Travel Advice: Tips and Etiquette From

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Q: If you're in a hotel and the people upstairs from you are having a loud party at 2 a.m., what should you do? I live in an apartment, and if it happened in my building, I would go upstairs and ask the host in person to turn down the music. When this happened at our hotel last weekend, though, my girlfriend insisted we call the manager to complain instead of heading upstairs. I went that route, but I'm curious if you think I should have just gone upstairs.

A: I'm going to side with your girlfriend. The apartment situation is quite different. It's in your and your neighbors' best interests to resolve things amicably. You don't want them thinking of you as "that jerk who called the cops on us," and they probably don't want you thinking of them as "those jerks upstairs who hold weekly dance parties."

But you don't have the same type of relationship with your upstairs neighbors in a hotel. You've probably never seen them before and will never see them again. You have no idea if they're reasonable people who'll apologize… or a bunch of folks celebrating their recent release from the county jail. Also, it's the middle of the night in a part of the hotel that Security obviously doesn't patrol (or they'd already have taken care of the problem). So I think calling management and letting them deal with it is a much better idea. It's just safer, and while the other guests have no motivation to listen to you, they probably don't want to be kicked out in the middle of the night, so they'd be more inclined to listen to the manager. Furthermore, you're paying the hotel for a good night's sleep—you shouldn't feel guilty about asking the manager to step in so you can have one.


Q: Is it bad etiquette for me to clip my nails on a plane?

A: Yes. Yes. A thousand times YES. (Apologies to Jane Austen.)


Q: My husband doesn't want to dress up for Formal Night on our upcoming cruise. The last time he wore a suit was to a funeral three or four years ago. It doesn't fit anymore, and he refuses to get a new one. I told him he could rent a tuxedo, but you can probably imagine how he felt about that.

I really, really want to get dressed up and have a nice picture taken of our whole family to use on next year's Christmas cards. I'm hoping you'll say they won't let him in the dining room unless he's dressed formally.

A: Unfortunately, you didn't specify what cruise line you're on, and the answer depends on that. There are still some lines that specify and enforce a formal dress code on particular nights, but many have moved away from that in favor of optional formal nights. When those occur, you'll see some people dressed to the nines, but others will be wearing the same sort of clothes they wear to dinner every other night. Again, this varies from line to line, but business casual seems to be the norm. And to tell you the truth, you might not even see that enforced all that strictly. I think someone has blithely strolled into the dining room in shorts and/or a nasty tank top on every single cruise I've taken.

So, check the website for your cruise line or call them to find out what their specific requirements are. But beyond that, I think you and your husband need to sit down and talk why you want this so badly and why he has such a problem with it. Does he hate the idea of wearing a suit at all, or just the idea of your mailing a photo of him in a suit to everyone you know? He might feel that makes him look phony. Maybe there's some sort of compromise (e.g., a collared shirt, khaki pants and a sports coat) that works for him, you and your cruise line.

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