Good manners trampled in the stampede for me-time: Something to declare

How uptight should travellers be about etiquette in today's world?

As we jostle our way through check-in or bark at hotel receptionists about getting an upgrade, I can't help but wonder if a few of us have played truant while life's been hosting common courtesy classes. When I holidayed as a child, I recall that at the top of Mum's manifesto was being considerate of others, admittedly enforced with tense glares and quiet threats that still make me shiver. The psychotherapists among you may, at this point, be piling in to say that this can lead to hypersensitivity later in life. If so, I'd be much obliged if we could save on the expensive clinic sessions and work through a couple of my biggest travel bugbears together.

Number one: parents who let their children play electronic devices loudly on planes/in hotel restaurants. Yes, it'll stop them from bugging you, but what about the romance-busting Toy Story 2 soundtrack forced on the honeymooners on the next table?

Number two: in-flight personal-space awareness. Time in the sky used to be considered a special occasion steeped in camaraderie. I'm not saying we should still be dressing in our Sunday best to be squished into our seats, but that would be preferable to feeling that we've been taken hostage in a teenage dormitory. Obviously, those of weaker dispositions should simply avoid certain flights. (Rather than waving a copy of Debrett's at the up-all-nighters on that twilight flight back from Ibiza, you're better off just getting stuck in to those double vodkas too.)

The grey area in anti-social behaviour, for me, is people treating shared long-haul spaces as their own private dens. Barely has the plane taken off and they've pressed the button and reclined to the max without even a cursory over-the-shoulder glance. After eliminating that precious sliver of their neighbour's environment (often coming close to wiping out their laptop screen in the process), they dispense with socks and shoes. Stretching out, hooves – bunions, corns, odour and all – are positioned unavoidably in co-passengers' eye lines. You may have a barefoot-luxury holiday planned, but could you perhaps wait until you can bury your toes in the sand?

At the same time that our Mr & Mrs Smith hotel guides started hitting bookshelves in the mid-Noughties – signposting hotels' finest rooms and their most desirable tables – a sense of entitlement was cultivated across the travel industry. We goaded each other into believing that we all deserve to insist on the very, very best. (I'm fairly sure the percentage of those who can and do bag the crème de la crème is in fact quite small.)

So, in a word, "Oops". Having spent a decade encouraging you all to make sure your me-time is superior to everyone else's, may I now say that travelling might work better for us all if we are a little more patient, have more of a collective conscience, and maybe keep our socks on. Thanks for the group therapy, guys.

Juliet Kinsman is the editor-in-chief of 'Mr & Mrs Smith' hotel guides (mrandmrssmith.com).

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