A-Z of Modern Manners (Debrett)
Blog Words : Insider Secrets | 21 September

5 travel-related tips from Debrett's Book of Manners

The peerless guide to contemporary conduct in polite society on how to tackle some of travel's thornier issues

On not being a travel bore

If you are brimming with travel anecdotes, mind that what you say is not just a rehash of what others have said before you; workout the attention span of your listeners; be aware that your audience may not be as wide-eyed and hungry for new experiences as you think they should be. 

Sometimes, travel bores are guilty of plain bad manners – like waxing lyrical about their eight months chilling-out in Asia to someone who has been working 60-hour weeks for the last two years; or banging on about the joys of hiking in the Rockies to someone with a wooden leg. Worse still, never overplay the lasting effect of your travels. No matter how many life-changing experiences we might have on our travels – and then want to talk about when we get back – we will not change the core of ourselves just because we have travelled. 

So settle back and enjoy your travels but don't expect that those who weren't there with you will want to share your journey.

On sending postcards

When picture-postcards were first sent out in the 19th century they were the Victorian equivalent of today's text message – pithy, informal, to the point. There is little etiquette surrounding postcards: you do not normally have to start them with a salutation (you can go straight into the message), and you do not need to employ any particular sign-off. They form a verbal snapshot: a message from a particular place (most typically a holiday location); or simply a reminder that you are thinking of a person. 

If possible, eschew the obvious postcard cliches, and inject your postcard with personality – a humorous observation or a personal reference that proves you're actually thinking of the recipient, not fulfilling an empty obligation. In the modern age of email and text messages, a snail-mail postcard is a thoughtful gesture.

On camping

Show consideration for fellow campers. Don't encroach on neighbours' space. Keep your pitch tidy and take home any litter or deposit it in bins on site, recycling where possible. Use the lavatories provided and clean up after your pets.

Avoid loud conversation or music during antisocial hours. All outdoor lights should be turned off late at night when your neighbours may want to sleep. Do not start a camp fire or barbecue too close to others' pitches.

Where a sea of tents stretches as far as the eye can see, such as at a music festival, note where you pitched your tent, and always carry a torch to avoid stumbling around the campsite after dark muttering "I'm sure it was here somewhere".

On beaches

The beach is an unusual public area where we strip down to the equivalent of our underwear. However, even in such laissez-faire surroundings, behaviour should be governed by consideration for others.

Respect other people's space and ensure that noise is at a minimum; keep at least a towel's width away from the next encampment. Shake towels out with full consideration of the wind direction. Music should only be played through headphones, never speakers. Team sports should be reserved for quiet, unpopulated stretches of sand. Respect the coastguard and take note of any signs or flags.

Swimwear should protect your modesty. Avoid thongs, micro-brief trunks and anything that goes transparent on contact with water. Try not to stare, or ogle, at fellow sun-bathers – particularly if they are struggling to dress or undress discreetly. Sarongs and T-shirts should be worn in shops, bars and restaurants, so cover up when not on the beach. On departure, clear up all rubbish.

On aeroplane etiquette

In cramped conditions, 35,000 feet above sea level, good manners are paramount. Do not intrude on to your fellow passengers' territory: keep elbows firmly tucked in; ease your chair gently into a reclining position, which will avoid a sudden invasion of the limited legroom of the passenger behind. 

If you have children, ensure that they do not kick, jolt, or otherwise interfere with, the seat in front. Drink in moderation; boisterous behaviour will irritate your fellow passengers. Friendly conversation with your neighbours can be enjoyable, but choose your topics. Many people are terrified of flying, and will not take kindly to jokes about turbulence, hijackers or the competence of the flight crew; such talk may even get you arrested.

Stay relaxed when embarking or disembarking. Help the elderly (or those of diminutive stature) to stow (or remove) luggage in the overhead lockers. Behave courteously towards the flight crew and thank them for their service during the flight. Never use the words 'trolley-dolly' or try to chat them up. They've heard it all before. Do not barge your way to the exit as the plane doors open — even the sharpest elbows will not ensure that you reach the terminal any faster.

Do you have any tips on modern travel manners? Tell us in the comments below.

Debrett's Modern MannersDebrett's A-Z of Modern Manners can be ordered on Amazon now.

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