A travel site celebrating women of color who wanderlust

Travel Etiquette: Our Top 5+ Travel Pet Peeves

We are super excited to be participating in this week’s Traveling Brown Girls Blog Carnival hosted by OneBrownGirl.  Along with some of our favorite travelistas, we’ll be buzzing about travel etiquette, with an emphasis on pet peeves.  After you read our top 5+ list, be sure to visit our carnival friends to see what’s on theirs.  Then, jump on the comment stream below and tell us what gets YOUR travel goat.



Over the years, with regular business trips and top frequent flier status, I have taken my fair share of first class flights. Often times, I’ve been the only woman and more likely the only spot of melanin gracing the cabin.  This, I can only assume, means that to some of the coach passengers who board after me, I must look like an alien, a figura extraña, a beacon of oddity shining in the light of the window seat.  How else can I explain the soul-piercing stares, the rolled eyes and the undeniable attitudes that inevitably greet me before many flights where I’m seated in the forward cabin.

I am here to set the record straight — a brown girl CAN sit in first class.  There’s no trick to this truth…  I’m not an airline employee. I’m not a PYT (pretty young thing) for the old white man sitting next to me. I’m a travel-savvy chick who loves to fly comfortably every once in a while.  Some days, I love that my presence is a gentle reminder to those staring that brown girls also have access to life’s finer things. But, most days, I’m just irritated by the string of uncomfortable reactions left in my wake as I journey down the red carpet, bypassing the others in the boarding line and proudly taking my seat at the front of the plane. To my fellow passengers, please stop hating. If you save your duckets or play the frequent flier game, you too can join me up here.



BEWARE of the chair kicker.  You know who I’m talking about — that precocious little kid you thought was so cute in the gate waiting area who magically morphs into the chair-kicking demon behind you on the plane!

What makes it worst is their parents, sitting right next to them, who clearly see what’s going on and they don’t say or do ANYTHING.  Parents, please get the memo. When I stand up in my chair, turn around and look at you like you’re crazy, this means get your CHILD, right NOW or else …



It was my first time in Venice and after landing, I decided to take a Vaporetto from the airport (instead of the train) so that I could approach the city of canals and bridges by water.  As we circled Venice, everyone sat quietly soaking in the setting sun and the city lights shimmering on the lagoon.

Breaking the silence at  an embarrassingly loud volume I might add, was that slightly-nasal accent undeniably hailing from midwest America.  The woman sitting behind me began, “Ohhhh! Isn’t thaaat interesting!” as she took note of some unfamiliar aspect of Venetian culture.  Responding in the grouchiest old man voice he could muster, her father huffed, “What? Am I supposed to care that they are different than us?”

I was mortified by their conversation and vowed to deny our compatriot connection. “If anyone asks, I’m Canadian! — at least until I can get off this boat.”  But, when I realized that they were confused by the vaporetto’s route and about to disembark at the wrong stop, my inner “nice girl” kicked in.  Since we were the only three native English speakers on board– and since they clearly just alienated any english-speaking Italians who might have been inclined to help, I spoke up and offered some direction. In the process, I learned that they were from a Chicago suburb and making a stop in Venice on their way home after two weeks at the Athens Olympics.   Such a culturally-rich itinerary and it was completely lost on them!

I promised that day to approach travel with an open heart and to avoid the trap of cultural elitism as much as humanly possible.  Let’s all work hard not become the “Ugly American.”



I rock a head full of natural curls that can sometimes morph into a big beautiful ‘fro — enticing to curious fingers, I know — but please don’t try to get your sneak on when I pass by.  Just in case you aren’t sure, let me state this more clearly.  Strangers copping an uninvited feel on my hair is a No, NO!

Last year, when my friends and I were traveling in Europe, I turned around to find two men — and their girlfriends no less — walking behind me, hands perched inches from my hair.  When I caught them, they asked sheepishly, “Oh! Can we touch?”

