William Hanson weighs in on the dos and don’ts of the summer getaway

The summer holidays are upon us – but how do your plans measure up against those of the poshest families in Britain?

Here, FEMAIL’s etiquette expert William Hanson breaks down the hallmarks of an elite escape, from accommodation to location to luggage, which – perhaps surprisingly – should not match. 

According to William, the truly posh wouldn’t be caught dead arriving at the airport with 10 pristine matching cases in tow – even if they are Louis Vuitton.  

Aside from carting around well-loved luggage, the upper classes aren’t totally averse to flying economy either, according to William – even if it is purely for the people-watching potential. 

But there are some areas where the elite won’t compromise – destination being one of them. So if you want a posh holiday this summer, think Dordogne, not Dubai…  

Etiquette expert William Hanson gives his top tips on enjoying a first class holiday this summer

Holiday time is here again, although those without children went away weeks ago, darling.

But for those governed by the school holidays (fingers crossed public school holidays, which start earlier to allow the upper middles and aristocrats to have a holiday head-start) here is what to consider about your social standing when packing up and jetting off.

Private lives

Some may say that staying in an hotel is to be avoided, but of course it depends on the type of holiday and hotel in question.

Entry-level social climbers will want to try and get an invitation to stay in a private villa, of course. 

Ideally, for ingenues, without the owners being there, so they don’t make any mistakes in front of them and spoil their chances of a return trip.

Aristocrats and royalty prefer private islands and villas, rather than hotels, so they can behave badly and get away with it.

The Destination

A European jaunt is probably still one of the zeniths of smarter holidays, but even within this there is a very clear hierarchy.

Italy is at the top of the social scale, so try to pick holidaying in Tuscany or Umbria if at all possible.

France is a quite good option, too, although has less cache and can be more mainstream middle class – but the south of France is always preferable to the north.

Spain, on the other hand, for all the charm certain parts may have, is probably best left for the spaghetti and chips brigade.

When it comes to picking a destination, Spain should be ruled out for the upper classes  and you should opt for Italy or an African safari holiday is 'quite good fun'

When it comes to picking a destination, Spain should be ruled out for the upper classes  and you should opt for Italy or an African safari holiday is ‘quite good fun’

Anything that involves guests wearing a wristband is, of course, very downmarket. Sorry, no. It’s just plain common. There, I used it. The C word. I’m not sorry.

African safaris are quite good fun on occasion and liked particularly amongst those from smarter sets in their late 20s, who are amazed to move from the Sloane jungle to the actual one. Although the claws are sharper back in SW3.

Dubai is now the destination of choice for reality stars and the nouveau riche, which is a shame as the late 90s, when there were about three hotels and hardly any high-rise development, it was a hidden oasis enjoyed by people who would never entertain the notion of attending anything called a bottomless brunch.

Anywhere that requires a wristband is 'common' (pictured)

Anywhere that requires a wristband is ‘common’ (pictured)

America is a bit of a funny one for the British in terms of working out what is ‘posh’ and what is not, as America has practically no overt class indicators at all and so can be enjoyed by all types of people from all backgrounds.


Wherever you go, if you want to be really swish, your luggage shouldn’t match.

Truly top drawer people’s luggage does not match entirely and looks well travelled. You can spot an infrequent flyer a mile off by their pristine baggages and immaculate contraptions.

If you have more money than sense, and little class, then matchy matchy designer luggage is for you.

And there is no point having your favourite airline’s frequent flyer tags on your bags unless you are at the top level. Silver level and below is hardly worth making a fuss about.


For middle class folk the stigma about flying with an orange is slowly fading, if not faded.

For them, budget airlines can be “such a hoot” and it makes for much more interesting people watching than flying with a more stayed airline – not to mention it can make them feel relieved to have the family and friends they do.

Heathrow airport (which the older U types still doggedly call ‘London Airport’, ignoring the newer additions to the British aeronautical collection) is preferable for many to fly from due to it’s relatively convenient access links being to the west of London, so favouring a majority of the countryside dwellings of the upper sets.

Terminal drinking

It is not the done thing to drink at airports, especially in the morning. It is a continual puzzle as to why the lower echelons feel the need to down vats of beer and Prosecco before the sun has fully risen.

Your luggage shouldn't match and William says that top drawer passenger's luggage will look 'well-travelled' 

Your luggage shouldn’t match and William says that top drawer passenger’s luggage will look ‘well-travelled’ 

Perhaps this is their own special way to cope with budget airlines and the lower-grade airports?

Party time

Just because the upper sets are on holiday it doesn’t mean the parties and socialising has to stop, especially when staying at a house near to where others who mix in similar circles are.

Be prepared to accept an invitation to dine at the table of others, but do be prepared to host them back. You get some odd combos of guests but that – to them – can add to the fun of it all.

Staying at the same table for dinner, every night, at the same hotel restaurant, eating the same or similar food is very lower middle behaviour. Embrace variety! 

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