Advice You Really Shouldn’t Follow: How To Travel With Annoying People

March 7, 2013


This week’s question appeared in the comments section for my last advice column, and it goes something like this:


Here’s a question for you. Next month I’m traveling to France with my daughter for her eighth-grade class trip. She’s been in a French immersion program for 8 years and the trip is the culmination of a lot of hard work. The problem is that I’m going to be stuck on a giant tour bus with about 40 13-year olds and 10 of their parents for 10 days. I’ve known most of the adults for a while and many are very nice. But I’m concerned about the ones who don’t understand that they actually need to use Euros, not dollars, and say “excusez-moi, parlez vous anglais?” before blathering on in English. How do I keep myself from punching them in the face?


Going to Go Nuts

First of all, Nuts, (I can call you Nuts, right?) thank you so much for using an alias. I appreciate your attempt to make me feel like a real advice columnist!

Even though I totally know who you are.

(Full disclosure: Nuts is a long-time friend of mine.)

(Even fuller disclosure: I have actually traveled with Nuts in the past. So it’s understandable that she’s worried about traveling with other people. I mean, I did set the bar pretty high.)

Best. Travel. Partner. EVER.

Best. Travel. Partner. EVER.

Second of all, Nuts, let me assure you, you have come to the right place.

You see, while I don’t have lots of experience traveling in a group as I usually travel on my own these days, I do have lots of experience with annoying people.

I attribute this to the fact that I spent a great deal of my life working in customer service.

And because I’m naturally a very cranky person especially if it’s before noon and I haven’t had five gallons of coffee yet and OMIGOD ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO CHEW THAT LOUDLY? BECAUSE, SERIOUSLY.

Luckily, I’ve come up with a whole step-by-step system to help me get through any experiences I might have with annoying people.

And you’ll be happy to know that hardly any of those steps involve punching people in the face!

Because punching people in the face is bad, you guys.

And because it would require some kind of hand-eye coordination.

(More full disclosure: I don’t have any of that.)

Sally’s Step-by-Step System for Dealing with Annoying People

Step 1: Avoid eye contact


Annoying people are kind of like dangerous forest animals.

As soon as you make eye contact with them, they will attack you. But instead of attacking you with their fangs or claws, they will totally attack you with their annoyingness.

Which, honestly, is a lot worse.

I mean, fangs and claws are bad.

But listening to someone whine on and on about how-nobody-in-this-country-speaks-English-and-if-everyone-spoke-English-already-than-the-barista-would-have-known-to-use-skim-milk-in-my-latte-and-do-they-even-have-skim-milk-in-this-godforsaken-country?

That’s worse.

Much worse.

Step 2: Act busy


Let’s say you made a mistake and actually made eye contact with the annoying person.


And now the annoying person won’t stop talking to you.

Now would be a really good time to get an important email from home. You’d better read it and respond to it immediately or something might explode.

Or what about that work-thing? Didn’t you say you had some kind of work-thing you were supposed to work on RIGHT NOW? I totally remember you telling me you had some kind of work-thing.

Or, omigod, did you forget to take your vitamins? I think you forgot to take your vitamins. They’re in the bottom of your bag. Way, way, way down in the bottom. It’s probably going to take you at least twenty minutes to find them. You should go do that now. You wouldn’t want to get yourself a bad case of the scurvy while you’re on vacation.

Step 3: Run away


You’ll just need to make sure they’re distracted

You know, so they don’t see you while you’re running away.

Because they will attack you.

Step 4: Think of the stories!


Let’s just say you’re the perfect traveler person.

You speak the language fluently.

You blend in with the locals.

You can convert the exchange rate in your head.

And you have never once ended up accidentally ordering something you didn’t mean to order.

You’re still going to want some annoying people around you, if only so you’ll have some good stories to tell when you get home.

Because nobody wants to hear your stories – you know, the ones about how you’re so awesome and how your trip was so awesome and how awesomely awesome all the awesome was.

Trust me.

People don’t like stories about awesome.

People like stories about other people making total asses out of themselves And then accidentally eating pig intestines for lunch.

"Lift pork"? Could be intestine. Better order it to find out.

“Lift pork”? Could be intestine. Better order it to find out.

I should know.

I’ve been making a total ass out of myself in foreign countries since 1995!

And, not to brag or anything, but people LOVE my stories! Especially the ones that involve my accidentally eating big piles of pig intestines.

Step 5: Join ‘em.


You know that old saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Well, you can’t beat the annoying people.

Because, again, that would be bad. And would require hand-eye coordination.

So you might as well join them.

Because sometimes you need to be annoying.

Sometimes you just need to complain about your latte because you know it’s just a latte but you’re tired and you’re under-caffeinated and it’s nine o’clock in the morning and you just wanted skim milk and you’re stuck on a bus with fifty people and WHY IS EVERYONE CHEWING SO LOUDLY?

