Do You Know How To Behave on Vacation?

Q: I am sick and tired of going to the beach and finding all the best lounge chairs "reserved" with towels — most of the time, no one ever comes to actually use them. Isn't this kind of rude?

A: Oh, it's rude all right. What's next, putting up a small fence on a particular section of the beach so no one else can build a sandcastle there but you? (Although, hmmm, I hope I haven't given the rude people any ideas.) I've heard the argument of "Well, if I'm willing to get up at the crack of dawn and go down there, it should be mine all day"—and I think that's hogwash.

Let's be clear: You can "save" a chair for 10-15 minutes, max. That should be plenty of time to fetch the trashy novel you forgot in your room, get another daiquiri, etc. If you need more time, take your stuff with you and let someone else have the seat.

Hotel and cruise staffs need to step up and do their part with signage and actually enforce the seating rules.

Q: What's the etiquette for wearing perfume or cologne on a flight?

A: Nothing you bring on an airplane—including yourself—should have any sort of odor. Soap yes (actually, soap yes, please). Reliving the '80s by dousing yourself in Opium or Giorgio, no. It's not like your seatmate can open a window at 30,000 feet to let in some fresh air! By all means bring the perfume… but put it on once you reach your destination.

Q: On my last flight, some guy behind me started complaining because I reclined my seat. Apparently he was in a seat that didn't recline and it made it hard for him to use his computer. Now, I'm sympathetic, but if I paid for the seat, don't I have the right to recline it?

A: Ah, the reclining seat turf war. Airplane designers, what on earth were you thinking? This is not a feature—it's a disaster. And it's not like leaning backwards a few degrees makes the seat feel any less like concrete. Spend the money on better seats, not on making them recline!

Reclining seats aren't going away anytime soon, though, so we'd all better come to some understanding about how to use them.

You absolutely have the right to recline. But you do not have the right to be obnoxious about it. Do it slowly, only as much as necessary, and consider giving a heads-up to the person behind you (particularly if they are using a laptop or are very tall).

On the flip side: if the person in front of you reclines their seat, grow up and stop whining about it. If it truly bothers you, it's up to you to find a seat with extra legroom. Pay for it in business or first class; take an airline with roomier seats; or just choose your seat wisely (sit in the bulkhead row, an exit row or behind seats that don't recline—check to research seats on any flight).

Q: What do you think of the Knee Defender?

A: I think its inventor deserves a special place in hell. Being passive-aggressive is not the way to solve the reclining seat issue. Common sense is, and that's free.

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