Food & Drink In-Flight Experience Travel Etiquette

7 Foods You Should Never Eat on a Plane

Bringing your own food on the plane makes perfect sense, both for your taste buds and your wallet. But whether you’re packing your own snacks or buying a gate-side meal to-go, you should avoid these seven foods—for your sake and those around you.

Food You Can’t Finish

Pineapple on a plane

If you decide that a long flight is the time to tuck in to a special treat, more power to you. Just make sure you have time to finish it—or that you’re okay with throwing it away before you land. In most countries, you’ll have to declare any food (even packaged items) before entering, and something that you’ve opened up might not make it in.

Fresh fruits and vegetables usually won’t be allowed in, either, due to agricultural concerns. (The U.S. Customs and Border Control Agency offers this helpful guide, but other countries will have different rules.)

Instant Soups

woman eating noodles on a plane.

Some people will tell you to bring a cup of noodles or other instant soup aboard a flight and ask the flight attendant for boiling water during meal service. Although a mug of hot soup may sound enticing, it’s a bad idea to keep a cup of scalding liquid near your lap when turbulence could strike at any second.

Plus, many prepackaged ramen cups have close to half of your daily recommendation of sodium, which certainly won’t help you fight jet bloat.

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Noisy Foods

Man eating salad on plane

Crunch… crunch… crunch. Put down the chips or raw vegetables—your seatmate does not want to listen to you chew. Crunchy foods can sound louder than a jet engine when you’re basically chewing right in your seatmate’s ear. Remember that the person next to you has nowhere to go, so save the noisy foods for when you land.

Messy Foods

woman eating sandwich on plane.

If you’d struggle to tackle what you’re eating on a full-sized table with actual metal utensils, don’t attempt it on a tiny tray table with flimsy plastic forks and minimal elbow room. Airplanes aren’t given a deep cleaning between most flights, so you might be leaving crumbs or other leftovers behind for the next occupant of your seat.

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In-Flight Meal

If you’re tempted to bring hardboiled eggs, tuna fish, or other strong-smelling food aboard, stop and think about whether everyone trapped in the small cabin with you wants to smell what you’re eating. (The airlines are big offenders on this one, too—often offering a fish option at dinnertime.)

Greasy Foods

Woman eating greasy food on plane.

Grabbing a fast food meal can be the cheapest and easiest airport option, but it’s really not the best choice for flying. A greasy meal ticks both the “smelly” and “messy” options, and the often-high sodium content of fast food options contributes to jet bloat.

[st_related]8 Foods You Should Never Eat Before Flying[/st_related]


eating peanuts on plane.

Tiny packets of complimentary peanuts have mostly disappeared from planes due to the growing number of peanut allergies in the world. Packing a peanut butter sandwich or bag of nuts isn’t just inconsiderate—it could also be dangerous if you have a severe allergy sufferer on your flight.

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Follow Caroline Morse’s travels on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Airport Packing Travel Etiquette

7 Things You Should Never Pack in a Carry-on Bag

Your carry-on bag is typically where you pack the most valuable and important items—or everything, if you hate checking a bag. But there are some things that should never go in a carry-on. Read on to find out what they are.

Smelly Snacks

Hey, we’re all about packing healthy and cheap snacks. But spare some consideration for the rest of us packed into a confined space with you and leave behind any stinky or strong-smelling foods. (We’re looking at you, guy eating the tuna sandwich in the middle seat.) Anything garlicky, vinegary, hot, or pungent can bother other passengers—even if it remains in your backpack or purse for the whole flight.

Battery-Operated Items

Packing your electric toothbrush or razor in your carry-on? Make sure you either take the batteries out or tape the item’s switch in the “off” position. Battery-powered devices can easily turn on after being jostled around in a carry-on, which can in turn draw the attention of security (not to mention drain your battery before you even make it where you’re going). Play it safe and pack your batteries separately from your battery-powered items.


You’d think it would be obvious not to pack weapons in a carry-on, but judging by the number of guns, knives, and explosives the TSA confiscates, it seems we all need a reminder. In 2019, the TSA confiscated 4,432 firearms at U.S. airports, as well as knives, box cutters, and grenades. Don’t forget about self-defense items like stun guns, small knives, and mace. These aren’t allowed in the cabin, so be sure to double-check your purse or that rarely used backpack to make sure you haven’t forgotten about anything in there before you fly.

Liquids Over 3.4 Ounces by Volume

You might think everyone knows the 3-1-1 rule by now, but the trash cans full of water bottles and oversized shampoos at every checkpoint tell a different story. Anything in liquid, aerosol, or gel form must be 3.4 ounces or less. Invest in some reusable travel-size bottles and decant your favorite toiletries into TSA-approved containers before packing your carry-on.

Meats, Cheeses, and Chocolate

Packing a hunk of cheese, block of chocolate, or rope of meat? Leave it out of your carry-on. Some X-ray machines cannot tell the difference between a wheel of cheese and a plastic explosive. (They have similar densities.) If you do bring one of these items, be prepared to unpack your carry-on for a bag search.

Sports Equipment

When in doubt—check it. If you’re unsure about whether you can bring something in your carry-on, you’re probably better off putting it in checked baggage instead of getting delayed at security. Most sports equipment, for example, is not allowed in carry-on baggage as it could potentially be used as a weapon. Examples of prohibited items include baseball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles, and hockey sticks. You can, however, bring aboard smaller items like baseballs and basketballs.

Inert Weapons

Just because your weapons don’t work doesn’t mean you can bring them onboard. It seems that many of us like to bring fun items like replica Claymore mines, inert grenades, simulated explosives, and other non-working items back from vacation. Unfortunately, the TSA doesn’t know if these items are the real deal or not until they call in the bomb squad—which pretty much guarantees you’ll be missing your flight (and possibly heading to jail).

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Budget Travel Food & Drink Travel Etiquette

10 Shameless Ways to Eat for Free While Traveling

Loading up on bread at restaurants isn’t the only way to eat for free while traveling. With a little planning, resourcefulness, and, yes, shamelessness, there are other ways to grab a free bite on the go. Here are 10 of them.

Go Freegan and You’ll Eat for Free While Traveling

Freegan dumpster diving

The freegan culture grew out of a movement for people to eat discarded food. Participants do this for varying reasons, be it to reduce waste or because they don’t participate in the conventional economy. The legality of the practice—better known as dumpster diving—is a bit blurry, as most supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, and other shops that throw out food at the end of the day (not necessarily because it’s “bad,” but because it’s past the sell-by date) do so in a receptacle that is still technically their property.

Beyond that, health safety can be a concern, and there can be a stigma attached for those who can afford food but choose this option. Depending on your germ tolerance, you can swipe leftovers, instead. The app OLIO (iOS | Android) lets you find surpluses nearby.

Tip: In areas close to nature, foraging may be the best way to participate in freeganism. The app Wild Edibles Forage ($5.99 on iOS | $4.99 on Android) helps you identify wild plants that won’t upset your stomach (also available as a free lite version for IOS).

Attend an Event

Look into local events happening when you travel that will allow your entertainment budget to double as your food budget. Gallery open houses, conventions, grand openings—you’re sure to find snacks. Or pop by local food sellers—grocery stores, fromageries, ice cream parlors, chocolate shops, farmers’ markets—where you can often find free samples of the wares.

It also pays to look into “holidays.” National Cheesecake Day, National Doughnut Day, National Ice Cream Day—the list is seemingly endless. And the number of eateries participating each year only seems to increase.

Tip: A few of the best places to find local events include, Eventbrite, and Time Out.

Book Hotels with Free Breakfast

Assortment of fresh pastry and mandarin on table in buffet.

Many large hotel chains offer complimentary breakfast with an overnight stay. These breakfasts may not scream amazing (a little creativity will go a long way, though), but they’ll give you the fuel you need to take on the day—and give you more money to splurge on an epic lunch or dinner.

And while free food in any form is fantastic, bed and breakfasts tend to be the best option for something warm, home cooked, and frequently made with local ingredients that give you a taste for the region you’re visiting.

Tip: Opt for protein-rich options to help you feel full longer. Stock up on the free continental breakfast options and carry them with you for a light midday meal or snack.