It’s good to know that during those sometimes when you’re being the annoying person, that you’re not alone – that there are other people on that bus that know exactly how you feel.

Even if they’re totally not making eye contact with you at the moment.

Hey guys! Guys? GUYS?? Why aren't any of you looking at me?

Hey guys! Guys? GUYS?? Why aren’t any of you looking at me?

Have you traveled with annoying people? How did you cope? Got any tips you’d like to share?
P.S. Would you like some advice you really shouldn’t follow? Leave a comment, email me at unbravegirl at or leave a question in the contact form.
P.P.S. Speaking of being annoying, did you vote for me for a Bloggie for Best Travel Weblog yet? Did you? Huh? Guys? GUYS?? Where are you going? WHY IS EVERYONE RUNNING AWAY?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 7, 2013 at 9:05 am Janice said:

    Great advice!! You ARE a real advice columnist!

    When I travel with annoying people, I get very very extra-super hygienic. “I think I have some of those tasty pig intestines in my teeth. I’d better go floss…for 20 minutes” or “I smell like bus, mind if I hop in the shower first? I’ll only be an hour…”

    (Oh, and don’t forget that giant sunglasses are a great way to avoid eye contact!)

    • On March 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm Sally said:

      Yes, definitely agree with the sunglasses! And a head scarf… just go totally Jackie O. on everybody. Nobody would bother whining to Jackie O!

  2. On March 7, 2013 at 9:25 am Marta said:

    (I still have that remark about ‘Marta, how come you have no opinion about this topic’ in the back of my head, but being an annoying person myself, I’m not gonna refrain from commenting every single post you publish and have an opinion about it. Mwahaha!)

    Annoying people are like babies. Most people are like babies. What works for babies (and trust my pre-school aide experience) is DISTRACTION. What you need is
    a) Observation
    b) Fudge. The super sticky ones.

    So let’s say that Priya is the annoying person (She totally isn’t, she’s actually super sweet that’s why I chose her for this example and that’s why I read her blog, yeah, I should probably get a life). When she starts complaining about coffee, you just have to say “Omigod, look, is that Mariah Carey!?” and once she gets distracted, you offer her a fudge. Because “Mhmhmmmhmhm” is less annoying than talking about skim milk in this godforsaken country.

    • On March 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm Sally said:

      Aww, cute, now my commenters are commenting to each other.
      And, Marta, you know the more you comment, the more I love you. So please never stop commenting every single post.
      And I’ll start stocking up on fudge for the next time I travel — for the, umm, annoying people. Yeah. The fudge is not for me. No way. Just for the annoying people. But I’m sure they won’t mind if I have just a little.

  3. On March 7, 2013 at 10:13 am James said:

    Two words: noise-cancelling headphones. Yes, you may look like a dufus wearing them, but all you’ve gotta do is shake your head and point to the headphones. You’re welcome!
    James recently posted..40 Going on 25 – Am I Peter Pan?

    • On March 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm Sally said:

      I find any headphones work… so long as you can play the music loud enough & pretend that you’re really into your jams so no one would ever dream of bothering you.

  4. On March 7, 2013 at 11:05 am Carmel said:

    I’ve totally traveled with annoying people. Mostly complainers. I ended up going out on my own in those cases.

    So, you’re NOT supposed to punch people in the face, huh? Interesting.

    • On March 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm Sally said:

      Oh, I hear you about the complainers! Having been an expat, I encountered LOTS of complainers. There is a whole breed of expats who basically spend their entire existence overseas complaining about being overseas. I got really good at avoiding eye contact.

  5. On March 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm Rose said:

    If all the people I have traveled with are awesome, does that make me the annoying person in the group????!

    • On March 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm Sally said:

      Either you’re really lucky or really annoying. Of course, being your older sister, I would have a tendency to vote for the latter. But that’s probably just because I’ve heard you chew. 🙂 (Ha, ha. Just kidding. You’re not an abnormal chewer… which, sadly, I can’t say for ALL members of our family. 🙂 )

  6. On March 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm Erin in Costa Rica said:

    oh I love this. I have had so many annoying travel partners plus I can be pretty cranky :/ Chewing bothers me, so does walking – no slumping, no dragging feet… Talking… I don’t want to hear about what your Aunt Sally who I’ve never met before thinks about her new neighbor Tom. Shut. Up. I wrote a whole entire post dedicated to blabbing things out in English without asking first. The nerve of some people…
    My solution: always bring work to do and send the travel partner off to be a tourist without me. A little space goes a long way to relieve annoyance. And if that isn’t possible or doesn’t work: alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.
    Erin in Costa Rica recently posted..Crazy Looking Leaf Footed Bug

    • On March 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm Sally said:

      I am actually the worst with dragging my feet. I drive people CRAZY because I’m always shuffling everywhere. But I figure they deserve it for chewing SO LOUDLY. GAHHHH!
      And, yes, ALCOHOL. A definite necessity when dealing with annoying people!

