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    Armrest hoggers, hotel pillows, and other pet peeves of travel

    Travel gripes about airplanes, hotels, and local wildlife are common.
    Travel gripes about airplanes, hotels, and local wildlife are common.

    The dread of yellow brick. This is not a typical travel phobia, like the fear of flying, but I cringe when I’m in a city that built with it.

    I wondered if other people had travel quirks that left them annoyed or downright grouchy. No one I talked with had an issue with brick color, but many had their own pet peeves.

    Some irritants had to do with sightseeing, others with hotels, and a few with conveyances — such as taxis and airplanes. Here are some of the more intriguing gripes and grumps:



    Geoffrey Weill, who runs a New York public relations firm, says, “One of the things that drives me bonkers is when the drapes in a hotel room don’t quite close properly, allowing that crack of light to shine right in your eyes at 5 a.m.” Weill always travels with “a giant bulldog clip.” “It keeps that crack closed,” he says.

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    Frequent vacationers Stuart and Pat Imray of Strichen, Scotland, say they’re particularly annoyed by hotel rooms with TV remote controls with row after row of oddly-shaped, “muddled” buttons. Another issue for them: Hotels that offer guests “six surplus pillows.” Where, they ask, “are you supposed to stash them?”

    For Ann and Jim Scott of Slatersville, R.I., it’s arcane hotel shower knobs that drive them up the wall. “In Turkey,” says Ann, “it got to the point where, for the first time ever, I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the shower on. I went to the phone with a towel wrapped around me and the person on the other end kept insisting that they needed to come up and show me.”


    At least as frustrating as hotels, for many travelers, are passenger spaces on planes. Jennifer Sembler of New York has a problem with “people who don’t abide by airplane armrest etiquette.” Sembler is an airborne Emily Post when it comes to this issue. “The person in the middle,” she says, “always, always gets the right to both armrests. If I’m in the aisle or window, I relinquish my armrest rights. So, I expect the same of the aisle and window passengers when I’m in the middle.”

    Unfortunately, Sembler doesn’t always get what she expects. And, worse, she adds, “just because the middle passenger has the right to the armrest doesn’t mean they have the right to drape their arm over the armrest into my seat — like the guy next to me on a recent flight to San Jose.”


    Similar turf issues bother Charlie Berg of San Diego. “When you fly in coach,” he says, “why is it always the person directly in front of you who insists on reclining his seat to its absolute fullest?”

    Jenny Deixel of Brooklyn, N.Y., has her own complaints. “People shouldn’t treat a plane like it’s a cruise ship,” she says, “and spend the whole time standing in the aisle chatting with their friends.” For that matter, she says, “I can’t stand it when people sleep with their head on their open tray table. Or when people take their shoes and socks off on a plane and walk around. Or stick their bare feet through to the next row. That’s gross.”


    Joseph Russo of Brookline, who likes traveling to Italy so much that he’s become an Italian citizen, says, “I will walk to public transportation, toting too many bags, until my feet are bleeding, to avoid taking a taxi.” Why? Says Russo: “I can’t stand either the compulsion to make small talk with taxi drivers [particularly in a foreign language] or the silence if I don’t speak during the ride.”

    Craig Stoltz, a former travel and health editor who lives in Bethesda, Md., finds Florence’s lizard population “very unsettling.” “Nobody warns you,” says Stoltz. “One day I was quite unnerved by what I think was an Italian gecko crossing my path en route to one of the lesser Medici museums. Inside, one of the frescoes featured a tiny, furtive lizard along the edge.”

    The habits of vacationing humans can be even more stressful. Offending behavior, some say, includes diners at “cruise ship and Vegas buffets with two plates” and vacationers who wear “rude or dopey” T-shirts. John Deiner, who works at the Zagat Survey in New York, says he’s bugged by “tourists at Disney World who push oversized kids around in strollers” and by “anyone in Crocs.”


    Yet there are those who travel the globe but just keep smiling. “This may sound Pollyanna-ish,” says Pauline Frommer, the guidebook author and radio show host, “but I really can’t think of any travel peeves.” In fact, she adds, “perhaps my only real peeve when traveling . . . is hearing people obsess about their peeves.”

    Peter Mandel can be reached at