Everyone loves the holidays, but before you belly up to the table for turkey and pie, you'll have to suffer through the flight home. And while there's not much you can do about long lines and delayed departures, there is one little thing you can do to make the trip more bearable for yourself and others: Don't be annoying!
Oh sure, you're a joy to be around at home (no, really, everyone says so!), but the airport is enough to frazzle the nerves of the most even-tempered traveler. That's why we have a few pointers to keep you in check.
1. Do your homework so you don't hold up the line. Read up on any baggage fees and weight restrictions imposed by your airline, and make sure your luggage is up to snuff. Do not be that person with a suitcase open on the floor, cramming boots into a carry-on or teetering under the weight of six hideous Christmas sweaters -- all in an effort to dodge an overweight baggage fee. Not only is it beneath you to be scrambling around on the ground like a raccoon in the garbage, it's also annoying -- for you, for the passengers behind you, and for the agent checking you in.
2. Don't crowd the gate out of turn. If the gate agent is currently only boarding Zone 4 and higher, and your ticket has a little sideways letter M or a tiny seagull on its side, you're in Zone 3. Not higher than 4. So why are you trying to board? We know, it's vacation time, and you're blowing this Popsicle stand. But the plane is not going to leave you or your bulky carry-on behind. The gate agent will call your number soon. In the meantime, let these other folks board and settle in.
3. Listen to the safety demo. Okay, so maybe your chances of surviving a water landing in the Atlantic are pretty slim, no matter how buoyant that seat cushion may be. Regardless, do the flight crew the courtesy of at least pretending to listen to the safety demo. It may not be as fun as listening to them reciting a list of sodas on hand, but it annoys them when you don’t pay attention.
4. Go easy on the recline button. Sorry, but reclining your wafer-thin seat by a few dinky inches à la Archie Bunker will not make the difference between comfy and not. What it will do is annoy the person seated behind you. Especially if that person is watching the seatback TV screen, trying to use a laptop, or -- worse -- trying to enjoy a snack. Sure, it's your seat, you paid for it, and so on. But so did the guy behind you. If you absolutely won't be happy unless you go whole-hog backward, at least try to wait until the cabin lights have been dimmed for sleepy time.
5. Try and remember that this is an airplane, not a sports bar. Yes, both serve booze, but keep it quiet! Pretend you're at a library. That's not to say you have to whisper and coo every word, but it wouldn't kill you to speak in hushed tones, especially at night on long-haul flights when the cabin lights are off. Sleeping in coach is difficult enough without having to drown out a lot of chatter.
6. This one is a biggie. Don’t crowd your seatmate. There is no faster way to enrage your seatmate than by invading his or her space. Think of the armrests as a moat that is not to be crossed. Oh sure, swim in it, splash around, touch forearms, go crazy! The armrest is shared space, like it or not. But be mindful that your shoulders, arms, legs, knobby elbows, coat, magazines, and newspapers do not cross over into the space that was paid by your seatmate. If it is physically impossible for you to contain yourself within a single seat, buy two. But chances are you're perfectly capable of lifting a fork to your lips or reading without extending both elbows outward at 90 degrees.
7. Wait to pick up that cell. You've landed! Congratulations! You'll probably want to share this good news with your loved ones. No doubt they'll be thrilled to hear it. The person sitting next to you? Not so much. And definitely not when you're yelling. How about sending a nice (quiet) text instead, or -- better still -- how about waiting until you've walked off the plane?
8. Chill out a sec. When it's time to deplane, do not try and leave before the passengers seated in the row ahead of you. That's how it works. And give them a sec to retrieve their belongings from the overhead bin. This is not a rock concert. Let's make this a trample-free holiday.
9. Read the labels. This may strike you as paranoid, but after you’ve plucked your bag from the carrousel, take a moment to confirm that, yes, the name on the baggage tag is your own. We realize that you went through the trouble of tying a yarn pom-pom to the handle, but odds are so did someone else -- and that someone could be on your flight. This may strike you as paranoid, but mix-ups do happen. There's nothing worse than finding someone else's wardrobe in "your" bag, and having to return to the airport to make the trade.
10. Don't forget your manners. If you only remember one thing in your whole traveling life, remember this: An entire world exists behind you. And in that world, there are folks with places to go, people to meet, flights to catch, and very limited time to make it all happen. Would you be so kind as to stand to one side of the escalators or people-movers, allowing your fellow passengers a little room to pass? Should you forget, do not clutch at your pearls in disbelief when a little voice behind you says, "Excuse me."
George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.