Take Advantage of Hotel Freebies

Beyond breakfast, hotels large and small offer a range of edible freebies—you just have to do your research ahead of time or ask the front desk for any extras they may offer.

DoubleTree Hotel’s cookies are perhaps more famous than the accommodations themselves, and communal pantries made for late-night raids are catching on at places like Hotel 41 in London and the Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, Washington. The hefty overnight rates will ensure you eat your money’s worth.

The Draycott Hotel, also in London, goes a step further. In addition to an honesty bar, guests receive tea and biscuits at 4:00 p.m., Champagne at 6:00 p.m., and hot chocolate at 9:30 p.m.

Tip: Forget hotels that charge $10 for a bottle of in-room water or $5 for a candy bar. Look for hotels with free minibars—they do exist.

Attend Happy Hour

Manager’s reception, evening social, wine hour: No matter what you call it, a slew of hotels are stepping up their happy hour game. Often the free alcoholic beverages are accompanied by light bar snacks.

Embassy Suites is renowned for its Evening Reception, which includes alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, plus snacks. Kimpton‘s Wine Hour is similar, and members of its Elite IHG Rewards Club program—free to enroll—get “Raid the Bar” privileges: a $10 credit for in-room snacks or purchases at the bar at most locations. Work higher up the ranks to get more perks like a free “Chef’s Taste” in on-site restaurants and welcome amenities customized to your preferences. Other hotel reward programs offer free snacks at check-in (not to mention extras like free Wi-Fi).

Tip: Even non-chain local inns and hotels do their own variation on happy hours. Down south, you may even find sherry in your room. Check the hotel website before you book—and make sure you know what time it starts.

Mention Special Occasions

Signing up for restaurant rewards programs can score you coupons. Even smaller local restaurants may offer special deals, including everything from a free dessert to free dinner on your birthday. Always opt in if you don’t mind sorting through a few extra emails. You never know when you may end up back in a given location—and when it may score you a free meal. Following eateries on social media is another way to stay in the know about exclusive offers.

At the very least, if you’re celebrating a special occasion, mention it to your server or when making a reservation. Whether an anniversary, birthday, celebration of a new job, or a big move, the restaurant may surprise you with little extras.

Tip: Student or senior? AAA or military member? You may already have freebies and discounts waiting for you even if it’s not a special occasion—at least when it comes to domestic travel. It never hurts to ask.

Visit the Grocery Store

Depending where you’re traveling (agriculture products typically can’t cross borders), load up your luggage or car with edibles. You’re still ultimately paying for the food, but shopping at home may save you money on a few meals at your destination. Plus, with the cost already taken care of, it’s less of a burden when you come back from vacation to a credit card bill a mile long from eating out three meals a day.

When planning your trip, look for hotels or vacation rental options that have a kitchen or kitchenette, and prepare options ahead of time that are easily packable for picnics. After all, you don’t want to be doing too much work if you’re trying to relax.

Tip: Instead of packing food, opt to shop at a grocery store at your destination. You can still save a lot over restaurant meals and purchasing local foods is the one of the best ways to experience a culture—particularly when you don’t know what the labels are saying. And reusable shopping bags from your destination make practical souvenirs.

Eat at the Bar

Even outside of happy hour, bars are a great place to nosh, with many moving beyond simple peanuts and party mixes (though there’s nothing wrong with that!).

In Madrid, look for bars that offer a free aperitivo or tapa with a drink purchase; bar hopping rewards those that want to drink. And in places outside the U.S. where alcoholic beverages are cheaper than water, it’s a win-win. Look to late-night menus, too, as establishments slash prices and offer free food as a way to keep a steady flow at times the crowds often wane.

Tip: Before you leave on any trip, search the Internet with “free bar snacks” and your destination. You’ll likely find places vetted by locals with a rundown of what’s on offer. Also look to new eateries that offer freebies to lure in customers.

Take the Kids

Family-friendly resorts often lure families in by offering free kids’ meals with the purchase of adult ones. It’s a great way to bring the whole family without spending more than you would if you went as a couple. To find examples, see 15 All-Inclusive Resorts Where Kids Stay Free.

Tip: As with bar snacks, do an internet search before you leave with “kids eat free” and your destination. You’ll be able to see what days of the week and times various establishments offer deals.

Scan the Local Newspaper

Purchase a newspaper at your destination or pick up a local free publication and check the ads and any inserts, looking for restaurants promoting buy-one-get-one deals or free appetizer coupons. The town or city’s tourist office may also have books with deals and discounts. Not into going into tourism offices? Look at their websites before you leave to find discounts and freebies.

Tip: If you can’t find coupons, consider making lunch your main meal. Even Michelin-starred restaurants offer lower prices for the midday meal, with innumerable eateries offering deals on daily three-course menus. Load up on lunch and you may not even need dinner.

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Kate Sitarz is eating, drinking, and hiking her way through the world. Follow her nomadic life on Instagram @katesitarz and Twitter @katesitarz.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Beach Oddities Travel Etiquette

What Not to Do at a Nude Beach

From Hawaii to Mexico, Greece to Croatia, and even to the coastal shores of New Jersey, nude beaches abound. These hot spots are great if you want a carefree and clothing-optional getaway. But before you hit a nudist beach, know that strict etiquette reigns supreme. In fact, most clothes-free destinations have more rules than a boarding school. Here’s the skinny on what you need to know—and what you shouldn’t do—at a nude beach.

Don’t Assume That a Beach Is Clothing-Optional

Reading somewhere that a beach is clothing-optional does not mean that the beach is actually clothing-optional. Do your due diligence and ensure that the area is truly safe for your naked patronage. To get you started, the American Association for Nude Recreation supplies a short list of nude beaches in the U.S. (there aren’t many), while SmarterTravel has rounded up some of the world’s top nudist destinations.

And if you’re ever unsure as to whether a nude beach is a nude beach? Keep your clothes on. In many places, public nudity is a serious crime that could lead to a fine (or worse).

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Don’t Forget to Research Naturist Resorts

Naturist resorts cater to completely clothing-free vacation seekers, so if you want to go all in (or off), consider these options rather than a one-time visit to a nude beach. From family-friendly campgrounds in the Poconos to luxe all-inclusives in the Caribbean, there’s likely a nudist resort option that suits your style and budget.

Rules at each of these resorts differ, and many are adults-only. As with any hotel stay, read the resort’s policies closely before you book.

At a Nude Beach? Don’t Stare

Once you’re on a nudist beach, don’t stare, gawk, point, or giggle. Obviously, you will be required to look at your fellow sunbathers at some point, whether greeting them or fetching their Frisbee from your beach towel. But play it cool: Most nude beach insiders insist that it’s easy, and that at a certain point, you simply stop noticing all the bare skin.

Can’t handle the realities of polite naked society? That’s okay, but stick to clothing-required beaches for the sake of everyone’s comfort.

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Don’t Expect Too Much at Nude Beaches

Contrary to popular belief, most nude beaches are not sexy places ripped straight out of the pages of a Playboy Mansion memoir. Patrons come in all sizes, shapes, and states of physical fitness, and are far more likely to veer into dad bod territory than to look like Channing Tatum in the buff. So don’t expect models at a nude beach and then be disappointed when you see, well, normal humans in all their hirsute glory.

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Don’t Take Pictures at a Nude Beach

A good rule of thumb: Never, ever take anyone’s photo without their permission. This goes for all tourist destinations—from nude beaches to theme parks to UNESCO World Heritage sites—but it’s especially true when the subject of your photo is naked. Always ask explicitly if you may take a photo and make sure photography is even allowed where you are. (Many nudist beaches prohibit it.)

Furthermore, even if you’re okay with someone snapping a pic of you, keep in mind that you have little control over where that photo ends up—from travel review sites to social media to less pleasant parts of the internet.

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Don’t Go Naked in Certain Public Areas

Due to local regulations, many areas at nudist beaches or resorts may, in fact, require clothing, including parking lots, cafes, shops, and so on. Consult any posted signs regarding clothing-required venues and follow them closely. Pack a beach tote with readily accessible garments in case you need to suit up to use the facilities. Most nudist beaches and resorts require you use a towel to sit on public chairs as well.

