Air Travel Etiquette

I love to travel but it can be stressful. Air travel, in particular, can be fraught with challenges. But, if we all follow a few dos and don’ts of air travel etiquette, we can peacefully coexist while hurtling through the air at 30,000 feet.

Air Travel Etiquette

Do know the TSA rules: Liquids in 3-ounce or smaller containers all packed into one quart sized zipper bag and placed on the conveyor belt. Computer out of your bag and on the belt. Shoes and coat off; nothing in your pockets.

Don’t steal all of the bins and bowls. Being considerate in the security line means sharing and not dawdling.

TSA Precheck

Transportation Security Administration

Do consider signing up for TSA PreCheck. At $85 for five years, it’s a pretty good deal. And, you can keep all of your goodies in your bag and your shoes on your feet.

Do feel free to pack concisely into the allowed number and size of carry-on luggage.

Don’t think that anyone is amused by you carrying on a suitcase and a backpack and a giant purse and a giant shopping bag and a bag full of magazines and snacks and a banjo.

Each of us is allowed one carry-on bag and one small personal item. This means you, too, Barbie.

Mocadeaux - Carry-on luggage etiquette

Do take advantage of the loophole that airlines provide which allows passengers to avoid a checked bag fee.

If your suitcase is small enough to meet the carry-on standards, you can “gate check” your bag with the agents at your gate for free. This is a good idea if you just don’t want to be bothered stowing your bag in the overhead bin, are in one of the later boarding groups or have legendarily poor arm strength like me.

Do line up and board the aircraft with your assigned boarding group. Please have your boarding pass out and available for scanning or have your mobile boarding pass pulled up on your telephone and the screen lit up.

Don’t hold up the boarding process by standing in the aisle unloading every last item you think you might want for the flight before stashing your bag in the overhead bin.

Do be compassionate toward your fellow passengers. If asked by a frantic mom or dad if you can switch seats so that their family can be seated together, consider doing so. In my opinion, this act of kindness brings more good karma than almost anything else.

Mocadeaux - Bank of Karma

Don’t fall asleep on other passengers. My shoulders are reserved for my loved ones and not for perfect strangers who keep nodding off and slumping over toward me in my seat. (Seriously, guy in 11B? How many times do I have to elbow you in the ribs before you get the message?)

Do peruse the menu of “buy on board” food and drink items so that you are ready to order when the flight attendants reach your row.

Don’t order wine in a can. Trust me on this one.

Wine in a can

Do remember to use headphones while listening to music or movies. Just as you have the right to listen to heavy metal music or to watch Mad Max Fury Road, I have the right peaceful quiet.

Don’t judge your seatmates for the in-flight entertainment they choose to watch. Just because someone streams hours of Real Housewives on a coast to coast flight, doesn’t mean that they don’t also watch hours of the History Channel at home.

Do strike up a conversation with your seat mate if the spirit moves you. Take the opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories.

Don’t make a nuisance of yourself. If your seatmate pretends that they are completely engrossed in their reading, are asleep or don’t speak English, it might be a subtle hint that they are not interested in chatting.

And finally, when you have reached your destination…

Do retrieve your carry-on luggage as quickly as possible without trampling your fellow passengers and exit the airplane in an orderly manner.

Don’t do what these flight attendants did. It is rude, will likely get you arrested and will cost you thousands of dollars in fines. A high price to pay to be the first one off of the plane.

By the way, the reenactment animation in this video is priceless.

What are your pet peeves about flying? What would you add to the air travel etiquette dos and don’ts?

Wishing you all happy and safe travels, always!

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Napa Valley Wine Tasting

Mo Wine Please

Travel Tips – Napa Valley Wine Tasting

One of my very favorite destinations for a trip with friends is Napa Valley. Wine tasting in general is festive, collegial, and fun. Napa wineries range from the super fancy to the super simple – something for everyone! The “experiences” they offer run the gambit from those geared toward novices to those for experts. Many wineries offer what I like to call the “belly up to the bar tastings” – no reservations required, just join the crowd! Some provide experiences like a group tour through the winery’s production facilities, a food and wine pairing, a small group tasting of specialty wines, or some kind of combination.

There are a million sites to help you plan the trip. A good place to start would be . The site provides a nice overview and includes a couple of cool features – a downloadable map of the wineries in the valley (excellent for mapping out your strategy) and a list of wineries by area that provides a key showing lots of information you need to plan your visit: hours, cost, type of experience, if an appointment is necessary, etc.

In future posts I will share some of my favorite wineries, lodging spots, restaurants and more. But first, I want to throw out some general tips on planning your trip.

Number of People on the Trip

Is this a group of girlfriends? A few couples celebrating a special occasion? Here’s what we have learned: 6 is the magic number. Lots of places require reservations even for walk-up tastings if your group contains 8 or more. A party of 6 is big enough that they don’t necessarily want you to overtake their tasting bar. Sometimes you will be given your own little tasting area (a table, set of couches, library) and your own host. Be nice, show your appreciation, show an interest in learning and you will be rewarded with a wonderful experience. As with anything in life, good behavior brings good karma.