I’m all for being a cultural ambassador and sharing my life experience, but OMG!  Is that for real? I am a tourist … not a tourist attraction. Do I need to wear a sign like the ones we see in museums?   When it comes to this brown girl and her big curly ‘fro — please don’t touch!



In attempt to save costs and develop Earth-friendly policies, many hotels give you the option to reuse your towels and washcloths so they have fewer loads to wash.  This makes sense to me.  But, when it comes to linen on the bed, I expect a different level of scrutiny.  I don’t enjoy being greeted by hair, ink marks, blood or dead bugs (all of which I’ve seen) when I pull back the covers. Please save us all the hassle and just put fresh sheets on the bed.

And, for sanity’s sake, PLEASE change the comforter more than once a quarter.  People thrown them on the floor, and put their shoes, pets, naked bums and suitcases on them. The last sensory experience I want before drifting off to sleep is the sight and smells of food stains, cigarette burn holes and sex juices.   Grrrrrr!



I understand that some travelers, out of necessity, operate at different paces. To account for these differences, in many airports, TSA has been kind enough to institute security lanes for casual travelers, for experts, and for families or those carrying medical liquids.  Of the options available, the expert line used to be the fastest and most efficient. (Note my use of the past tense.)

As a frequent flier who almost exclusively travels with carry-on luggage, I hate  jumping in the expert lane to discover that it’s the slowest-moving one in security.

To my fellow travelers, I beg of you, please learn the unspoken rules governing security lanes. The expert lane is not the take-your-sweet-time-because-I-have-3-hours-to-kill lane,  nor is it the I-am-trying-to-avoid-paying-for-checked-bags-so-I-am-flooding-security-with-multiple-80-lb-bags-masquerading-as-carryons lane.  And, it’s definitely not for those trying to hide bottles of water, large toiletries and any other contraband discovered the three times TSA had to xray your bags.

If you’re the kind of traveler who makes good use of the long wait in line and are ready by the time you reach the conveyor belt — pockets emptied, laptops out, shoes off, and baggies full of fluids ready for inspection — you’re welcomed to enter the expert lane any time you want.  For everyone else, please reflect on the rules, identify your own airport habits and consider the other available options. Remember no SNAILS allowed.  🙂


Thanks for indulging our sarcastic rants as we reflected on the things we like about travel. Admittedly, its a trivial list in comparison to all the great things travel offers. But, we hope you received it with same light-hearted spirit that it was intended.  Even more, we hope you’ll join in the fun by sharing your own list of travel pet peeves.  Scroll down to the comments and let her rip!


Stay Fly!

Chelle & Crys

  1. Roni Faida says

    One of my biggest peeves is when someone is sitting behind me and they want to get up so they pull full force on my seat in order to get up. That. Drives. Me. Crazy. You don’t have to do this. I once had a window seat and I climbed over the person in the middle (with the help of the nice man on the aisle) because middle seat was sleeping. I never touched the seat in front me and still made it out of my seat. Great post.

  2. Deb says

    Love this post! I get so grossed out by comforters. I’m always making sure I have the sheets (which I hope are washed) between me and them. Ewww, I think that is why I am constantly walking around with a bit of a cold these days (Germs!) We get the stares too when we fly business class, so I’m not sure if it’s just you, but I do love it when people look at me with a bit of envy. So often I’m the one walking by them, rolling my eyes saying (why am I not sitting there?) It should have been me! So when I do get the upgrade, I relish it:)
    And finally, yes, the seat kicker. I always turn around and tell the parent off. I have no patience for that and I set them straight early. It’s a really straight scary stare that I give to the kid that usually makes them stop. Otherwise, I tell the parent to deal with it and say that’s it, I’m calling the flight attendent. It drives me crazy! fun post.