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Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

While this doesn’t fall squarely in the etiquette department, it’s still a critical piece of information to have at a nudist beach: Yes, those sensitive areas that are normally protected by swim trunks and bikinis will need a slather of sunscreen, preferably one that’s gentle on sensitive skin. Test it a few weeks before you hit a nude beach to ensure that you don’t end up with an unsightly rash somewhere that you definitely don’t want one.

Women's Nude Beach Outfit

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Booking Strategy Budget Travel Experiential Travel Money Packing Travel Etiquette

7 Bad Travel Habits and How to Quit Them

When you travel a lot, it’s natural to develop habits that work for you. For me, the few days before a trip tend always to follow the same pattern: I review my itinerary, make a mental list of what I want to pack, plan accordingly, and make my bed before I leave the house. Unfortunately, I’ve also developed a few bad travel habits along the way.

Bad Travel Habits and How to Quit Them

One habit that’s proven particularly hard to break is refusing to splurge on cabs when I’ll be out all day. Because I try to walk everywhere to save money, my feet are the ones paying the price at the end of the day.

We’ve all got our bad travel habits, but the good news is that you can break them with a little bit of effort. Whether you’re a workaholic walker like me or a packing procrastinator, here are some ways to break even your most persistent travel habits.

Not Learning Basic Vocabulary

If you frequently land in a new country and realize you never learned how to say hello or thank you, you’re probably with familiar with how silly it makes you feel. Learning new languages is difficult and might not seem worth it if you’re passing through many different countries or staying for a short amount of time, but knowing the basics can make all the difference when it comes to how comfortable you feel and how well you connect with local people.

Solution: Of course, there are plenty of language apps and tutorials you can use to learn a language, but there’s an easier solution if you don’t think you’ll have time to practice. Instead, make it a point to look up the basic words of the new language at least once before your trip and write them down. Keep them somewhere handy, like saved on a note on your phone, and when you get there, you’ll have them at your fingertips.

Booking at the Last Minute

You can tell yourself that you’re waiting for the prices to drop, but unless you’re very flexible, that can backfire: The longer you wait, the fewer options you’ll have. Whether you’re booking flights, accommodation, or a tour, you’re almost always better off booking well in advance and having everything organized before your trip.

Solution: If you still want to hold out for low rates, set a “book by” date for yourself at least a week or two before you leave for your trip. Consider it a self-imposed deadline and do whatever you need to do to hold yourself accountable. I like to schedule my personal deadlines into my calendar to make them feel more official.

Not Giving Yourself Enough Time to Pack

If you’ve got packing problems, it’s likely you’re a repeat procrastinator. This is one of the most common travel habits and it can be tough to break when life is busy. If packing lists have no effect on you, there’s one thing you can do that you probably have to do anyway.

Solution: A few days before you leave, do your laundry. Instead of putting your clothes away in your closet, pack the fresh clothes right into your suitcase. Not only will this ensure that the clothes you wear most often are fresh and clean, but it will also help you get a start on planning your outfits before and during your trip. After you put in your first load, pull out your luggage and start researching the essential items for your destination.

Packing More Than You Need

If you’re a chronic overpacker, you’ve probably had your fair share of struggles with the check-in luggage scale and bags that just won’t close. You might think you need to take advantage of your airline’s full luggage allowance, but the truth is you shouldn’t be filling up your luggage just because you can.

Solution: Use a smaller suitcase. Take into account how long you’ll be traveling and how many of your outfits can be reused, and then find the appropriately sized luggage for the length of your trip. You’d be surprised how little you’ll need.

Not Splurging When You Should

This one varies from traveler to traveler, but everyone has that one thing they hate to spend money on. Personally, I’m very stubborn when it comes to paying for cabs or public transportation and often choose walking instead. The downside of this is that I’m often too tired to enjoy a night out or I suffer from aching feet. For others, being too stubborn to spend might mean booking accommodation far from the center of town or missing out on a special food because it’s a little pricey.

Solution: Give yourself a budget to splurge. This small act of premeditation can make a huge difference in your travel experience. Knowing you’ll have a little money set aside to live a little will help you feel more comfortable spending spontaneously. Remember, this should be a set budget totally separate from your emergency fund to remove any guilt you might have.

Not Learning the Exchange Rate Ahead of Time

If this is one of your bad travel habits, you’ve probably found yourself wondering over and over again if you’re paying a fair price whenever you’re confronted with a new currency.

Solution: Keep a currency exchange app on your phone. Take out all the uncertainty at the cash register by keeping a reference ready. What’s great about the apps is that they are constantly updating, which means you’ll always know the most recent rate.

Overbooking Yourself

Ever feel like you need a vacation after your vacation? It’s probably because you’re signing on for too much. When you’ve only got a set number of days somewhere, it’s tempting to try and do it all, but that’s no reason to treat your vacation like one long to-do list.

Solution: Make peace with not being able to see everything. And if you can’t do that, make a list, identify your priorities, and book only those priorities. Leave everything else up to the moment. Trust me: That cooking class probably won’t seem like such a good idea after you’ve actually completed the three-hour walking tour. 

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Fashion & Beauty Travel Etiquette

The 10 Worst Things to Wear While Traveling

While you always want to be comfortable during your travels, part of staying safe in an unfamiliar place is dressing to blend inor, at least, not dressing to stand out. Keep in mind local customs and attitudes, as well as religious beliefs, when choosing what to wear while traveling, especially abroad. Whether it’s because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb overseas or you’ll be uncomfortable on a plane, here are 10 things you should avoid wearing while traveling, as well as ideas for what to wear instead.

Immodest Clothing

woman in shorts and tank top.

Research your destination, opt for modest clothing in more conservative destinations, and cover up appropriately when you’re visiting religious sites. Tank tops and shorts—as well as shirts with distasteful logos or words—can be considered offensive in many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, and many churches in Europe have strict dress codes.

In some parts of the world, women should avoid miniskirts, tank tops, bra tops, and sometimes even shorts and capri pants. Revealing dresses and cleavage-bearing necklines may also make you stand out in conservative countries. Men should avoid shorts and sleeveless tops in many Middle Eastern countries, or when entering a church or other holy place.

What to wear: Pants and long skirts are a safe bet, and women may want to carry a shawl in their bag or purse just in case. As a general rule, travelers should cover their shoulders and knees when entering any church or holy site to avoid unwanted stares or being denied entry. It’s also wise to keep your feet and ankles covered. When in doubt, stick to long sleeves, and men, keep that chest hair concealed.

Flashy Jewelry

diamond ring and bracelet on yellow car.

Never wear expensive, flashy jewelry when traveling abroad, unless you want your diamond ring, pearls, or pricey watch to be tagged for someone else’s collection. You may also be more likely to misplace your cherished jewelry while traveling. Instead, leave the valuables at home.

What to wear: If you must have a little adornment, bring one or two costume pieces that will go with your outfits. And if you choose to wear your engagement ring, turn the stone to the inside of your hand on public transportation and in large crowds.

Impractical Shoes

couple in flip flops on bike.

“Impractical” covers a wide range of bad footwear choices, including flip-flops (unless you’re at the beach), high heels (unless you’re attending a formal event), and brand-new shoes (because wearing shoes that haven’t been broken in is just asking for blisters). While sneakers are supportive, it’s wise to stay away from all-white trainers that will just get dirty—and mark you as an American tourist.

What to wear: Consider the climate and the activities you’ll be doing on your trip. Generally speaking, the key is to pick comfortable, supportive shoes in neutral or darker colors—and don’t forget appropriate socks. If you’re traveling anywhere but a beach, stick with closed-toe shoes, which can help prevent insect bites or cuts on your toes from gravelly surfaces.

Need inspiration? Check out The Most Comfortable Shoes for Travel and The Best Shoes to Wear in Europe.

The Wrong Colors

woman in bright colored shirt and purple bag.

We’re all for expressing yourself, but when you travel, bright colors aren’t always the way to do it. You’ll stick out more in many destinations, and if you spill your gelato, it’s going to be harder to hide that stain. You want to blend in, not draw unwanted attention to yourself (and nothing does the latter better than a neon green tank top).

Avoiding certain colors can even keep you safe. In sub-Saharan Africa, where tsetse flies transmit a potentially fatal disease known as trypanosomiasis, the CDC recommends wearing “neutral colors that blend with the background environment” because the flies are attracted to bright or dark colors.

