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When it comes to annoying travelers, I’ve met my fair share. It’s a shame when 99% of people can travel in perfect harmony and then that one person ruins it for everyone. Whether it’s taking liberties with travel etiquette or respecting personal space, some don’t even recognize they’re being rude! Below are some of my nominations for most annoying traveler as well as what to do if you encounter them yourselves.
Annoying Travelers & What to Do if You Encounter Them
1. The Gum Popper
Picture this. You settle down in your seat for a flight home. You close your eyes, letting the consistent hum of the plane lull you into a calm state. You might even manage to fall asleep if everything goes smoothly. Just as you’re entering that dreamy world of half-awake, half-asleep you hear sharp pop. And then you hear another pop. And so on and so on and so on. If you’re like me, you get stuck between two people pop-pop-pop-ing! I’ve never sympathized with Liz for “Cell Block Tango” more.
What to Do? If you want to be more subtle, you can start by jumping every time they pop. Pretend to be scared by the noise and maybe even throw in a gasp. Or you could just ask them to stop popping their gum politely (after you’ve recorded it to share with friends, of course).
2. The Foot Person
You know those people – the ones that get on a plane and make themselves feel right at home by taking off their shoes and propping their feet up on the armrest in front of them. I once had a woman take off her shoes and her socks so that her bare feet were right next to my elbow!
What to Do? Ask them to remove their feet immediately! You could also start taking pictures of their feet so that their friend nudges them to let them know. That alone should get them to put their bare feet away. If not out of realizing how rude they’re being but because they don’t want to risk winding up on one of those kind of sites.
3. The Headphone-less
I don’t know what it is (ok, it’s Tiktok), but these days I come across more and more people just watching videos on their phone with no headphones. Just letting their phones full on play sound so everyone in a 10ft radius can hear. On airplanes, I’ve noticed that attendants will actually make announcements to ensure passengers know they can’t listen to music or video without headphones in, but there’s no one reminding them in airports, cafes, restaurants, and museums.
What to Do? Lean right over and ask them to turn down the sound or to put headphones in!
4. The Talker
Chances are, we’ve all had several travel experiences nearly ruined by the The Talker. They come in many forms and test our patience in ways we can barely control. They’re on their cell phones right up to the minute the doors close. They carry-on loudly about everything from board meetings to physical ailments or family disputes that we never wanted to know about. Then, as soon as the cell phone is off, they proceed to talk your ear off. The slightest nod or greeting provokes their entire life story going back to early childhood.
What to Do? Headphones. This is truly the only way to make sure you don’t get stuck on the receiving end of a mid flight monologue.
5. The Gate Zombies
You’ve seen them. Their ticket says they are in Zone 3. But once the pre-boarding announcement is made, they, in a slow unrelenting creep make their way forward and position themselves in a defensive position and block the boarding path. Undeterred by the passengers who need assistance, families with small children, they make way for no one. Not even our men and women in uniform who serve our country.
What to Do? Well, a petty part of me wants to roll my suitcase over their feet. However, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Just know your zone and don’t be afraid to get them to move out of your way by loudly saying, “Excuse me!” and maybe pushing your way through.
6. The Germ Spewer Extraordinaire
Too sick to travel? Can’t decide what sick means? You’re all excited about your vacation when you notice continuous blowing, sneezing and other wheezing sounds coming from your seat companion. They are obviously too sick to be anywhere, yet here they are in your personal space. Naturally and especially in a post-Covid world, you’re paranoid. Will I get sick too? If you’re lucky they’ll take some medication and fall into a deep sleep. Unlucky and they’ll cough and sneeze on you the whole trip, nervously sharing the story of how and why they’re traveling in such a state. These folks are potentially lethal to any vacation, beware!!
What to Do? I mean in this day and age it’s only smart to travel with a face mask even if you don’t need it. Get an N95 and the heaviest duty travel-sized hand sanitizer to have with you at all times. Heck, bring a second mask to hand off to the Germ Spewer Extraordinaire and ask them to put it on. (This may have… varying results of success, be warned.)
7. The Complainer
Similar to the Talker but significantly more negative. The Complainer could probably find something wrong flying in a private jet and, no, it wouldn’t be concern over their carbon footprint. I once heard of a couple who went to a beautiful 5-star resort with impeccable service and they still had something to complain about. Their feedback? They didn’t like that their blinds weren’t remote controlled and they had to get up to close them.
What to Do? It really depends on your relationship with the Complainer. But I always find setting personal boundaries works well for me. One or two complaints? Let it go. Constant and chronic? Point it out to them and figure out a way to get them to stop. Sometimes it just means telling them they get X amount of complaints before they’re cut off.