The party of six also works for transportation – cruising in a mini-van! With a designated driver.

napa winery tasting

Number of Stops per Day

Most wineries open by 10am and close about 5 or 6pm. Planning for no more than 3 or 4 stops in a day provides a nice, leisurely pace…relaxing and sane. If possible, share the tastings (pay for 3 tastings for 6 people) so, even if you sip rather than spit, the amount of wine consumed is minimal. The local police are always on the lookout – as they should be – for visitors who have been irresponsible in their wine tasting. Above all, be responsible.

The ideal scenario would be if one person in your group is a non-drinker but is happy to come along on the trip just for fun!  I’ve never tried this, but I bet wineries would be willing to offer the designated driver a free or reduced rate on tours or experiences. It would certainly be worth asking if you are lucky enough to have a permanent DD in your group.  And perhaps the drinkers could pay the tasting fee for the non-drinker as a show of appreciation. Renting a limo for the day is always an option, but be aware that some wineries have a “no limo or party bus” policy. I’m guessing they have had some problems with wild groups ruining it for the rest of us.

Protect the Wine!

You will want to have some sort of a cooler in your car so that any wine you buy during the day will not be ruined in the heat of a locked up vehicle. If you are driving to Napa you can bring your own. If not, you can either bring a couple of insulated, reusable grocery bags or pick up a cheap Styrofoam cooler at a store once you arrive. (There is a small grocery store on Washington St. in downtown Yountville that carries these.) Fill the cooler up with ice at the start of each day and you will be set. Consider bringing along some fruit, cheese and crackers, too. Many wineries will allow you to bring in snacks to enjoy while tasting their wine.

Educate Yourself

Even if you are on the trip just to hang with friends, it is possible to pick up bits of knowledge that will increase your future enjoyment of wine. Try to schedule a full tour and tasting on your first day. Look for one that takes you through the steps of the process from vine to bottle. Something like the Signature Tour and Tasting at the Robert Mondavi Winery

You will learn the basic steps involved, how the “terroir” comes into play (and you will be able to use the term “terroir” like a pro!), the different varietals, and so much more. This will be beneficial as you taste different wines in different parts of the valley. The hosts love to answer questions and love to share what is unique about their winery. They especially love having guests who are interested and engaged in learning!

The Winery Experience

Many wineries, especially those that provide “special experiences”, require advanced reservations. During the peak fall season and on weekends, these spots fill up fast. I’d generally recommend only one or two “scheduled” events per day, along with a couple of “drop-in” stops. Pay attention to the length of time required for the special experiences: when is your appointment, when do you check-in, how long is the presentation, how much travel time is required to the winery and to your next stop? The valley is larger than you think. Distance and traffic should be taken into consideration so you are not late for your appointments. It is crucial to know the requirements in advance and to plan your schedule accordingly.

Cakebread pairing

A Word about Wine Clubs

Virtually every winery offers some type of wine club to build brand loyalty. As a member of the club you will receive a shipment of wine periodically (monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly depending on the club). You can cancel at any time. Often the wine club shipments include wines only available to members. Membership provides benefits such as free tastings at the winery, discounts on purchases, discounts at hotels in the area, and more. The clubs really are geared toward customer loyalty so they treat their members well. If you find a winery you like, you might want to consider trying their wine club.

Where to Stay

I would definitely consider renting a house or condo if you have six or more in your group. This set-up gives you the opportunity to hang out at the beginning and end of each day, more bonding time. We have rented houses from VRBO and a condo at The Silverado Resort. If you prefer a hotel, there are lots to choose from. Think about location. And decide if you want something luxurious like The Villagio or something cozy and romantic like The Wine Country Inn.

There really is something for everyone.


Plan ahead!! The most popular restaurants fill up fast but there are many wonderful places to choose from. Check Open Table for reservations. As I said, most wineries close by 5 or 6pm giving you time to go back to your room, relax, take a nap, freshen up, and then head out to dinner. One big tip: while you are out tasting during the day, pick up some wine to bring to dinner. Napa restaurants allow guests to bring in wine. Even with a corkage fee, the price will be less than that of a comparable bottle on the restaurant’s wine list. Plus it is a great way to enjoy your new discoveries.

Bringing Home Souvenirs

If you buy extra bottles of wine to bring home with you, you have several options. Unfortunately, some states restrict shipments of wine so you should check ahead of time to see if your state allows this rather than getting the disappointing news at the check-out register. Generally if you buy 6 bottles or more, it is most economical to have the winery ship directly to your home. Upon delivery, the package will have to be signed for by an adult, 21 or older.

If you are picking up a couple of bottles here, and a couple of bottles there, you can consolidate them for shipping. There are lots of “pack and ship” places available in the valley (we have even shipped through the business office at The Silverado). Many wineries sell 6-pack or 12-pack shipping boxes. I’d wait until towards the end of your trip to get the box(es) because it is hard to judge how many bottles you will collect. Obviously we can no longer bring wine on airplanes as carry-on luggage, but many airlines will let you bring a case of wine as a checked bag. (Contact your carrier for restrictions, prices, etc.) You will want to be sure the wine is securely packed in the correct shipping boxes. TSA might open the box but they will seal it back up. If you just have a couple of souvenir bottles you can wrap them up VERY carefully, put them in your checked luggage and keep your fingers crossed! Lots of wineries sell nifty bubble wrap packs for single bottles. These work really well.

Girls trip to Napa 069

I hope these tips help you to plan the perfect Napa Valley wine tasting vacation – complete with wonderful wine, delicious food, and beautiful views shared with dear friends!

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