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9 Travel-Smart Tips for the Holidays!

A couple had some problems with the ticketing for a trip, and both were yelling and being rude to the ticket agent. The agent kept her cool, was very polite and took care of their problems. After the couple left, the ticket agent next to her said, "Boy, they were really being nasty to you." The agent replied, "That's okay. They're going to London – their luggage is going to Bulgaria!"

The above story, one of my favorites, illustrates that there are lots of reasons to exhibit good manners when traveling, not the least of which is that you don't want your luggage going to Bulgaria.

Keeping your cool when traveling during the holidays can be challenging. Travelers are paying more and still enduring long lines, cancellations, delays and lost luggage. With our recent weather patterns – including major storms in many parts of the country – the unusual is now to be expected.

Polite behavior cannot stop a storm, but it can make a bad situation better. Here are some travel-smart tips for the holidays.

1. Be prepared for delays. Take food and water with you. If you are buying bottled water (or any other drink) for the trip, remember that you must do so after you pass through airport security, or it will be confiscated. Keep your necessities, including any medications, in your carry-on bag. Make sure your cell phone and all electronic devices are fully charged. Always have something to read, listen to, or watch. If you're prepared for the worst, you'll be less stressed and better able to handle a difficult situation if it arises.

2. No cursing, name-calling or rude behavior. Do you really think that the person you just called all sorts of names will want to help you? One ticket agent deliberately scheduled a foul-mouthed passenger for a four-hour wait when an earlier flight was available. Customer service people tell me that although they are required to help rude people, they will do as little as possible. If you are polite, they are more likely to go out of their way for you.

3. Use travel apps. Stay informed. Having access to useful information won’t eliminate all the stress, but it can help you to be prepared. Many travel apps track flight departure and arrival information, gate changes, and flight delays; one will alert you if your assigned seat is by the bathroom. An article listing 
free travel apps appeared in Business Week

4. Don't make threats. In the post-911 world, threats are taken seriously. Don't joke around or try to intimidate people.

5. Acknowledge the difficulty. When you are dealing with a customer service person who is trying to help you, acknowledging his or her challenges can go a long way in helping you connect. Simply say: "It looks like it has been a really tough day," or "It has been a difficult time, hasn't it?"

6. Politely ask for what you want. If you ask for what you want, and it's a reasonable request, you are more apt to get it. Saying "Any chance for a dinner coupon?" may very well produce one. Additional information on the benefit of polite and powerful behavior can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.

7. Befriend other passengers. It makes for a more pleasant trip when things get difficult, as it establishes a "we're in this together" mentality. As a bonus, people may share what they know. During one delay, a man with whom I had spoken earlier found out that the airline had opened a new line upstairs. Before he went upstairs, he came and told me.

8. Be alert, but don't be a bully. Pay attention to your surroundings. Additional customer service personnel may appear when difficult situations develop, and new lines may open up. You'll need to be ready to move quickly…but it's not okay to push or shove.

9. Don't announce your travel plans on social media sites. There are numerous examples of people's homes being burglarized because they let their "friends" know they were away. A couple of years ago, a New York Times headline summed it up best: Burglars Said to Have Picked Houses Based on Facebook Updates.

Pachter & Associates provides business etiquette and communications training, including a seminar and keynote on The Power of Positive Confrontation. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.


  1. Anonymous11/13/2013

    From A Reader:
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