The 5 Most Important Rules of Airport Etiquette

There are two types of travelers to be found inside an airport: those who know what they’re doing, and those who are a total, wandering mess.

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If you’re the former, you understand you can turn heads in an airport in a good way. When you act cool, calm and collected, dress like a B-List celebrity and walk confidently through the terminals, people will stop and look. Why? Because you’ve mastered the art of airport etiquette.

Now, for the latter. You’ve put no time or effort into what you’re wearing; that’s the biggest offense and the flaw that starts your entire trip off on the wrong foot. You somehow can’t carry your belongings due to poor packing, you walk at 10x the normal speed (or worse, 10x slower) out of sheer panic you’ll miss the flight, or from paralyzing confusion of not knowing where to go.

So, what does a good outfit and being an air travel professional have in common? ConfidenceThat’s all it is, and my god is it important. And listen, while there’s nothing more entertaining than a layover spent people-cringing, people watching, it is my civil duty to educate the masses on how they can ace Airport 101 for all flights of the future.

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1. No matter where you’re going, don’t forget where you came from

That’s great you’re heading to Fort Lauderdale, FL with the fam, but the people in Albany, NY don’t need to know that just by looking at you. Yeah, you’ll spend most of your time in a temperature-controlled terminal before walking those flip flops right down the jet bridge, but is it wise to leave your house like you’re headed straight for the beach? No.

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Don’t be this guy.

I’m not saying you need to bring your winter coat with the fur hood, but think about some multi-use pieces that’ll be of use during your entire trip. For example, wherever you’re going, it’s more than likely going to be just a bit more chilly at night. So, wear a jean jacket or sweater on your travel day and repurpose it mid-trip when it cools down. Plus, it’s best to wear your bulkier pieces while en route to your destination to keep your suitcase as light as possible.

And obviously this tip works the other way around, too. The stress of traveling can often have you working up a sweat on your own, so if you dress in the favor of the colder climate, you’re also SOL upon arrival. Nothing is worse than being super sweaty on the shuttle bus to the rental car office.

2. Pretend you’re going on a first date with the TSA

Wait, what? No, I’m not talking about the free massage comment from NAMB. I’m talking about the tiny details of your outfit that only people close to you can normally see. But, being at an airport isn’t normal as we know, since people break all societal rules while traveling. I’m talking ’bout socks, baby! Or, a pedicure.

Even those of with TSA PreCheck have to take off our shoes sometimes during the security checkpoint we’ve all grown to love/hate —AKA, no one is safe from showing off your socks or bare feet to dozens of strangers.

On a flight home from LAX, I spotted two men who were wearing jeans approximately 3 inches short on them (a topic for a whole other Fashion Friday), and both of the men had the dirtiest, holiest socks I’ve ever seen. To be honest, they should’ve been shipped back to 1998 when the socks were supposed to be thrown out, but instead they continued through the line to gross out everyone within a 30-foot radius.

So, instead of blindly throwing on your undergarments at 4AM before an early flight, lay them out the night before and make sure you’ve got acceptable, clean pairs of everything for your travel and vaca. Go a step further by planning ahead and treating yo’self with some fresh undies and socks. Look good, feel good, travel good.

The lesson here is people are ALWAYS watching, they’re nosy AF and judging you for sure. Being in an airport is like a zoo but with humans who are actually acting like animals. “Plane tickets are expensive, how can you afford one of those but not a clean pair of socks?”

3. Shoot your shot at being practical and fashionable

Those who are out there defending their atrocious airport attire will tell you they are just being practical and they do not care what others think of them as long as they’re comfortable. This way of thinking is just wrong, says the fashionista. No, but it really is.

You can be fashionable and practical at the same time. I told you, confidence is the number one way to secure yourself a smooth trip. Your outfit is the only thing you can control while traveling, so why not rock a good outfit and start vaca off the right way?

This can be done several ways: the first way is to just use your brain a little more than usual. Think about what you want to wear and what you want to project to the other travelers. Do you want them to judge you like the peasant you are? Or do you want them to think you MIGHT be a B-List celebrity who chooses to fly commercial? Seriously, no matter where your fashion game is at, you can step it up and still be comfy AF for the ride. Think: layering, slip on shoes instead of lace-up sneakers, jeggings instead of athletic wear, etc. etc. etc. In a world of Jimmy Buffett t-shirts and fanny packs, rise above.

4. Commit to the moving walkway or GTFO

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These nifty little horizontal escalators are NOT meant for you to be stationary while traveling on them. They’re so great because they magically make you walk faster, AKA it’s not a mini vacation for your legs. Space is limited and if you’re the one standing still, putting on lip gloss or taking something out of your backpack while on the moving walkway, you are going to get steamrolled and huffed and puffed at until you pass GO and collect $0.

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5. Remember, stranger danger still exists at 30,000 feet

There’s nothing wrong with a friendly conversation with your next door seat neighbor, but it has to be consensual chatting, OK? As someone in the seat behind or in front of a talkative tandem of strangers, I can always tell when one of the parties is NOT into the casual convo and simply wants out. But, alas, the socially awkward seat mate continues on and brings up all the things you’d never want to talk to a stranger about: political scandals, personal medical issues, the opioid crisis, a court battle with an ex, you name it. 

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If you have any social wits about you, you know this is inappropriate. So don’t do it! If you’re going to talk to a stranger mid-flight, keep the conversation nice and light and pick up on the clues to wind it down so your partner can snooze, read or just sit in silence. Don’t be selfish by wanting to exercise your vocal cords and make everyone else on the plane uncomfortable (it’s pretty tight quarters, so we can hear everything, you know).

PS: Same thing goes for in-flight entertainment. That’s on you if you forget to bring a magazine or download a movie, don’t be nosy and look at what you’re neighbor is watching or reading, chances are there’s a steamy sex scene in there that they would like to watch in peace.

How do you stack up when it comes to abiding by these laws? Oh wait, they’re not laws (yet) but they should be. You might think this list could stop at just five things, but this could become a weekly segment with the never-ending bizarre scenarios I see while traveling. These, however, are the basics we all need to be aware of before we even think about buying a plane ticket. TBH this might be the most important blog I’ve ever written because there are so many terrible air travel offenders out there.



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  1. Fashion Friday: The Capital Region’s Best Dressed This Week – twobuttonsdeep.com – Celebrity Life - […] talked about airport etiquette many times on this blog, and Megan exceeded all expectations for what you should dress…

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