Nov. 3, 2009 -- Q: What should you do if you have the flu but have to fly (say, to attend your sister's wedding)? Wear a mask? I think I might be coming down with swine flu (I was exposed at work) but my sister will never forgive me if I miss her wedding this weekend.
A: If you're sick and have a trip coming up, go to the doctor—especially if you think you might have the flu (H1N1 or garden-variety). If the doctor says you have something contagious, you need to stay home. Period. As for masks, the CDC says they do not completely prevent flu transmission. So unfortunately, that's not a real solution—if you have the flu, you simply shouldn't fly.
I know there are all sorts of excuses you can make—a family obligation, a big meeting, "My ticket was expensive!" etc.—but the truth is, if you fly with the flu, you're exposing lots of innocent strangers to a virus that could make them seriously ill. And I think we can all agree it's bad manners to make other people sick if it's in your power to prevent it.
Yet it's difficult—and expensive—to do the right thing. Two things could make it a lot easier, though: Airlines should let sick travelers change flights without a fee, and anyone who's on the receiving end of "I'm sorry, I can't fly—I have the flu" should be understanding. While your sister might initially be miffed, you can explain to her that by staying home, you won't expose her to swine flu right before she goes on her honeymoon. Once she hears that, she'll probably thank you for staying away.
Q: What do you do if you're flying somewhere for a job interview and the airline loses the bag containing your interview suit?
A: You suck it up, stop at a mall on the way to your interview and buy a new suit. And never again do you pack something you really need, like your interview suit, in a checked bag.
Sharing Expenses on Vacation
Q: I'm single and am considering going on vacation with my friend and his fiancée. We're thinking of renting a two-bedroom house for two weeks. How should we split the rent? If it was just me and him, we'd obviously go 50-50, but I don't know how it works when there's one single person and a couple.
A: If the two bedrooms in the house are roughly comparable in terms of size and desirability, you're responsible for half the rent and the two of them together should pay the other half. However, if they'll be sleeping in some palatial master suite, while you're in an un-air-conditioned former maid's room, you should pay much less than they do. The difference in your rooms has to be significant, though, to warrant this. If they happen to have one more window than yours, or a slightly bigger closet, you shouldn't try to argue that they owe $25 more than you do—you'll look cheap.
No matter what the layout of the house is like, make sure you're all clear on how you're splitting costs well in advance. Arguing over it after you get to the house is a good way to kick off your vacation on a very unpleasant note.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.