TripAdvisor: Spray-on sunscreen requires a spritz of courtesy

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Q: I sent my daughter to summer camp with spray-on sunscreen, but they asked her to bring a lotion formula instead. One of the counselors apparently has issues with how it smells. This got me thinking. What are the guidelines for using spray-on sunscreen in public?

Obviously, it would be best to apply it in private, but sometimes that's not practical. I see people doing this all the time at amusement parks, the beach, etc. -- sometimes pretty close to others. Is it better not to use it at all because of the smell factor?

A: It's best to put on your sunscreen before you go out, but as you say, sometimes it's impossible to avoid touching it up in public. And the spray-on kind is incredibly convenient if you're trying to apply it to antsy little kids, simply because it's faster than lotion. That said, some of the spray-on formulas really, really stink, so it's no surprise people who are sensitive to fragrances have an issue with them.

You should try not to use spray-on sunscreen right near other people. If it's completely unavoidable, spray a little bit into your hand and rub it in rather than creating a big aerosol cloud that makes everyone choke. Also, no spraying near food -- yours or anybody else's. And while I usually recommend taking care of personal grooming in the bathroom, that's actually not an ideal place to apply spray-on sunscreen. Unless there's really good ventilation, the smell will linger, and the spray can make ceramic tile extremely slick. If you're at, say, an amusement park, you'd be better off finding a bench in an uncrowded area and taking care of the sunscreen there, rather than doing it in the ladies' or men's room.

Q: I hate it when people on a bus or train leave stuff on the seat beside them when it's obvious there are other passengers looking for seats. Move your darn bags, already -- don't make people ask you if the seat beside you is taken.

A: Couldn't have said it better myself. If it is clear people are going to need to sit beside strangers -- the horror, the horror!-- the grown-up thing to do is to move your things before someone asks you to. Actually, if you want etiquette bonus points, move your stuff and offer the newly empty seat to someone who's looking for one.

Q: If there are no seats available at the bar but a table opens up, is it OK to move to it even if you're not ordering food?

A: Depends on the bar. Some places are fine with it; others want to reserve the tables for customers who are eating as well as drinking. It's best to ask a member of the waitstaff.


Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at


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