Does your right to free speech end when your vacation begins?

The plea for help came from a woman who was on a guided tour recently. She’d experienced a few problems with the product, from poor organization to surly service. Along the way, she exercised her right to free speech by criticizing every aspect of the vacation.

One of the organizers warned her several times that her perpetual complaining could get her kicked off the tour. Other guests found it disruptive, he claimed. But she just turned up the volume.

And then her tour company did it: It booted her from the trip.

“I didn’t think they would,” said the shocked tourist.

The decision stuck. She claimed she had to find her way back home on her own, too. If they’d only told her they were serious about the expulsion, the woman said, then she would have quieted down.

Yeah, right.

Travelers get themselves kicked off their trip for all kinds of reasons. Here’s a UK hotel guest who was booted from his hotel for writing an unflattering review. That happens on planes, too. Vacation rentals? Check.

Of course, you can get expelled from almost anywhere for being noisy, annoying or having poor hygiene. But for speaking your mind?


I’ll let you debate the right or wrong of it in a minute. But for now, let me assure you that you have almost zero rights to express yourself when you’re traveling. If you don’t believe me, try your latest terrorist joke on a TSA screener.

Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.

Meantime, here are a few thoughts on how to speak your mind without losing your trip:

Talk to the right person. If you have a problem with the service, talk to someone who can actually do something about it instead of whining to anyone who will listen.

Focus on the big flaws. No one likes a laundry list when it comes to complaints. Make sure you narrow everything down to one or two big problems, and let the little ones go.

Publish later. Save the takedown on TripAdvisor or Yelp until after your flight, hotel stay or vacation. Otherwise you could find yourself seeking alternate transportation or accommodations.

As to the question of whether travelers should be allowed to say what’s on their mind, that’s really debatable. Speaking from personal experience, I’m not interested in knowing how my seatmate feels about the narrow seat pitch in economy class, and I’m definitely not keen on spending a few hours next to someone who bellyaches about her tour.

If there’s one takeaway from stories of loudmouths being expelled, it’s this: Don’t be that person. If not for my sake, then for yours.

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