Q: I will be traveling to Europe later this year. I don't look much like my passport picture anymore -- I've lost a lot of weight and quit coloring my hair. Do you think it will be a problem? Should I renew my passport early? It expires in 2013.
A: State Department guidelines say you should apply for a new passport if you cannot be identified from your old passport photo. Changing your hair color does not mean you need a new passport (otherwise, Lady Gaga wouldn't cross borders very often), but your weight loss might be. They mention "a significant amount of weight loss or gain" as a reason one may need a new passport. (The other reasons, in case anyone's wondering, are if you've had "significant facial surgery or trauma," changed gender identity or "added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos.") I don't know how much weight you've lost, or if the State Department would consider it "significant," but since you'll have to renew your passport next year anyway, it might not be a bad idea to do it before your trip.
Q: Recently you said it's nice to dress up if one is attending a Broadway show. What about off-Broadway shows? I'm going to New York to see "Sleep No More," which is in a converted warehouse in the Meatpacking District, so I'm wondering if the same rules apply.
A: "Sleep No More" is a bizarre and amazing show. For anyone who hasn't heard of it, it's the plot of "Macbeth" performed mostly via dance on multiple floors of an old warehouse. Audience members wear white plastic carnival masks and are asked not to speak. The set is incredibly detailed, and several scenes take place at the same time in different parts of the building. You can go wherever you want and do whatever you want -- follow Lady Macbeth from scene to scene, rifle through drawers, eat candy in a candy shop, etc. It's definitely not the "Macbeth" you remember from high school.
And it's the one show in New York I unequivocally do not recommend dressing up for. You're going to spend three hours sprinting up and down stairs. So if you show up in a fancy dress and stiletto heels or in a three-piece suit, you'll be miserable. I wouldn't wear anything grubby -- it's still professional theater -- but you'll want to see as much as you can, so choose something lightweight that you can run in.
Q: If the person who checks you into your hotel takes you and your luggage to your room, do you tip them? They're often management trainees, not real bellboys, and it feels awkward to tip them.
A: If they're doing a bellboy's job, I think they should get a bellboy's tips (generally $1 or $2 per bag). I doubt they'll refuse to take them, so you needn't feel awkward.
Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org .