Do You Deserve Special Treatment on Vacation?

Many of us would love to bend the rules to suit our needs - but should we?

July 31, 2009 — -- Q: I have a very well-behaved poodle named Pickles. She has never, ever had an accident indoors. She doesn't bark or bite or chew furniture. I'm a bridesmaid in my cousin Ann's wedding next month, and the hotel where everyone is staying has a no-pets policy. I'm sure no one would even notice Pickles if I brought her. Can I sneak her in? Or maybe I could say she's a service dog?

A: To heck with the hotel's silly "policy"! Go ahead and say Pickles is a service dog! In fact, you should bring Pickles to the wedding itself. What bride wouldn't love a surprise furry guest?

Dream on, darling. You'll travel by unicorn before you get an answer like that from me. I understand you love your dog, but that doesn't mean you deserve special treatment. If you want to bring Pickles, stay at a different hotel where she's welcome and deal with the inconvenience (and lack of a wedding-party discount).

Q: On my last flight, I got stuck in a middle seat. The guy in the aisle seat fell asleep. I needed to use the bathroom, so I woke him up to ask if I could go by. He acted like this was a huge imposition (eye-rolling, exaggerated sighing, etc.). Did I do something wrong?

A: Not at all. The person in the aisle seat doesn't get to play Cerberus and prevent the other people in the row from ever escaping. Mr. Sleepyhead was the rude one here. As long as you apologized for waking him and asked politely, there's nothing more you could have done. Obviously, you should minimize the number of times you make other people get up (this means you, people who need to grab something from the overhead compartment every five minutes), but his reaction to your request was absurd.

Putting a Top to Embarassing Behaviour

Q: Can I ask topless sunbathers on a Caribbean beach to cover up around my small children?

A: Nope (unless the beach doesn't allow topless sunbathing).

I understand it makes you uncomfortable, and that it's tough to explain to kids why that lady's only wearing half a bathing suit. However, tourists shouldn't be asking anybody to stop doing something that's perfectly acceptable in the local culture. If topless sunbathing bothers you, it's up to you to do some research and vacation in places where you won't encounter it.

Q: Is it rude not to chat with the person sitting next to me on a plane?

A: You do owe your seatmate a bit of polite chit-chat when you first board the plane (common courtesy won't kill you). After that, though, you can say, "I'm sorry, but I got four hours of sleep last night—I've been looking forward all day to napping on this flight," or "It's been so nice to meet you, but I have to finish a ton of work before we land." Then, close your eyes or take out some work. And put headphones on (whether or not you're actually listening to anything). Problem solved, politely.

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