What to wear: Unless loud colors or bold patterns are the norm in your destination, consider sticking with conservative hues like navy, blue, tan, and gray—and you’ll rarely go wrong with classic black.

The Wrong Pants

woman in torn skinny jeans on stairs.

Jeans are always a reliable choice, right? Not necessarily. If you’re traveling to a warm and/or rainy climate, consider alternatives; jeans don’t breathe well and take a long time to dry, making them impractical for many itineraries involving the outdoors. Skinny jeans can be uncomfortably tight on long flights or train rides, while baggy or ripped jeans may look disrespectful if you wear them into churches, mosques, or other holy sites.

Meanwhile, you’ll probably look similarly out of place by wearing hiking pants or sweatpants on the streets of large cities.

What to wear: Research your destination’s weather and cultural norms before you start packing to make sure your choices will help you fit in and stay comfortable. SmarterTravel’s lists of the best travel pants and the best travel leggings are a good place to start.

Religious Imagery, Curse Words, or National Flags

man in sport team shirt on subway.

Avoid clothing with sporting, religious, or military symbols, swear words, national flags, and any words or symbols written in a language you cannot translate. There’s no need to unintentionally spark an emotional debate while on vacation or to risk being kicked off a plane for wearing something the airline doesn’t approve of.

Be wary of hand gestures, both making them and wearing clothing depicting them, because these can have different meanings depending on where you are. (In Bangladesh and other parts of the world, for example, the “thumbs up” gesture is considered obscene.) Since you may never know what certain images suggest in another country, avoid them to keep from offending anyone.

To make yourself less of a target, you may also want to leave religious jewelry at home, or wear it under your clothes so it’s not visible to anyone.

What to wear: When in doubt, opt for clothing with solid colors or simple patterns, available from brands such as Ann Taylor, Everlane, Banana Republic, and Uniqlo.

Excessive Technology

selfie stick in crowd in venice.

Please, we beg of you, don’t be that tourist. While we all want the perfect vacation Instagram, we don’t want to be hit in the head by your selfie stick. The same goes for tablet-sized cameras and other large tech accessories. Stick to snapping pics with your phone or an actual camera to avoid injury and inconvenience to those around you.

And unless you’re a serious photographer, reconsider walking around a busy city with a huge camera hanging around your neck. Not only will you stand out, but you may also be targeted by thieves.

What to wear: Between uses, always keep your phone or camera stored safely in a zipped purse, camera bag, or pocket.

Backpacks and Large Purses

tourists with backpack and large purse in crowd.

Backpacks and large purses tend to be impractical for urban sightseeing—do you really want to lug all that weight around? They’re also appealing targets for thieves, who can easily reach into an unzipped tote or sneak something out of a backpack while you’re wearing it on a busy subway train.

What to wear: Cross-body bags are one of the best options for travel, but any bag that fully zips will make you less of a target for thieves. Sling bags are another, gender-neutral option.

Uncomfortable Fabrics

pink silk blouses on hangers.

We’ve all been there. You packed a dress for a wedding, only to unpack and discover it’s a wrinkled mess. Or you thought jeans would be a good idea on the plane, and now they’re cutting off your circulation mid-flight. From discomfort to wrinkles and funky odors, the fabrics you choose can make or break your travel days. Avoid silks, nylon, leather, rubber, and, more generally, clothes made from a non-performance synthetic material.

What to Wear: Check the weather at your destination and keep in mind your activities. Some foolproof fabrics for packing and travel are moisture-wicking activewear, cotton, jersey, and clothes marketed as wrinkle-free.

An Oversized Jacket

woman in oversized coat in winter.

Unless you’re skiing or taking on another outdoor winter adventure, leave the oversized jacket at home. This will save you space, weight, and hassle when packing.

What to wear: Layering is your friend. When traveling to a cooler destination, pack a few longer sleeved shirts as a base, then layer sweaters and a looser, lightweight winter jacket. Luckily, many travel and outdoor recreation companies are coming up with lighter down jackets that can be compressed into a small pack, such as this option for men or this one for women.

Check Out Some Travel-Appropriate, Stylish Looks

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ashley Rossi, Erin Gifford, and Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.

Booking Strategy In-Flight Experience Packing Travel Etiquette

18 Easy Ways to Have a Better Flight

As aircraft seats become harder, closer together, and more likely to be full, getting comfortable in coach has grown into a nearly impossible challenge. Fortunately, there are little ways you can take control of your in-flight experience, from choosing the right seat to bringing the right gear. The 18 tips and tactics below will help you maximize your comfort and have a better flight.

Check SeatGuru

seatguru screenshot

The first step in having a better flight is having a better seat. Keep in mind that a window or aisle seat isn’t guaranteed to be comfortable; there might be something blocking the leg space, or the seat might not recline, or there might be no window in that row. Check SeatGuru, SmarterTravel’s sister site, to make sure your sweet seat isn’t actually a lemon.

Reserve One Aisle and One Window Seat

This is an old travel trick. When you are traveling with another person on a flight that places most seats together in groups of three, book one person in the window seat and one in the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat open. Subsequent passengers will try to avoid middle seats, so if the flight isn’t full you might get the row to yourselves. If someone does book the middle seat and you prefer to sit together, the other passenger will almost always happily surrender the middle seat to either of you.

Think Hard Before Booking the Bulkhead

Bulkhead seats, with their additional legroom and option to pin your feet against the wall to stretch, can seem attractive. But the absence of underseat space means that you can’t have a personal item at your feet during takeoff and landing (as well as time spent taxiing, which can be considerable). This means keeping everything in the overhead bins (if there is room), and getting up after takeoff and before landing to retrieve and restow them.

Choose a Window Seat if You Plan to Sleep

Teenage girl looking at plane window during flight.

Most people find it easier to sleep in the window seat; you have something to lean on, less risk of falling over onto someone, and no one asking you to get up so they can get out of the row.

Block Noise to Make Your Food Taste Better

Noise-canceling headphones can help you avoid the chatter of your annoying neighbor, but they can also improve the way your meal tastes, according to an Oxford University professor. It turns out that the drone of engine noise can actually make travelers less sensitive to the taste and smell of their food.

Pack Compression Socks

Compression socks make your legs and feet more comfortable by encouraging circulation—and may even help prevent deep vein thrombosis, a serious condition associated with long flights.

Test-Drive Your Neck Pillow

Male passenger of airplane listens to music and enjoys pillow for sleeping in chair

A neck pillow can make your in-flight experience significantly more comfortable—but don’t leave it up to chance. Before a recent trip to Europe I purchased a self-inflating, collapsible neck pillow at the airport. It was pretty much useless from the moment I opened it up; maybe a rhino’s neck would have been supported by the giant and overly flexible opening, but for me it was just a waste of space. Try out your new travel pillow in advance to be sure it’s worth the packing space in your carry-on.

Try Sleep Aids Before You Fly

Speaking of testing ahead of time, you don’t want a long overnight flight to be the first time you try a sleep aid medication. Many people have adverse reactions to these drugs, so you could end up feeling awful or being wound up when you are trying to slow down. For suggestions, see The Best Over-the-Counter Sleeping Pills for Long-Haul Flights.

Pack an Eye Mask

If you want to try to sleep before the flight crew decides to dim the lights in the cabin, or keep snoozing once they’ve turned them back on, an eye mask is a must.

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Use a Soft Bag for Your Personal Item

A small, pliable carry-on bag will give you less grief when jammed into the ever-shrinking space for your legs on modern planes. Having even a few more inches of legroom can make for a better flight.

Dress in Layers

senior couple walking through airport pointing wearing scarf and sweaters

Some airplanes are hot, some are cold, and some go back and forth. Dressing in layers you can add or shed easily will give you more control over your comfort.

Bring a Portable Charger

Bringing a device with a depleted battery onto a plane is setting yourself up for a miserable in-flight experience. A small, fully powered portable charger in your carry-on can help get you through even the longest flights with enough juice to spare for phone calls on arrival.

Avoid Carbonated Drinks

According to flight attendants, drinking carbonated soda or other beverages can lead to bloating and discomfort in the pressurized air of an airplane cabin. Your best bet for staying hydrated (and comfortable) is always water.