      • On March 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm Erin in Costa Rica said:

        ohhhh noooo you can’t drag your feet here in Costa Rica, you will TRIP! The ground is not even, you will FALL. I tell you what, if you ever come to Costa Rica and want to hang out (cuz I’m awesome), just bring me some duty free alcohol from the airport shop so I can handle it, k? 😉

  7. On March 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm Isabelle said:

    I survived one of the most annoying and complaining person on a trip to Vietnam a few years ago. You know, the kind of person you just want to say to: ‘why exactly are you travelling when you hate everything?’ You just have to breathe deeply every time you want to say something bitchy and you avoid the person as much as possible!!! I didn’t even attend the last dinner with the group (all the others were nice). I prefered to enjoy Saigon one last time by myself. I probably passed as someone who lacked savoir-vivre but I didn’t care, I had a good meal, quiet, nice place, it was perfect!

    • On March 8, 2013 at 8:07 am Sally said:

      Uggh. I have met so many of those people living abroad. I’m like, “Really? Who forced you to pack up your bags and move abroad? If you hate it so much, GO HOME!” I mean, I can understand complaining once in a while, but ALL THE TIME? Uggh.

  8. On March 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm Lilian said:

    Or what about the annoying fellow traveller who can never remember how to pronounce your name correctly, but still insists, INSISTS, on hanging out with you.
    And then tries to discreetly have a dissucssion (right in front of you) with her boyfriend about how to pronounce your name.
    Wish I had read this before I punched her in the face 😀
    (I totally didn’t do that, but t’was close) 😀
    Lilian recently posted..Photo Essay: There’s Something About Dingle

  9. On March 7, 2013 at 10:20 pm Naomi said:

    There are so many different types of annoying.

    I was travelling with a friend and we went on a day tour of the Plain of Jars in Laos and she kept asking the guide all these questions about the place. You could see the (mostly very young) rest of our group getting so annoyed with her for taking so long, actually being interested in where we were and wanting to know more. Apparently, being interested in your surroundings when being a tourist is annoying too!

    I think I became annoying to the group when we went to a rice distillery and I actually started having an in depth conversation with the makers about the whisky (something to do with me having spent far too many weeks in amongst the hill people becoming a rice whisky connoisseur). Knowing about rice whisky – also annoying…

    Of course the rest of the time I’m just plain awesome!!
    Naomi recently posted..Post heatwave blues

    • On March 8, 2013 at 8:04 am Sally said:

      I think we can all agree that if YOU are the one being annoying that doesn’t count as annoying — that just means the people who find you annoying are being annoying. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m being annoying.

  10. On March 7, 2013 at 10:28 pm Priya said:

    I can be annoying sometimes, and sometimes I do it on purpose. Though I haven’t had much travel experience, so this just means I’m annoying in general. Oh, and I was reminded today that I’m not being pushed enough. So um, come on, Sally! I need my pushy friend!
    Priya recently posted..The Girl Who Always Meets But Never Plans

    • On March 8, 2013 at 8:03 am Sally said:

      I’ve been a little too busy pushing myself. It’s the last week before Spring Break and it’s been TORTURE. I could have used a pushy friend to help me get to work this week.

  11. On March 8, 2013 at 3:20 am Jonathan Look, Jr. said:

    This is hilarious. I tend to be one that, to my own detriment usually falls into the “think of the stories” camp. I should move more toward the “don’t make eye contact” or “run away” camp.
    Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted..Top 12 Photos of 2012

    • On March 8, 2013 at 8:02 am Sally said:

      Definitely since starting my blog I’ve been in the “think of the stories” camp. But then I have to make sure the annoying people don’t find out about my blog.

  12. On March 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm Ryan @ Pause The Moment said:

    Excellent advice! This article is a riot…
    Ryan @ Pause The Moment recently posted..How to Start a Blog for Under $100!

  13. On March 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm Sine said:

    Love this post, Sally! I’m so glad you went into the advice column business. (and glad to have been the one being the inspiration. at least a little bit).

    Totally love the last part about needing annoying people (and yes, including yourself) so you can write good stories. To all people who aren’t writers: You can totally change your life by writing. Whenever you’re in a crappy situation, you can start thinking about the great story you’ll be writing about it. The story is usually the better the crappier the situation is. it’s a great way to pass the time. Like when you’re in line for the 5th time at the cell phone store because each time they tell you you need another document before you can get your phone. or when you’ve been stopped by traffic cops who’re threatening to arrest you (just imagine the great headline for your blog post if you’d spent the night in jail). Or like when you bust 4 tires in one afternoon in Namibia without another soul passing you on that godforsaken road (our kids got real good at changing tires, while I was busy taking notes for the blog post).