8. The Armrest Hogger
As a rule of thumb, the middle seat gets the armrests. But not everyone seems to know this, and sooner or later you’re going to encounter an Armrest Clasher. They can be large or small, thick or thin, male or female…you never know who will take over the armrest and never let go. They seem nice enough and then suddenly they make their move and it’s gone. You don’t get to rest your right or left elbow for the rest of the trip. Sometimes I lay in wait for the moment to reclaim the armrest, like when they get up to use the restroom. Usually it’s a fleeting victory because the Armrest Clasher is an expert with the ability to reclaim this valuable asset in seconds. Yes, you’ll find a way to be comfortable without the armrest, but you can’t quite forget about the inconvenience.
What to Do? Try to stand your ground and take up space on the armrest as much as possible. Unfortunately, if you lose the battle, you may just have to deal.
9. The Overhead Binger
The Overhead Binger couldn’t possibly know that one overhead bin is allocated for the 6 seats below. So they think it’s all theirs. Yes, it’s all about you and your belongings! Go ahead and store your carry-on and your rather large personal bag up there. Don’t forget your coat, umbrella, newspaper and gigantic tote bag. I don’t think anyone else is bringing anything on the airplane!
What to Do? Don’t be afraid to move things aside in a bin to get your bag to fit. If needed, flag down an attendant to help. They can always remove items and ask the owner to hold them in their seat.
10. The Cheapskate
I fully recognize we all have different budgets when we travel. However, the Cheapskate is the kind of traveler that isn’t upfront with their budget and then spends the whole trip making it everyone else’s problem. They veto dinner options even if you all have been wanting to try the restaurant. They haggle even in places it’s not appropriate, making things uncomfortable for everyone involved. If they pay a bill, they sit there and calculate to the penny what everyone owes them right that minute. They’ll say no to getting a snack but then ask everyone for a taste of theirs.
What to Do? Long before you go on a trip, get a clear picture of everyone’s budgets and what they’re comfortable spending. If it starts happening on your trip, just set clear boundaries and maybe suggest doing some activities apart so no one feels constrained by budget.
11. The Boozy Bonehead
One of my least favorite travel companions is the Boozy Bonehead. When they slide into their seats, it’s obvious to everyone they have been drinking in the terminal. They are off-balance and usually smell of scotch or whatever they have been enjoying. Jittery and impatient, they start drinking as soon as possible after boarding. You pray silently that they are quiet and relaxed vs. irritable and annoying.
What to Do? If possible, get another seat far-far away. It doesn’t hurt to let the flight attendant know about any passenger that is one step beyond tolerable limits.
12. His/Her/Their Royal Highness
While this traveler is annoying, they are also a little entertaining. I know you know who I’m talking about. They are looking for special treatment from everyone. My favorite is when they have to be the first to board, due to some special situation. Then they have to be the first one off the flight because they have a VIP function, are late, and their limo is waiting. Or some other dramatic nonsense. They always travel in special princess/prince attire and will stomp on your foot with their fancy shoes if you try to get on or off they flight before they do.
What to Do? Again there’s not much you can do beyond giving attendants or hotel staff a sympathetic glance. If Their Royal Highness gets into your personal space, you can also passively-aggressively scuff their fancy shoe, but really no sense in picking an unnecessary fight.
13. The Jumpers
Not just one, but a group of people, who once the plane lands and the seat belt light goes off, immediately jump up to get their carry-on, which they hold perilously over their heads and bring down into the one inch of space between them and the next person waiting in the aisle. You almost took out three people but you saved 30 seconds. Nice job.
What to Do? Never forget that the order of disembarking is based on your seat. If you have a Jumper trying to push past you, do not be afraid to force your way in front of them to get your belongs from the overhead bin. If I’m feeling particularly irritated, I’ll step out and make sure everyone in my row goes before I take my turn while I feel the Jumper tapping their foot impatiently behind me.
14. The Annoyingly Amorous
Have you ever been on a flight and an overly affectionate couple gets into the seats in front or behind you. You glance their way and notice them and then hope they settle in for a nice quiet journey. Reading your book or watching a movie, you think the storm has passed when they start up again. You’ll swear they are seconds from joining or re-joining the Mile High Club, right in the seat behind you. Behave yourselves people! You are not alone, you have traveling companions.
What to Do? Cough loudly until they get the hint. If that doesn’t work, flag an attendant to maybe tell them to keep it PG.
Who is your least favorite traveler?