Fly in the Morning

sunrise man boarding plane rolling luggage

Planes generally encounter more turbulence as the day goes on and the ground warms up, according to Reader’s Digest. You’re also more likely to encounter thunderstorms in the afternoon. Take a morning flight for a gentler, better flight.

Sit Over the Wing

Similarly, the least bumpy seats in the plane are those over the wing; as pilot and author Patrick Smith notes in the Reader’s Digest story above, “A plane is like a seesaw. If you’re in the middle, you don’t move as much.”

Move Around

For comfort, health, and safety (as well as something to while away the time), do exercises in flight. Try these in-flight exercises that aren’t totally embarrassing.

Roll a Golf Ball Underfoot

For an in-flight massage, drop a golf ball on the floor below your seat, slip off your shoes, and roll the ball under each foot.

Ask for the Whole Can

To stay hydrated as well as enjoy the limited refreshments available, ask your flight attendant politely if you can have the whole can instead of just a cup of your preferred beverage; many will oblige.

What little things do you do to have a better flight? Let us know in the comments.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Arts & Culture Travel Etiquette

5 Magic Words and Phrases to Know in Every Language

Thanks to improved translation apps and the growing prevalence of English speakers around the globe, it’s easier than ever for English-speaking travelers to get by without cramming a new language into their heads before every trip. But it’s still a good idea to memorize a few basic words and phrases in the local language to help smooth the way for yourself and to show courtesy to the people you meet.

Below are translations of the five best words to know in a new language, translated into 15 widely spoken languages. When available, I’ve included links to YouTube videos or audio files so you can hear how each term is pronounced.


If you can say nothing else, you’ll at least want to be able to greet locals in their native language. While there are multiple ways to say “hello” in most languages, I’ve chosen simple, formal options that are appropriate to use in common travel situations such as meeting strangers or entering a shop.

Thank You

Whether someone brings you a meal or helps you with directions, they’ll always appreciate it if you thank them in their language.


Would you like to try that delicious new food your host is offering? But of course! Here’s how to say “yes.”

  • Arabic: na’am
  • Bengali: han
  • French: oui
  • German: ja
  • Greek: ne
  • Hindi: haan
  • Italian: si
  • Japanese: hai
  • Malay: ya
  • Mandarin: shi or hao
  • Portuguese: sim
  • Russian: da
  • Spanish: si
  • Thai: chai (note that this technically means “correct” and is not interchangeable with “yes”)
  • Turkish: evet


Don’t want to buy that rug or hire that pushy guide? Here’s how to say “no.”

Do You Speak English?

Once you’ve exhausted your vocabulary in the local language and need to find someone who can understand you, this is your go-to phrase.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Food & Drink Travel Etiquette

Everything You Need to Know About Eating in Tuscany

After living in Tuscany for eight years—and writing about it weekly—I still treasure my daily meals, as they provide me with a window onto my adopted culture.  Food plays a vital part in making the Italian lifestyle special, but I’ve noticed there are key things visitors sometimes misunderstand when they travel to Tuscany. And those minor (and easy to fix) misunderstandings can make eating in Tuscany less fun—and even less delicious, because it can mean missing out on some of the best parts of eating in Italy. In that spirit, here’s an insider’s list of Tuscan food tips.

Pasta can be a minefield

Pasta is central to the Italian identity—so much so that almost every village has its own variety—and passions run high. After all, this is a country that keeps a gold cast of the exact measure of the tagliatella noodle under lock and key in Bologna’s city offices.

I knew that Italians want pasta to be prepared al dente (firm when bitten) but I was surprised by how far Italians push the firm part. Theybelieve overcooked pasta is bad for the digestion, and many Italians won’t eat pastaabroad because it’s hard to find places that cook it properly.

Pasta is served immediately after it’s cooked so that you can eat it hot, which means that people at a table may be served at slightly different times. Italians start eating immediately when served rather than waiting for everyone at the table to receive their food.

Parmesan cheese is only served on certain types of pasta, and never on dishes that include seafood as the cheese flavor might overwhelm the fish.

Marie Kondo your pizza

Less is more when it comes to pizza. I asked a waiter friend the biggest thing he wishes he could say to non-Italian customers. His answer: People miss the point when they try to pile on too many toppings on a pizza. The best pizza is the simplest; that simplicity allows the individual ingredients to shine through. A pizza margherita, for instance, shows off what happens when the right flour, water, and yeast are married to a wonderful tomato sauce and mozzarella.

In Italy, pizzas are ordered one per person and served whole (expect to cut it yourself).

Coffee rules

coffee cup overlooking florence.

In all senses of that word.

The first thing to know is that what you drink is a “caffè” and where you do it is called a bar. Italians tend to have several cups of coffee a day, and usually stand at the bar and drink them quickly. (At some bars there is a higher price if you sit at a table.) A caffè is single shot of espresso. Coffee is served a bit cooler than many people expect because the Italians believe that things that are too hot, or too cold, like iced drinks, are bad for the digestion. And locals would never drink a cappuccino after noon (because too much milk after lunch is … bad for the digestion.)

I learned early on that a way around the afternoon cappuccino rule while keeping your street credibility is to order a caffè macchiato, which is an espresso with a small dab of milk either caldo (hot and steamed) or freddo (cold).

For a more adventurous coffee experience, try a caffè corretto (literally a “corrected coffee”), which is an espresso with a shot of alcohol—most commonly grappa, sambuca, or brandy. In the town I live in, this is a frequent early-morning treat for the wild boar hunters before they head out to the fields with their loaded guns.

Take your time

friends eating dinner small bites.

In most of Tuscany, outside of tourist centers, restaurants aren’t trying to squeeze more than one seating into a lunch or dinner window. This means that meals are leisurely breaks that are usually multi-course. Trying to rush through this type of meal is not only largely impossible but will also likely earn you a puzzled and concerned look from the server, and probably the chef as well.

Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day, and on weekends or in more traditional restaurants, will include an antipasti course of bruschetta or sliced meats like prosciutto, fennel salami, and local cheeses; followed by pasta (the primi course); then meats (the secondi). Meats usually come solo, and vegetables and potatoes are ordered separately as contorni, but are meant to be shared by the table. Dessert, coffee, and perhaps a digestive, like a grappa, follow.

Sunday lunch is the highlight of the week for many Italians and well worth indulging in. Seeing large families gathering for a lunch that lingers far into the afternoon is a special treat.

How to avoid bad luck (and bad sex)

Part of the joy of opening a bottle of wine is toasting, and unless you want bad luck to come your way, it is important to know a few customs. The most common toasts are “Salute” (to your health) or “cin cin.” Always look into the eyes of the person you are toasting (I’ve heard that you are doomed to years of bad sex if you don’t), never cross arms to reach another’s glass, always take a sip before putting your glass down, and no toasting with water … or more bad luck.

About that bread

Anyone who has visited Tuscany knows the moment. The breadbasket arrives and you open it with great anticipation only to find a pile of dry, sliced unsalted white bread. How can this be in a land of delicious food?

Until fairly recently, Tuscany was very poor. A lot of families were lucky to scrape together enough flour to bake bread once a week, and they wanted it to last until the following week. If bread lacked salt, it didn’t attract as much moisture and so lasted longer. And so saltless bread became the tradition.

When the bread is delivered to the table, ignore it. It is meant to be eaten later in the meal and with other food. Asking for olive oil and salt to have with the bread at the start of the meal is something only tourists do.

Tuscan bread shines in the antipasti course, like bruschetta or crostini, which are often served with raw tomatoes, olive oil, and salt, or the classic Tuscan crostini neri made with chicken livers sautéed in wine.

Bread can be used so soak up any extra sauce from the pasta course, but only in informal settings. (It’s called fare la scarpetta, or make the slipper, for reasons no one seems totally clear on) or eaten with the meat course.

When to eat, and when you can’t

Most restaurants open from 12:30 to about 2 p.m., close, and then reopen for dinner at 7:30. If you arrive promptly at 12:30 or 7:30 you are likely to be one of the few people there. The lunch crowd doesn’t really arrive until after 1 p.m., and restaurants don’t fill up until after 8:15 or 8:30 in the evenings. I’ve found that most Italians like to be in a crowd—it makes life more interesting and lively to see and be seen—so the idea of eating early to avoid a rush is not part of the Italian mentality.