    So yeah, step 4 is really cool advice, guys. I mean, just imagining being on a bus with all those people has me salivating at the mouth about all the good blogging material!
    Sine recently posted..The Rose-Tinted Glasses of Hindsight

    • On March 10, 2013 at 9:24 pm Sally said:

      Agreed! Writing my blog has totally changed my perspective on crappy traveling happenings. Now I actually want things to go crappy so I have a bad story. I guess that doesn’t say good things about me, huh?

  14. On March 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm Maria said:

    good tips Sally, Here’s mine – and feel free to use it anywhere, anytime. Tell the annoying person they simply must go see “X,Y, or Z” – if act excited for them it works better – excuse yourself by saying you’re beat and just need some “me” time in this lovely cafe chair. Then point to the furthest store across the square (dry cleaners is fine) and tell them there’s a subway entrance inside. Wait for them to get to the store entrance and run like hell.
    Maria recently posted..Catch and Release

  15. On March 9, 2013 at 11:13 am jema said:

    I love your humor! I had to laugh at your photo and you saying “Guys, guys…”

    We have parked near annoying travelers in our RV, I think the guy with the giant pig roaster in his site, smoking out my home was a winner. Nothing like pig smoke soaking into everything you own. The kicker was he didn’t even invite us over for dinner. What’s up with that?

  16. On March 9, 2013 at 11:14 am jema said:

    Oh, and I don’t think you are unbrave!
    jema recently posted..TGIF Sharing on Friday (6)

  17. On March 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm Jill Raine said:

    Ha, Ha…love this post!!! I think cell phones are great distractors from annoying people. Sometimes I wil pretend like I’m having a conversation with someone on the other end of the make believe line. This usually works pretty well.

    Oh yeah, make sure your phone is turned on silent. If it rings during the middle of your conversation…you’re totally busted! (:
    Jill Raine recently posted..My Family Pees Higher Than Yours

  18. On March 11, 2013 at 4:58 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Dear Sally,

    I’ve never travelled with annoying people, but have encountered more than a few in Korea, of the why-don’t-people-here-speak-English-even-when-I-speak-slooooowly-and-LOUDLY variety. You know the kind that complain that their bibimbap isn’t like the steak and onion rings back home.

    I believe you’ve left one method off of this list – wear earphones! Nobody bothers the person with earphones. Well, not unless they’re SUPER annoying, in which case your advice of running away is the only possible remedy.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Shit My Korean Students Say: Part 2

  19. On March 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm Terry said:

    You MUST download one of the free fake call apps from the iphone app store. You can quickily set it to “call” you so that it gives you an “out” of the conversation. It’s just terrible when you suddenly get a call that you just HAVE to take.
    Terry recently posted..The Osa | Puntarenas, Costa Rica

  20. On March 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm Ceri said:

    I loved this because I’m applying it to the fact that I’m LIVING with annoying people right now.
    Ceri recently posted..My Mexicanisms

  21. On March 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm cosmoHallitan said:

    I often travel with my mom, which is way more fun that it sounds. But by the end of a two week trip, we are working each other’s last nerve. That’s when we split up for a day and get some much needed alone time. Once in Brussels, I took a day trip to Antwerp while she stayed in the city and watched a parade. We had lots to talk about at dinner and were no longer snapping at each other. Win-win!
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..The Alms-Giving Ceremony of Luang Prabang

    • On March 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm Sally said:

      Aww, you and your mom sound super cute. And I have totally done the split apart thing for the day when traveling with someone. I find it totally resets your mood to have a bit of time alone & makes you appreciate your companion the next time you see him/her.

  22. On March 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm Amanda said:

    So funny and so true! I am a HUGE advocate for traveling with people you know you will enjoy. If they bug you at home, they’ll bug you abroad! I actually got stuck on a vacation with a huge group of annoying people (my hubby’s family) and at one point I got so annoyed that I RAN AWAY! Yup. I took off and took solace in a movie theater. Although I succeeded in causes mass panic amongst my loved ones, I did get nice a break from the crazies.

    • On March 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha. I would probably have done the same thing! Although, I’m not so sure I would have come back. I’d just stay in the movie theater all the livelong day!

  23. On December 18, 2014 at 11:56 am Katie said:

    Hilarious post! Absolutely loved it.

    Annoying people can ruin a trip or any situation. I usually find it best just to completely avoid them and pretend they don’t exist.

    • On December 25, 2014 at 11:21 am Sally said:

      This also is a good tactic. I find not making eye contact with them helps you pretend they don’t exist better. I’ve had a lot of coworkers I used that tactic on. 🙂

  24. On July 26, 2015 at 2:34 pm Linzi Clark said:

    Hilarious post – so reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by loud chewing! Crunching crisps is the worst!
    Linzi Clark recently posted..5 epic ways to survive a bad day at work


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