it in the other lane. However, she said no. The bag could not go to the other machine and neither could I. I responded. She said – lower your voice sir. Two warnings are enough for me. I shut up, took off my shoes, and walked with pain the rest of the way to the gate. Readership: your opinion please.

    1. Diamond Dave, I wish I had a great answer for you. I once had a TSA agent push my daughter (5 or 6 years old at the time). I wanted to go postal, but I had to keep my cool. I truly hate that we need to be so fearful of TSA agents. But, with the amount of power they wield, you made the right decision. Not sure if you saw this post from a few weeks ago, but great example of lack of accountability: https://pizzainmotion.boardingarea.com/2017/06/06/wow-customs-border-protection-admits-mistake-reinstates-global-entry/

  4. Ed, I’m usually not a member of the “Don’t Do That” flyer club but found the list interesting. I agree with your 4 call-outs but want to add 1 more: #15 “don’t touch the seat-backs” when walking down the aisle. It would be nice if airlines had hold bars or straps, but they don’t, so if one is having balance issues on a plane, only choice is to a grab seat back for support. Personally, I’ve done this out of sheer necessity, as it was safer/better than landing in someone’s lap or on the floor. Also, using “morally obligated” for a courtesy issue, travel related or not, is open to much philosophical debate these days & one I won’t hazard trying to delve into here:)

    1. Maureen, you bring up a good point about balance when walking on a plane. I REALLY like the airlines that install handles/edges to the overhead bins to maintain your balance.

  5. I agree that it’s great to help elderly or disabled travelers with their bags.

    But I was on a flight with an able-bodied companion who wanted the flight attendant to put her bag in the overhead bin for her. I got up, put it in the bin myself, and said “it’s not appropriate to ask the flight attendant to store the bag for you”. The flight attendant was EXTREMELY appreciative….(and this was a Southwest flight attendant with a good attitude).

    I was on another flight sitting next to a young woman who left her trash behind. When I said “you forgot some items”, she said “the flight attendants can take care of it”.

    A little common courtesy goes a long way….

  6. I totally agree with all your disagreements with that list, especially with “If you can’t lift your own bag, don’t carry it on.” I have been at both sides of this situation (I look frailer and older than I really am), and I see it as common courtesy to offer my help to all those who obviously need help hoisting things up. Checking your bag is not really an option especially if it contains someone’s medication, etc.

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