Eat where the locals do

Italian restaurant in gas station.

Living in a small village in the country has introduced me to one of my favorite types of Italian meals: the workers’ lunch. Gas stations, farm stands, and little restaurants are common venues for workers’ lunch menus. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the muddy boots of field workers, and truck drivers, repair men, and others taking a well-earned break in the middle of the workday. The same people tend to eat at the same place every day so the menu, rather than the clientele, changes daily.

The meal includes a choice between two or three different types of pastas or soups followed by different choices of meats, vegetables, and potatoes; and then coffee. Bottled water and house wine are usually included, and usually the total is between 10 and 12 euros per person. Even though these places cater to workers, the pace is still leisurely with no one hurrying through their lunches.

The right temperature for wine

Federico Piva, head waiter and wine guru at Castello di Ama near Siena, shared his favorite tips for enjoying Italian wine. He serves some of the finest Italian wines in the world at Il Ristoro di Ama, and said customers are sometimes surprised that the reds are served cooler and the whites a bit warmer than what people are accustomed to.

Each wine has an optimal temperature for drinking, says Piva, and is delivered to the table at that temperature. The perfect temperature is determined by the rate at which the tannins oxidize, and rushing a wine by letting it warm too soon has a big effect on the balance and flavor. So if you want to taste a wine at its best, follow the lead of an expert when they are serving you.

Be bold

See something on a menu you don’t recognize or haven’t tried before? Be bold and try it. Tuscany has a range of signature dishes that aren’t well-known outside the region, often because the ingredients are so geographically specific that they’re hard to replicate elsewhere.  

For instance, while in Tuscany you may see wild boar, or cinghiale, on a country road late at night … and frequently on menus. It’s not gamey, and is a local favorite for a reason. It’s often served in a ragu, but also shows up as sausages, salami, and grilled.

Tuscans love bitter flavors and you will often see bitter greens in salads or used in vegetable dishes. They provide a nice counterpoint to a meat dish. And salads always come undressed, with olive oil, vinegar, and salt provided on the side.

A popular Tuscan salad, which can be a bit foreign for many visitors is raw fennel, orange, red onion, often with olives or nuts. Try this refreshing combination even once and you just may find yourself recreating it at home. And keep a sharp lookout for dishes with local mushrooms, unique pastas, and anything with the Tuscan garlic aglione.

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Nancy Raff moved from California to a small village in Tuscany with her family eight years ago, and lives full-time in Italy running her creative agency and sharing Italian adventures, destination advice, and recipes at Follow her on Instagram at

Booking Strategy Budget Travel Food & Drink Money Travel Etiquette

Tipping in Portugal: The Portugal Tipping Guide

Tipping in Portugal is not expected but is appreciated. How much should you tip? Use our Portugal tipping guide for the answers.

Tipping in Portugal

There is no obligation to tip at restaurants, hotels, bars, or spas in Portugal, but how much should you tip for exceptional service? You can’t go wrong by leaving a little extra when service exceeds your expectations. This could be as simple as rounding up to the nearest euro at a cafe.

When dining out, leave up to 10 percent when service exceeds expectations in upscale dining establishments. Be aware, however, that some restaurants include service in the final bill, so keep an eye out for that language at the bottom of the receipt before tipping extra. It is common for servers not to receive tips included on a credit card, so try to leave cash whenever possible.

As for tipping other services, there is no set standard for how much to tip but a little goes a long way in showing appreciation. This Portugal tipping guide will help you navigate when/where you can leave a little extra for great service.

Portugal Tipping Guide

Cafe Server: If there is a tip jar, it’s a nice gesture to leave the change. For good table service, round up to the nearest €1.

Restaurant Server: It is not customary to tip at a cheaper restaurant, but a tip of up to 10 percent is acceptable at more upscale establishments. The tip is sometimes included in the final bill, but not always. Check the bill first for these inclusions before deciding what to tip. Servers sometimes don’t receive tips included on a credit card, so tip in cash whenever possible.

Bartender: It’s not necessary to tip a bartender, but you can round up to the nearest €1 for good service. Table service is considered to be separate than the bar, and it is considerate to round to the nearest €1 or €5 (depending on the size of the bill) for great service.

Tour Guide: Have a wonderful time on your tour? Tip €5 to €10 per half-day tour and €10 to €15 for a full-day tour. If taking a free tour, tip at least €10, as this is the only way the guides make money.

Taxis: Tipping in Portugal taxis isn’t expected, but is appreciated. A good rule of thumb is to round up to the nearest €5 or up to 10 percent of the final fare for good service.

Airport Shuttle: It is not necessary to tip your driver, but feel free to give €1 per bag if they help with your luggage.

Doorman: Gratitude is always welcome when a doorman assists with luggage or hailing transportation. A simple thank you is appreciated, but feel free to offer €1 for extra help.

Bellhop: It is customary to tip €1 to €2 per bag, depending on size, but no more than €5.

Housecleaning: Feel free to leave €1 per night for a spotless stay.

Concierge: If the concierge goes above and beyond with helping you book reservations, giving you directions, and providing insider recommendations, it’s considerate to tip €5 to €10.

Stylist: Tipping in Portugal is considerate, but not expected, so tip 5 to 10 percent of the final bill if you’re satisfied with the results.

Spa Service Provider: A tip isn’t expected, but you can leave up to 10 percent for anything that goes above and beyond your expectations.

Bright Yellow Dress for Lunch in Italian Cafe

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Kate H. Knapp covers food-related topics for Eat Boutique, as well as recipe tests for major online publications and cookbooks. Follow her on Instagram @katehknapp and Twitter @katehknapp.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Arts & Culture Entertainment Travel Etiquette

10 Foreign Words We Desperately Need in the English Language

English can be inadequate—there are some feelings that just can’t be described in our tongue. For those times you accidentally eat the whole thing or are longing for a place that you’ve never been, here are the languages that step up with the perfect word.

Hiraeth (Welsh)

Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” meaning the place you long for no longer exists. The Welsh word hiraeth is the same concept and loosely translates to something even more intense than homesickness: missing a place you can’t go back to.

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Sinvergüenza (Spanish)

The Brits might use the term “cheeky” to refer to someone who is shameless,  but I like the Spanish word sinvergüenza even better. It literally translates to “without shame,” but is commonly used to refer to someone who is being naughty or sassy.

Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

If there was ever a word that the American vocabulary needed, it’s shemomedjamo, the Georgian word that means “I accidentally ate the whole thing.” I foresee Domino’s renaming a pizza after this word in the very near future.

Pelinti (Buli)

[st_content_ad]We’ve all been there–your food arrives looking so delicious that you can’t help but take a bite, even though it’s still steaming. The result: pelinti, the Buli (a language spoken in Ghana) word for when you have to move hot food around in your mouth in an attempt to not burn yourself.

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Ya’arburnee (Arabic)

When you love someone so much you don’t want to live without them, you may tell them ya’arburnee, an Arabic word that translates as “may you bury me.” That way, you’ll never have to live a day without them.

Voorpret (Dutch)

Do you ever feel like half the fun of going on vacation is the anticipation you experience leading up to a trip? That’s what the Dutch call voorpret, the emotion you feel before you do something fun or exciting.

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Dépaysement (French)

Dépaysement literally translates to “disorientation,” but it refers to a more travel-specific kind of confusion: that of being out of your element and away from your home country.

Jayus (Indonesian)

Ever heard a joke that was so terrible, yet delivered so earnestly, that you felt compelled to laugh anyway? That pity chuckle is known as jayus in Indonesian.

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Utepils (Norwegian)

Utepils may be a Norwegian word, but the act that it refers to—sitting outside in the sun and enjoying a beer—has universal appeal. Next time the weather cooperates, invite your friends out to the nearest beer garden for utepils.

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Tidsoptimist (Swedish)

Are you a tidsoptimist or do tidsoptimists drive you crazy? A tidsoptimist is what the Swedish call someone who is always late. The word literally translates to a “time optimist,” meaning the person isn’t habitually running behind on purpose, but rather because they truly believe that they have more time than they really do.

