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Travel Gratuity: Who To Tip and How Much

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Most of us know who to tip in our everyday lives, but when we travel, we run into a new set of people who help us such as valets, housekeepers, taxi drivers, to just name a few. Who do we tip and how much do we give them? The answers, frustratingly, vary, and also depend on a country’s culture.

Let’s start with travel within the U.S. first. You should tip the following people:

Car Valets—Tip when you pick up your car (though you are free to tip when you drop off, but it is not expected). Give $1 to $3.

Concierge—No tip is required for general service like giving directions. If they give you specific help such as getting you tickets, tip about $5.

Room Service—Check the menu when ordering. If you see gratuity added, then the server’s tip has already been added to the bill. If you don’t, tip at least 10% and up to 15 to 20% if you have a complicated or large order. (If you see that the hotel adds a service charge, be aware that the money will likely not go to the server, so still tip.)

Housekeepers—You should leave $2 to $3 per day for an average hotel and $3 to $5 for a luxury hotel. If you have kids with you in the room, you might want to tip a few dollars more. AARP suggested putting the money in an envelope with “Thank You” on the front so the housekeepers know it is for them. Also, make sure to tip daily because the housekeepers can change on a daily basis. If you wait to tip until the end of the trip, some of the earlier housekeepers won’t get their money.

Doorman—Doorman can help you with your luggage and hailing a cab. Give them $1-2 per bag, $1 for helping you hail a cab.

Taxi Drivers—Taxi rides can be expensive, but still make sure you tip about 15% and $1 to $2 for each bag the driver handles.

Waiters/Bartenders—Waiters should get 15% for good service and 20% for outstanding service. Poor service should get 10% or less. Keep in mind that some problems such as slow food delivery may be the result of the kitchen, and your server shouldn’t be penalized. Bartenders should get at least $1 per drink to $3 for a complicated mixed drink. Tip .50 at least for soda.

Tour guides—A good tour guide can make a tour pleasant and enlightening. Tip up to 20% of the ticket price for such service. Otherwise, if the service was moderate, tip $3 to $5 per person in your group.

Baggage handlers—This is one type of tip that may be phasing out as many airlines now charge a baggage handling fee. However, if you fly one of the rare airlines that does not charge this fee, tip $1 to $2 per bag.

Tipping Abroad

If you travel abroad, everything you know about tipping in the U.S. should be set aside. For instance, European restaurants typically include the gratuity right on the bill so no tipping is necessary. In other countries, tipping is considered in poor taste or flaunting wealth.

Before traveling, take the time to learn about the customs in the country you are visiting. Fodor’s is a great online site to learn about the country you are visiting and the customs, including tipping.

A blogger, Jay Travels, offers a chart that breaks down how much to tip by country and service. This would be a valuable resource to print off and keep with you when traveling.

If you are frugal with your money, tipping may be a difficult thing to do. However, people are providing you a service and should be rewarded with their actions, especially when you are traveling and out of your element.

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9 Responses to “Travel Gratuity: Who To Tip and How Much”

  1. Scott says:

    We recently overhead a worker at JFK airport explaining (rather rudely) to a woman traveling through that anything less than a $5 tip in New York city is offensive. So location (and its cost of living) may be something to keep in mind.

    • Ray says:

      What arrogance, its a tip, it isn’t required. I understand people who complain about bad tippers, but don’t do it to their face. Cost of living in new york does not warrant a 200% increase in tip.

  2. Good information.

    Unless someone gives me personal and exceptional service, tipping has always seemed counter intuitive to me. Why am I paying this person to do their job instead of their employer paying them .

    I think tipping has gone from a nice expression of gratitude for exceptional personal service to an expectation for doing the job you were hired to do.

    Never-the-less, I do tip and appreciate the above information!

  3. Rob says:

    One service person that isn’t always appreciated is the pizza delivery person.

    Especially at papa johns where the company charges a delivery fee.

    Many customers think that the delivery person gets that money and does not tip. That fee is not for the driver! It is written on the pizza box.

    The expense of the vehicle tires alone can be big bucks nevermind the price of gasoline. They drive from 50-100 plus miles a night.

    A minimum of $ 2.00 please!

    • Ray says:

      That seems very shady to charge a delivery fee, that doesn’t go to the driver.

    • ziglet19 says:

      We order pizza exclusively from Papa John’s and always provide a tip in addition to the delivery fee. The delivery person always thanks me profusely, and I’m really surprised that they don’t receive more tips.

  4. 60schild says:

    Yep, I worked part-time at Domino’s for three years. The “delivery charge” does not go to the driver. Also it seemed that the harder it rained the busier we got. Some of the better customers kept in mind the weather and the distance we traveled and tipped accordingly. Some barely tipped, as in cents (e.g., $0.13 or $0.27) and some would not even cover the driver’s expense for that trip.

  5. Jamie says:

    I can’t imagine tipping $3 for a drink. My standard tip is $1. No matter how complicated, it only takes a minute or two at the most to make a mixed drink. I tip on beer, too, so half the time I pay someone just to take the cap off. I figure it all evens out at $1 a pop.

  6. Jim says:

    As someone who worked as a tipped employee in the past, I know what it is like to receive tips so I always tip when appropriate and adjust my tips based on service. I travel quite often and, if alone, like to eat at the bar. If a bartender gives perfunctory service they get about 15%, however those bartenders that go out of their way to provide exceptional service get rewarded handsomely. I also try not to consider things out of their control such as quality of food, speed of kitchen and crowds.

    A place where tipping can save you money is the airport with curbside check-in. Once, when traveling with the family I was concerned that 1 bag was pushing the 50 pound limit which would have cost me $50. When approaching the bag check person I made sure that he saw the $20 bill that was going to go into HIS pocket. Not surprisingly, the bags were tagged and went down the conveyor belt bypassing the scale completely.

    One quandry I did have this week was staying at a 5 star hotel. The valet took my car, the doorman brought my luggage to the check-in desk and a bellman brought my luggage to my room. I tipped the bellman but afterwards wondered if I should tip all 3? Thoughts?


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