    1. Chelle says

      Hey Deb! How are you? It’s been a while since we chatted. I hope all’s well. Thanks for chiming in with your travel pet peeves. Your response had me chuckling. Great minds think alike as they say … or misery loves company (LOL) … it’s nice to know you feel our pain.

  3. The Travelpreneur says

    Ladies, I love all of these, #1 and #5 are definitely on my list…yes, we belong in first class too. You have inspired me to blog on this topic:)

  4. Michelle says

    I love your article and will be back to read more. The dirty bed linen is disgusting. The seat kicker in my most recent trip was Chinese adults playing some card game & for what ever reason they had to keep banging the backs of our seats. They also did not know how to talk discreetly. I thought I would add a story of my own: Years ago when I was a pretty young thing, I was advised when travelling NOT to wash my undies and such but to leave them on the top of my linens. This proved to be a boon when travelling on my own through Malaya, where twice I was ‘selected’ for a spot check of my bags. (No one above 25 was ‘selected’.) Upon opening my bags and the discovering of my not so clean items, my bag was not pulled apart unlike another fellow PYT who had her undies and such lifted out and displayed and discussed with impunity just because she was a PYT. Grrr

  5. AngelQT says

    I like that term “cultural elitism” because too many (especially Americans) have it. I would definitely add your #3 to my list as well.

  6. Wifey says

    Great list- especially 1 & 2! And I can’t believe folks actually think its ok to touch your hair. Gasp!

    Winks & Smiles,

  7. Rhonda says

    I’m planning on using my frequent flier miles to travel First Class on my return flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, NC in January 2013. I will be arriving from China at that time. I’ll have to post on my Take A Leap blog about that experience afterward. Read about my twin sister and I 5 Pet Peeves at: http://www.wcptakealeap.blogspot.com/2012/08/travel-etiquette-my-top-5-travel-pet.html

    1. Chelle says

      Hey Rhonda!

      I’m sure you’ll enjoy it … Be sure to post what your experience was like. Loved your pet peeves. We’ll be coming over to your site and commenting there.

  8. Michaela says

    LOL at the hair touching. I’ve never had anyone try to sneak and touch my hair, although I get plenty of looks! I don’t think I would be opposed to it – I can be an attention junkie. LOL!

    I love the expert lanes, especially when they work like they are intended. Full of barefoot, belt-less, jewelry free frequent travelers who can do the TSA checkpoint in their sleep!

  9. Aviation Queen

    […] Brown Girls Fly — again, these sisters of mine had several I could have included on this list.  But Chelle won me over with her number one peeve: people in first class who look at you like you shouldn’t be there.  Thanks to frequent flyer miles, upgrades, being an airline employee and my work as an aviation journalist, I’ve spent more than my fair share of long-haul flights in first and business class.  And even in these enlightened times, I get the “look” — what are you doing sitting here?  And I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked how I ended up in that cabin.  One person was particularly obnoxious on a flight from Washington D.C., to London in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. Finally, the flight attendant came over and told the guy that I was a personal guest of Sir Richard Branson, which shut him up pretty quick!! […]

  10. Benet says

    Chelle, you hit a nerve with number one. I’ve spent more than my fair share of long-haul flights in first and business class. And even in these enlightened times, I get the “look” — what are you doing sitting here? And I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked how I ended up in that cabin — i could buy seats for us all! One person was particularly obnoxious on a flight from Washington D.C., to London in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. Finally, the flight attendant came over and told the guy that I was a personal guest of Sir Richard Branson, which shut him up pretty quick!! LOL I still treasure the look on his face some 15 years later.

    1. Chelle says

      Wow, Benet!! That is pure craziness. But, I SOOO love how the flight attendant shut it down — I wish I could have a photo of the look on that man’s face.

      On that note, I’ve not always seen the flight attendant serve as an ally in situations like this. See the crazy incident I described in my response to Angela Myers below.

  11. Julia says

    Great list and yes we belong in first class too.

  12. Carol says

    OMG. I wanted to die a little inside with each one. The hair touching? The First Class stares? The no linen wash??? Really. Dying.