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Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelwithCaroline and Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for photos from around the world.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Cities Travel Etiquette

6 Things Tourists Should Never Do in Major Cities

[st_content_ad]These rules of urban behavior apply in nearly every city across the world—are you guilty of violating them?

Stop in the Middle of Sidewalks

Being in the big city is magical for you, the tourist. For the locals rushing by trying to get to work on time, not so much. Treat sidewalks like streets—don’t stop abruptly in the middle to check your directions or snap a photo. Instead, pull over to the side where you won’t be in the way.

Take a Cab During Rush Hour

Hailing a cab or calling a rideshare might be easier than walking to your destination or trying to navigate the subway system. But during rush hour, it will likely take you much longer to cross the city in a car than it would via public transportation.

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Stand on the Wrong Side of the Escalator

Despite having different rules of the road, the escalator rules are the same from London to New York: stand on one side, walk on the other. This allows people who are in a hurry to climb the escalator quickly, while those who need a rest can ride up (usually on the right-hand side). Recently, some cities like Hong Kong and London have tried to convince riders to stand on both sides of the escalators based on the theory that it actually moves people more quickly, but these campaigns have been largely unsuccessful.

Wear Uncomfortable Shoes

Walking is by far the best way to explore a large city. You’ll get to stroll through new neighborhoods and discover gems you won’t find in any guidebook. So don’t let your wanders be cut short by foot pain. Make sure you pack shoes that you can walk for multiple miles in—and don’t worry, there are plenty of stylish options out there that won’t mark you as a tourist.

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Push Your Way Onto Public Transportation

People can’t get off the train or bus if you’re pushing your way on before they have a chance to exit. Be polite and stand to the side of the door until everyone who needs to exit can get off before you get on.

Feed the Pigeons

Feeding the flocks of pigeons that live in cities is so popular that places like Venice have imposed fines (of hundreds of euros) on the tourists who engage in the behavior. Although it may seem like a fun activity, it’s actually bad for both the birds and the city. When pigeons are fed human food, they lose their ability to scavenge on their own and start eating food that’s not in their natural diet. It’s also bad for the city: Pigeons carry diseases that can infect humans, and the leftover food also attracts rats.

What do tourists do in your city that you hate? Tell us in the comments.

Traveling? Consider Some of Our Favorites

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

In-Flight Experience Travel Etiquette

The 5 Rules of Reclining Your Airplane Seat

Everybody travels differently—ocean or lake, hotel or rental, tropical island or snowy mountains. But where people’s biggest differences converge is usually in the air.

In case you haven’t seen the headlines about inflight brawls and viral hissy fits, the masses are decidedly split when it comes to that little button on the arm rest—to recline or not to recline?

For a long time, the answer to this seemed simple to me: The right to recline your airplane seat comes with the territory. I purchased a ticket that includes access to that little recline button, and the person behind me (almost always) has a right to those few inches behind them, as well. What kind of person would deny anyone that general right?

But one day on a transatlantic flight to London, that all changed for me.

The moment that the monster of a human sitting in front of me sent a full cup of scalding hot tea careening into my lap when he jolted his seat back during food service, I knew I’d been wrong about that rule of thumb all along.

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I let out an audible gasp and then a few choice curse words as the hot water turned cold on my now burned thighs. I waited for an apology that never came. And then I decided that someone, anyone, should settle in writing once and for all the rules of decency for pushing that recline button. It may as well be me.

Let’s see if we can all agree on these guidelines for reclining your airplane seat.

Rule #1: (The Golden Rule) Look Back

You have the right to recline. But why wouldn’t you give the courteous half glance backward to let your rear neighbor know that you’re about to encroach on what little space they already have? Sure, it’s only about two inches of vacant air, but the principle of taking over that space merits at least a body-language warning. Especially so they can brace the contents of their tray table if needed, and especially if they’re on the tall side.

Rule #2: Don’t Even Think About Reclining During Meal Service

Airplane food isn’t exactly delicious, but it’s the one small pleasure you’re allotted while you’re stuffed into a sea of wall-to-wall passengers like the well-mannered sardines the airline wants you to be. Can’t the one thing I look forward to on this flight stay off of my legs? Can’t we all agree to spare our fellow passengers an hour of freezing cold, wet clothing? Hold off for those twenty minutes of your hours-long flight.

Rule #3: Take Only What You Need

Some airplane seats recline more than others, and some passengers need only an inch to be comfortable. Do us all a favor—recline only as far back as you need, and be aware that a seat in my lap is more likely to get grabbed when I’m getting up than the aisle armrest.

[st_related]OP-ED: It’s My Right to Recline My Seat[/st_related]

Rule #4: Recline Slowly

The biggest issue I had with that scalded lap incident is that I had zero time to even try to prevent it. Coming in hot is pointless in your quest for five degrees of reclining space. You’ll get there just as effectively if you take your time. Let’s all acknowledge that the few pleasures you get while flying are for the most part located on a seat back.

Rule #5: Use Your Words

We’re all human—we make mistakes and we sometimes don’t see eye to eye. But we all have been taught since childhood one simple rule: to use our words. Your seat mates are your peers in travel, and the intragroup dynamic should be, at the very least, a civil one: What if you all end up stranded on a deserted island together?

Passive-aggressiveness is likely the root cause of so many of those flights diverted thanks to brawling passengers. So speak up—say thank you and apologize when it’s necessary. Ask nicely and you shall receive. You’re sitting too close to your fellow passengers for too long to be that proud.

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Traveling? Consider These Carry-On Options

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Island Travel Etiquette

8 Cruise Ship Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

As a longtime avoider of mega cruise ships, I had a lot of assumptions going into my first large-ship cruise. It would be crowded, I thought. I would be incapacitated by seasickness. My only dining choices would be sub-par buffets. Realizing I was floating on a raft of preconceptions before even leaving port, I spoke with some fellow cruise-ship avoiders to develop a list of common reasons people don’t cruise. Once on board, I set out to prove each of these cruise ship myths right or wrong. Here’s what I found.

Cruise Ship Myth #1: The Rooms Will Feel Tight

Unless you’re going super high-end, staterooms on large ships are usually on the small side. But they’re also engineered to use every inch efficiently. For instance, in bathrooms, there may be limited counter space but plenty of vertical shelving (maybe even heated floors if you’re lucky), and in-room televisions are often attached to the wall to free up surface space. Desks usually double as vanities, and shelves are cleverly placed in the closets. Keeping your items organized and packing strategically for a cruise can also go a long way toward maintaining a feeling of relative spaciousness in limited-square-footage rooms.

Cruise Ship Myth #2: It’ll Be Crowded

Cruise ship myths

The mere thought of 3,000 people (or more) entering and exiting a ship through a single doorway is enough to trigger claustrophobia in almost anyone. But it turns out that the way most cruise lines organize boarding and disembarkation pretty effectively limits crowds getting on and off the ship.

Initial boarding as well as leaving the ship at the end of the cruise both take place over multi-hour windows. At ports of call, departure times for shore excursions tend to be staggered, which means most people exit the ship in small groups rather than big crowds.

If you’re particularly claustrophobic, though, you may want to avoid itineraries that stop in ports where ships can’t dock, since that will mean passengers need to be shuttled to the shore on small boats called tenders, a process that can slow disembarkation and allow lines to build up.

Depending on your personality and travel type, there’s probably a type of cruise out there for you. Cruise ships range from smaller expedition ships in the Arctic and Antarctica and luxury mega-yachts in French Polynesia to the typical party-centric itineraries in the Caribbean and everything (and everywhere) in between. Do your research, and you’ll find a ship and itinerary to suit you.

Cruise Ship Myth #3: You’ll Be Eating at a Buffet the Whole Time

Cruise ship myths

Is it the sneeze guards? The heat lamps? The overflowing plates? There are plenty of reasons to dislike buffets—but on most large ships, there are also plenty of alternatives.

Casual diners can find walk-up spots peppered around most ships that offer the likes of pizza, sushi, and ice cream. Formal dining rooms offer easy access to multicourse sit-down dining experiences during meal hours. And specialty restaurants offer a more familiar sit-down, menu-driven experience, plus food you won’t find at the buffet. Some cruise lines even have cooking classes onboard, tasting menus, or pre-fixed options. A number of cruise lines also offer free or sometimes-free room service.

