Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours. ~Swedish Proverb

Thirty-something years ago I sat around the dining-room table with my in-laws as we all learned a new set of rules for the game of Uno. We’d been playing the game together for years, but my sister-in-law Barb, who was the newest member of the family, had a few extra rules that her family played by. The first hand progressed until someone got stung by “Barb’s Rules.” After listening patiently to the comments, Barb calmly explained, “Did I forget to tell you rule number one? ‘No whining’.”

It’s been the number one rule in our extended family ever since and it’s the number one rule of traveling happy. You came here looking for secrets to help you suffer the fools who get in the way of your travel pleasure.
Telling you to stop whining is kind of like saying, “Be the happy traveler by being the happy traveler.” Well, that is what I am saying. You could be getting in the way of your own traveling pleasure, and don’t even know it.

You have to decide that you are going to be that person. You have to decide that you are going to have a good time from the moment you leave home until the moment you put the suitcase back in the hall closet.

Whining gets in the way of everything pleasurable. Whining irritates other people and causes them to whine, thereby irritating you further. Whining is habitual. Half the time when we’re whining we don’t even know we’re doing it because we’ve been doing it so frequently and for so long. And if you think that you can’t travel with your kids because the whining would drive you crazy, then you might first want to stop infecting them with the whining bug. Learn how to stop your own whining, then teach them how to do the same.

Unlearn the Habit

The first step in unlearning the whining habit is learning to distinguish statements that contain information that is useful, necessary, or in some way uplifting from statements that lack purpose other than venting some sort of discomfort on your part. Use the letters “UNU” as a memory aide to help. Ask yourself, “Useful? Necessary? Uplifting?” before words leave your lips. Almost everything else is whining.

Think about the effect your words might have on anyone who hears them. Will others have new knowledge that they needed after you speak? Will they feel better after hearing what you have to say? It’s doubtful that you really intend to spoil someone’s day when you whine, but that can be the unintended consequence and the sad thing is that that spoiled day usually comes right back around to you.

Timing plays a big part in distinguishing between UNU statements and whining. Consider the statement, “It’s freezing and wet!” Saying it to a travel companion as you prepare to head out the door for a walk in the park is useful. Saying it after you are both standing in the cold rain is whining. Voicing a potentially valid complaint at the wrong time can put a damper on everyone’s moment, including your own.

Picture this scenario: a pair of newlyweds arrives in their hotel suite. At first glance everything seems perfect—rose petals scattered across a plush bed, champagne chilling in an ice bucket, soft lighting throughout the room. Someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to make the moment of arrival special. Just as the groom moves in for a romantic kiss his new wife notices that their view of the ocean is partially blocked by an adjacent building and starts on a tirade about false advertising and the ineptitude of the travel agent, then heads toward the phone to call the front desk to get a better room. Big moment killer.

Does this mean that the bride shouldn’t voice her concerns to either the travel agent or the hotel? Of course not, but there’s a big difference between whining about something and taking the appropriate action at the appropriate time when something is not as it should be.

We are always astonished when guests tell us about something that was wrong with their accommodations at our resort as they check out, or worse, in the online review they post once they get home. If your air conditioner isn’t working and it’s well over a hundred degrees outside, then letting management know about it falls under the heading of necessary information, not whining, assuming of course, that you handle it correctly.

Learn to seek assistance without whining.

  1. Use positive language. Temper your concerns by using phrases like “I think…,” or “It seems…”
  2. Never place blame. You’ve gotten yourself lost, so don’t call up and attack a hotel clerk by saying something like, “Your website has the wrong directions!” You’ve put them on the defensive from the beginning and unless they have exceptional patience you will likely receive defensive service once you finally do arrive.
  3. Start the conversation with a compliment if possible. “We love our room, but it seems that the air conditioner may not be working properly.”
  4. Ask for what you really want. When our daughter was little she would often whine, “I’m hungry.” I stopped it by asking her what she thought she would get if she walked into McDonalds and made that statement. If what you want is a couple of extra towels, then simply ask for them. Telling housekeeping that there aren’t enough towels in your room is whining and complaining online about the lack of towels after you leave is unproductive.
  5. Speak to the correct person. This is sometimes a challenge, but at least try to start in the right place. Complaining about your air conditioning to the cook who is on a smoke break outside the restaurant back door is a waste of everyone’s time. You could, however, ask the cook to point you in the right direction for maintenance help.
  6. Pay attention to timing. Remember the honeymooners. Don’t go barging into a crowd of people at the registration desk whining about your partially blocked view; it won’t get you as much assistance as a discreet conversation. And neither will posting a bad review online without ever having asked for a better room—that kind of whining usually gets you nothing, trust me.
  7. Don’t blow things out of proportion. We once had a guest that went on a rant that included everything from her cabin door sticking slightly to a light bulb being burned out, finally ending with her anger over the fact that the sleeper sofa was unusable. That was probably because it wasn’t a sleeper sofa.

The ultimate non-whine, is simply to ask a question. Just be careful to watch your tone of voice to make this to work properly. You’ve got to seem sincere and actually interested in the answer to your question. “Is there a trick to getting the hot water to come on in the shower?” makes you a seeker of assistance rather than a complainer. It humbles you, and humble people in need of help almost always get what they want.
So there it is. The number one secret of happy travelers, like it or not, is that they don’t whine. They may, on occasion, complain, but they do so at the appropriate time, in a tone that takes other people’s feelings into consideration, and with the goal of simply correcting something that is amiss in an effort to improve their own journey.

Most importantly, they do not spread the germ of the unhappy traveler, for in the words of Thomas Fuller, “If an ass goes traveling, he will not come home a horse.” Leave the ass at home and see if you aren’t a much happier traveler.