  13. OneBrownGirl says

    Great list!
    What’s worse is that when there IS another Brown person in Business or First Class that acts like they don’t see you. I’m not expecting a conversation, but can I get a nod? Egads.

  14. nicoleisthenewblack says

    totally agree about not being a tourist attraction. i am okay with children looking and potentially touching but grown people? it can be frustrating.

  15. Terri says

    I said the Chair Kicking, too!! I’m glad I’m not the only one. Yeah, a few people have mentioned the “hair touching” and despite my locs, I haven’y gotten too much of that. Staring and pointing definitely. That is really messed up about first class. Since I’ve never really traveled in those parts of the plane, I wouldn’t really know. 🙂

  16. robin says

    amen a million times over, ESPECIALLY about the expert traveler lane and the linens. two of my biggest travel pet peeves. also lack of wifi is a big one for me.

  17. Angela Myers says

    OMG…I was recently on a flight from LGA to DCA and it was “open seating”. I walked on the plane and the flight attendant said “any seat behind the curtain is available”; however I had a first class upgrade – so I sat in 2B. The flight attendant rushes over, and in a rather LOUD voice says “I said any seat BEHIND the curtain”.

    I seriously had to pull out my ticket to show him that I belonged in FC. The look on his face was price-less so I laughed and asked him for a Mimosa. He tried his best to avoid me the entire flight – but I worked him every chance I got! I am usually not a high maintenance flyer, but I’m sure this was the longest 1.5 hours of his flight attendant life.


    1. Chelle says

      Love it! It’s sad that we need to be “card carrying” fliers to be allowed in first class when not everyone else is given the same level of scrutiny.

      Sometimes flight attendants are worse than the passengers. I was on a flight once when a couple got split up. The husband (an older white gentleman) cleared his first class upgrade but his wife (a younger Filipino woman) did not. Being a gentleman, he carried her bags on board, gave her his first class seat, and headed back to coach.

      While offering everyone else in the cabin their pre-flight drinks, the flight attendant walked up to the Filipino woman and said “You can’t sit here. You have on jeans.” Mind you, despite the jeans, the woman was well dressed with a nice shirt and heels — a notch above them in the cabin, some of whom donned shorts, t-shirts and sneakers. The flight attendant then demanded her boarding pass and some identification. Uncomfortable rumblings began in the cabin as the other passengers tried to process what was happening. The poor woman didn’t quite know how to handle it … and I watched as she visibly shrank in stature as the flight attendant insistently berated her until she got up and went to the back to find her husband.

      At this point, I began to suspect that the flight attendant pegged the woman for an employee. Since off-duty employees have a no-jeans dress code when flying in first class, the flight attendant was “policing” the situation. Except, never once did she even ask the woman was she an employee, and she apparently didn’t even consider an alternative explanation.

      When the husband arrived, he was told he could not give his ticket to his wife. His name was on the manifesto assigned to this seat … security reasons … yadda yadda yadda. Technically she was right. But, why chose today to enforce a rule that gets ignored all the time. To defend her stance, the flight attendant called the gate agent onto the plane and the train wreck got bigger. When all was said and done, the Filipino woman was demoralized and, even after the issue was cleared up, refused to return to first class. The husband was angry. The rest of us were flabbergasted and felt uncomfortable being served by the flight attendant for the duration of the flight. I called the airline to complain. But, how do you get a customer service rep to understand how inappropriate this was without sounding like a race-sensitive whistle blower. I could not PROVE the flight attendant’s intent was racist. I only know she left a ton of people in her destructive wake.

      Take an ill-placed assumption, throw in a sense of entitlement and a complete absence of tact and you have one forever-scarred passenger and a business-traveler husband who will probably never fly your airline again.

  18. Janice Temple says

    Great article Chelle and Crystal! The don’t wash the linens policy was hilarious.

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