Cruise Ship Myth #4: You’ll Get Seasick

Cruise ship myths

The seasick among us know that nothing ruins a vacation faster than constant nausea. But it’s no reason to write off a cruise entirely. In fact, a surprising number of dedicated cruisers are prone to seasickness.

For most, seasickness is something that can be managed. If you can get out in front of it, you can minimize or even eliminate it entirely with the help of medication (or Sea-Bands, for those with mild symptoms). Two of the most popular medications are Dramamine and Bonine, though there’s a long list of medicines to address the malady.

Before you go, experiment with the different types—some people report sleepiness with some of the medicines but not others.

Cruise Ship Myth #5: You’ll Have to Talk to Strangers

Cruise ship myths

Large cruise lines offer a robust calendar of events each day while also maintaining tranquil spaces for solitary pursuits. Dining areas usually have small-table options where you’re free to sit solo. Libraries, cafes, and other cozy sitting nooks are perfect for people who want a peaceful moment, as are quiet zones like adult-only pools and relaxation spaces.

And if you don’t like initiating conversations with strangers but still want to meet people, check the daily activities calendar, which is packed with gatherings for everyone from history buffs to dance fanatics—there’s sure to be an event that attracts like-minded folks with whom you’ll have plenty to chat about.

Cruise Ship Myth #6: You’ll Only Skim the Surface of Destinations

Cruise ship myths

A common sticking point among non-cruisers is the sense that, on a cruise, you’re only in port for a few hours, so you never get the chance to get to know a destination. Cruise lines understand this, and a growing number of lines are building either a few extra hours (enough, for instance, to check out the nightlife before returning to the ship) or even multiple days in a single port.

On itineraries that do have limited time in port, though, you can take matters into your own hands to get more out of a stop. If none of the ship’s shore excursions offer a local’s-eye view or a closer look at local culture, find your own tour that gives you what you want.

I’m partial to Viator (SmarterTravel’s sister site), which lists tours run by locals offering everything from cooking classes to history walks. And remember that, while a cruise may not offer a deep-dive into a single port, it does offer a good regional overview so you’ll know where you’d like to revisit on your own.

At SmarterTravel, we like to think that cruises are the perfect way to see a destination for the first time, but also for the second time. Cruises provide an introduction to a destination and leave you a reason to come back. By the same token, if you’ve been to a destination before, cruises give you an ideal amount of time to do something you didn’t get to the first time around, or to simply revisit your favorite restaurant, bar, or shop. Either way, it’s a win-win.

Cruise Ship Myth #7: Everything Is Expensive

Yes, cruising can be pricey, but when you take into consideration other travel expenses that certainly add up on the ground, a cruise vacation doesn’t break the bank as much as you think. Yes, there are some super-luxury cruise lines out there where this is not true, but generally speaking, cruises are of good value.

Alcohol especially is sometimes cheaper than you might think. Depending on your consumption and the cruise line you’re on, all-inclusive drink packages are convenient options and can save you some money in the end. Read Cruise Critic’s article about drink packages on cruises to learn more.

Pro tip: Check out last-minute deals for savings on upcoming departures.

Cruise Ship Myth #8: Cruises Are Bad for the Environment

The cruise industry has received criticism for not being environmentally friendly, and while it’s in no way perfect, the Cruise Lines International Association is making strides to be more conscious of the industry’s impact on the environment. Recently, the alliance pledged to cut its fleet-wide rate of CO2 emissions by 40 percent (in comparison to 2008 levels) by 2030. Additionally, the association is committed to protecting the health of the ocean and has programs in place to build coral reefs, collect data, develop best practices for coastal communities, and restore fisheries.

And how’s this for myth-busting? Cruise ships are less than 1 percent of the global maritime community, according to Michael Thamm, Chairman of CLIA Europe and Group CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia, via a press release. Thamm reiterates that even though cruise ships are a minority in the larger maritime industry, “[they] are at the forefront in developing responsible tourism practices and innovative technologies.” And while there’s a lot of work still to be done, knowing that cruise lines are committed to changing the standard may offer peace of mind if you’re on the fence about booking a cruise.

What to Pack

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Follow Christine Sarkis on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.

Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Food & Drink Health & Wellness Peer-to-Peer Travel Travel Etiquette

6 Ways to Have a Smoke-Free Las Vegas Vacation

For smokers, Las Vegas is a haven—a desert oasis where they can smoke cigarettes butt-to-butt day and night on the casino floor without fear of interruption or complaint.

But while it can be mildly entertaining to watch old ladies whittle away their retirement savings at the penny slots, wearing every piece of jewelry they own while chain-smoking themselves into an earlier grave, all that smoke can be a destination deterrent for non-smokers. And managing a smoke-free Las Vegas trip is no easy task.

Smoke-Free Las Vegas

In 2006, Nevada passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, banning cigarette smoking in public spaces like restaurants, hotel lobbies, and elevators. Yet much to the chagrin of those who value lung health and pleasant-smelling hair, smoking is still allowed in gaming areas—and the eye-stinging stench remains pervasive everywhere else.

Here’s how to avoid the smoke on the Strip and enjoy a smoke-free Las Vegas vacation.

Stay at a Smoke-Free Las Vegas Hotel

Breathe easy. The Delano, Vdara, and some of the other MGM Signature Hotels, such as the Signature at MGM Grand, are completely non-smoking Las Vegas hotels and will fine guests a minimum of $500 for smoking in their rooms.

That means no lingering smell in the elevators, no residual odor from smoking rooms, and no need to plug your nose in the hotel lobby. The non-smoking policy also applies to recreational and medicinal cannabis.

[st_related]10 Things Locals Want You to Know About Las Vegas [/st_related]

Take a Lyft, Not a Taxi or Uber in Las Vegas

While it is illegal for Las Vegas taxi drivers to smoke or use tobacco products when passengers are present in their vehicles, they are allowed to smoke in their cars when they don’t have riders, which is why so many taxi cabs reek of stale smoke.

Lyft specifies in its safety policy that smoking inside Lyft cars is against community rules because some passengers may have respiratory issues or be bothered by the smell. In fact, if a passenger reports that a driver’s car smells like smoke, that drive can be deactivated.

Uber’s community guidelines list smoking as an example of “property damage,” which is not allowed.

Bet on Poker and Sports

Generally speaking, the only way to avoid the smoke soup while gambling at some of the casinos is to take advantage of the well-presented sports book and poker rooms. While there are still some hold-out poker pits that remain hell-bent on maintaining Mad Men-era atmospheric conditions, thankfully they are few and far between.

You may want to hold your breath if you go all-in on no-limit hold ‘em or take 11/4 odds on the Cubs to win the World Series, but it won’t be because the air is rife with nicotine emissions.

Go Shopping

For the most part, if you want it, in Las Vegas, you can get it. Indoor retail shopping venues are covered under the smoke-free Las Vegas restrictions, so you don’t have to worry about checking clothing for cigarette burn holes in the dressing room. Stick to the major shopping areas that are inside a venue instead of clustered together around the Strip to sidestep any residual smoke.

Retreat to the Pool and Spa

The Delano Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay are both properties of MGM Resorts International and are connected by corridors so guests of the Delano Hotel have all the same access as Mandalay Bay guests to the impressive medley of swimming pool options, including the lazy river and wave pool.

But Delano guests have exclusive access to the Beach Club, a private pool area within the larger pool complex that doesn’t allow smoking. For $30, guests can purchase a day pass to the resort’s Bathhouse Spa to take advantage of the eucalyptus steam room, cold plunge pool, sauna, and relaxation room. Non-guests can access the spa by purchasing a treatment.

And obviously, smoking is prohibited there, too.

Take in Dinner and a Show

As part of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, smoking is not permitted in restaurants, lounges where food is served, meeting and convention spaces, theaters, arenas, and some other areas. Restaurants inside casinos are non-smoking.

However, your smoke-free Las Vegas experience does not extend to nightclubs and lounges, which are not required to ban smoking as long as they do not serve food or allow minors. So if you’re trying to avoid smoky-hair syndrome, steer clear of those places and opt instead for one of the amazing Cirque du Soleil offerings or a comedy show.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.