How to Be a Courteous Travel Companion

Being polite when others are rude and other travel etiquette questions answered.

September 10, 2009 — -- Q: While I was on vacation with my friend, we joined friends of hers for dinner. They were a family group of five. When the check arrived, my friend and I asked how much we should chip in. The head of the family said don't worry about it. We were surprised, but thanked him. A week later, his wife e-mailed us saying that her husband only intended to pay for their family, not my friend and me. She requested we each pay back $40. I paid my portion but never spoke of this to my friend. Is this proper etiquette?

A: Proper etiquette for her? No way in hell. Proper etiquette for you? Absolutely.

Sending an e-mail like that is way out of line. I can understand she might be upset that her husband spent more than they'd planned (especially in this economy), but that's something for the two of them to argue about on their way home from the restaurant. Once you get up from the table, there's no revising how you split the check. I'm simply appalled she asked you for money a week later.

You've handled everything perfectly, though, right down to not complaining to your friend about how rude her friends are. I'm sure she was equally surprised (and mortified). I'd have even understood if you ignored the e-mail (oh, those pesky spam filters, wink wink), but by paying, you took the high road. And now the crazy rude person shouldn't bother you anymore, which is always a good thing.

Q: On my last business trip, the concierge at my hotel insisted on my taking an unlabeled, unmetered car, instead of a metered taxi. This made me uncomfortable, but I didn't want to offend the driver or concierge. Should I have stood my ground?

A: Are you kidding me? Yes! When it's a matter of your safety, not offending somebody should be the least of your concerns. You're not objecting to something innocuous, like a smelly taxi (because, as we all know, every last one of them reeks of "air freshener")—you're objecting to something illegal. You could find yourself dropped far from your destination unless you pay an exorbitant fare, or you could be at the mercy of someone who doesn't know how to drive. You should have refused the car, and if the concierge didn't immediately call a licensed cab, you should have asked to speak to the hotel manager. In fact, even now, you should consider e-mailing the manager, or, if it was a chain hotel, the chain's main customer-service department. "Thought you might like to know that your concierge Bob in New York told me to take an unlicensed cab" should get some serious attention.

Q: Where do you leave the tip for housekeeping in a hotel?

A: Somewhere obvious. If you're one of those people who collects about 200 coins every day and likes to dump them all on the dresser, don't put a few crumpled bills beside your mess and expect housekeeping to understand the bills are for them, but not the coins. I like to write "Housekeeping" on a piece of notepaper and fold it around the tip, and I usually leave it on the bed. There's no way they'll miss it there (assuming they're doing their job!). It's always fine to tip housekeeping in person, too—it's a nice opportunity to say thank you for especially good service.

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