Getting What You Want on Vacation

Q: On airplanes, I always see people getting up to use the bathroom when the seat-belt sign is on. Is this really okay? I thought that was a rule, not just a suggestion.

A: It is a rule, and ignoring it is a good way to get seriously hurt. Earlier this year, someone ended up paralyzed because she went to the bathroom while the seat-belt light was on and the plane hit severe turbulence. I know sometimes it seems like the pilot puts the lights on just for the heck of it, but if you know what's good for you, you'll comply.

Q: My husband's sister is traveling to San Diego with us for a week in January, and I'm dreading it. We love her, but deciding where to eat is a real issue. My husband and I are pretty serious foodies—we love sushi and really spicy food—but his sister only eats bland, American food. (The Olive Garden is a stretch for her.) She always says wherever we want to go is fine, but it never really is. If we suggest a Japanese restaurant, for example, she won't object, but she'll order the blandest noodle dish on the menu and pick at it, looking sad. What can we do?

A: Sounds like you probably shouldn't have invited her to vacation with you! While it's nice to travel with family if you all get along and have similar vacation styles, it doesn't seem like that's the case here. I'd suggest having a frank conversation with your sister-in-law—you should attempt to address this problem before you leave.

Tell her you know she doesn't like the same sort of food you and your husband do, but that the trip will be better if everyone can compromise… which means you'd like her to help plan where you eat. Maybe if you and your husband pick where to have lunch, she can choose the restaurant for dinner. Or maybe you can all agree that three nights out of the week, you'll split up and do your own thing. If she still insists that whatever you want is fine, though, and refuses to do any planning, go ahead and eat where you want—you gave her a chance to speak up.

The Headache of Terrible Service

Q: If you get really bad service in a restaurant in the U.S., is it acceptable not to tip?

A: If the service was truly unacceptable—like the waiter made advances on you, screwed up your order multiple times, served whisky to a 12-year-old, and charged you for items you didn't order—then it's an option. But if you really want to get your point across, it's far better to have a word with the manager. Your waiter might not particularly care if you leave unhappy, but his boss will.

Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at