Business Travel 101: Travel Etiquette

Business Travel 101 is a weekly series about making that first business trip as easy and successful as possible. Packing, security, comfort, and etiquette are all factors that, with a little planning, can contribute to a smooth and efficient trip. If you think of a topic I should include, email me at

Sometimes I feel that everything I write is designed to help people have a calmer, more peaceful trip. Preparing well, packing simply, and being mindful of your fellow travelers are all things that I talk about a lot. If all travelers enacted these practices, the traveling world would be a better place. We’ve talked about preparation and packing, therefor the obvious next Business Travel 101 post is one about etiquette.

Etiquette is something I feel strongly about in my everyday life, as well as my travel life. Not necessarily the traditional, so-many-rules-it’s-hard-to-remember-them-all etiquette, but simply recognizing that you are not the only passenger on the road and acting accordingly. This is a list of my favorite etiquette guidelines, but not by any means all encompassing. If there is one that means a lot to you that I missed, let me know! And let’s travel nicely.


  • Be prepared to go smoothly through security.  Know what the current security rules are for the location you are traveling through, and follow them. Have everything ready to go (laptop, bag of toiletries, shoes off, etc) as soon as you get to the bins. Have all change out of your pocket. Have your boarding pass out for people to see. If there is an option to choose your security line based on your level of experience, please choose honestly.


  • Know your airline’s guidelines. All major airlines have the size and weight restrictions for carry-ons on their website. If your bag is too big, they may make you check it. Also, there are slightly different size requirements for international carriers vs. American carriers, so make sure your bag works for your continent as well.
  • Make sure you can lift your bag. You may not be able to depend on having people around you that can help, and some flight attendants are prohibited from helping customers put bags up.
  • Put your suitcase on the correct side of the airplane, facing the correct way. Listen to what the flight attendants tell you to do, and do it. If one side of the plane is made to hold rollaboards, please put your suitcase there. That way there is room for everyone’s stuff.
  • Only put your large bag in the overhead. Put your purse or briefcase under the seat in front of you, until you know for sure there will be room. Also, don’t put your jacket in a bin unless it’s going on top of or in front of your bag. Again, we’re trying to make room for everyone.
  • Put your bag in the bin as close to your seat as possible. If you are sitting in row 25, and there is no room over 25 and there is room over 23, that’s one thing. But if you’re sitting in row 25 and you put your bag over row 8, that the people in row 8 won’t have room.
  • Don’t make it your plan to gate check.  If you bring a normal sized carry-on that you are happy to bring on the plane or gate-check, that is one thing. But please don’t bring an oversized bag on the plane, expecting they will make you gate-check it. If you are bringing too much stuff, check your bag. If you don’t want to pay the fee, bring less stuff. Don’t slow everyone else down because you’re trying to save $20.

On the plane

  • When you are standing up to go somewhere, please don’t grab the seat in front of you for balance. Most people, it seems, simply don’t think about this. Every time you touch the seat in front of you, the person sitting there can feel it. Grab your own seat if you need help!
  • Let the middle seat have the armrests. You may be tall, have long arms, need a lot of space…. It doesn’t matter. The person in the middle has less space than you, and it makes their flight better if they get the armrest too.
  • Respect the crew. If the flight attendant tells you to turn off your cell phone, do it. If they tell you where to put your bag, put it there. The crew is responsible for the transport and safety of over a hundred people. They are not your personal chef, bartender, or secretary.
  • Keep your kids corralled. Whatever it takes to keep your kids happy, be it snacks, juice, music, a coloring book, please do it. Don’t let your child kick the seat in front of them! I know sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if it is constant throughout the flight it can get very uncomfortable for the person in that seat.
  • Be mindful of reclining. When I posted about whether or not reclining your seat is rude, the results were definitely mixed. If you need to recline your seat, make sure that you don’t keep it reclined the entire flight, especially during food service.

Once you arrive

  • Practice patience while deplaning. Hundreds of people rushing down the aisle to get off the plane all at the same time…’s just not possible. Even though it can be frustrating to have to wait what feels an excessive amount of time, be patient. And when it is your turn, grab your stuff quickly. If there is someone who has a tight connection, it is polite to let them go first or pass you in the jetbridge if necessary. Think of how you would like to be treated in that situation!
  • Don’t be too loud in hotel rooms. Most of us know this one, but sometimes can be loud without realizing it. I was guilty of this myself once. I was in a room next to a coworker, and she could hear my alarm through the wall. It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that I am a “snoozer.” I set my alarm 30 minutes early, and it goes off every five minutes. Which can be very frustrating for a neighbor.

Readers, what are your favorite etiquette tips?


  1. Here’s mine: SMILE at TSA. They come across so many grumpy people all day, and they are just doing their job. Flash a smile, be polite, say “thank you” (they are helping us be safe after all).
    I notice when I do that they are often times very polite back to me.

  2. Can we add another? When boarding the plane with bags slung over your shoulder or on your back, please take care not to beat those already seated with them as you pass down the aisle. As an “aisle sitter” i’m tired of being beaten and bruised by purses, laptop bags, suitcases, etc.

  3. Since this site is for women, there’s not much we can do about it, but I wish men would wipe the floor with a paper towel after using airplane restrooms! I end up doing it instead.

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