Travel Tipping Guide
Travel and tipping go hand in hand, but it can be difficult to figure out who to tip and when. Probably the hardest part of all of this is remembering to have cash on hand in what is increasingly becoming a cashless society.
If you are traveling internationally, this means having local currency in small denominations. For this, it’s best to hit the ATM when you arrive and buy a soda or something to get change for the large bills you’ll receive from the ATM. I’ve put together this travel tipping guide to help answer some frequently asked questions about tipping while traveling.
Let’s start with the moment you land at the airport. Whether you are renting a car or using a transportation service, you’ll need cash for your first tip as soon as you leave the airport. Here are some gratuity guidelines for transportation.
Airport Shutte: If you rent a car at a larger airport, chances are, you will be going off-site to the car rental counter on a shuttle. If the driver helps load your bags on and off the shuttle bus, be prepared to tip them about $2 per bag.
Rideshare Service: Most rideshare apps, including Uber and Lyft, now allow you to add a tip after your ride has concluded. 10% to 20% of your fare is the recommended tip, depending on the level of service you received.
How much you should tip at a hotel will vary by the kind of hotel, but in general, the more expensive the hotel, the more you can plan to tip, as you will have a lot of different staff members helping you throughout your stay.
At a four- or five-star resort, you should bring a lot of singles or fives to cover tips throughout your stay. The more high-maintenance your travel style, the more you should be prepared to tip. Your tips should be proportionate to the effort made by the team member who is assisting you.
As soon as you arrive at the hotel, you will likely be greeted by the valet staff who will park your car. $5 is a reasonable tip for the valet staff. Generally, the tip is expected when retrieving your car to leave the hotel, not when you are returning to the hotel to have your car parked. Of course, you are free to tip both times if you wish, but it’s not necessary.
At many resorts, the valet and the bell staff are the same team members, but in some cases they are separate. The bellman will take care of your luggage; either storing it for you until your room is ready, delivering it to your room or collecting it from your room when you are ready to check out. This is really where the tipping will vary by your travel style. If you have a ton of luggage for them to deliver, you should tip around $10. For a few suitcases on a cart, $5 would be reasonable, and a couple of singles are a nice gesture when you are retrieving your bags from the luggage storage area.
I always tip at least $2 per bag when they are carried to my room, and I may increase that based on the quality of the hotel.
Depending on the type of hotel, a property may also have a doorman. A doorman’s job is to welcome all guests, and assist with hailing taxi’s, organize the house car, unload luggage, and assist with driving directions. A doorman will also hold VIP and “fancy” cars in front of the entrance to the hotel.
If you are parking and just going to be a few minutes, and don’t want to pay for valet, the doorman is the guy to tip and sweet talk to hold your vehicle up front. Tip $5 for this.
Tip $1 for every taxi hailed, $2 per suitcase handled, and $5 for arranging the house car.
House Car Driver
Many hotels have a house car, which is used to transport guests. Generally a house car is free of charge for all guests, but does not travel very far from the property. Depending on the vehicle and service $5-10 is sufficient per ride.
I once had a house car driver wait 15 minutes for me to get migraine medicine from a pharmacy, which was very much appreciated. In this case I gave him much more. If a driver goes out of his way, be sure to tip extra, because he or she could have picked up another group in that time.
Some properties will also reserve the driver and the car for special appointments, dinner reservations, and airport transfers. These longer distances will normally come with a fee, but be sure to also take care of your driver. Anywhere from $10-$50, depending on distance traveled.
Many travelers don’t take advantage of this amazing hotel service. The concierge’s sole job is to help make your visit more enjoyable. They can book tee times, spa appointments, and restaurant reservations. As with the bellman, how much to tip the concierge is commensurate with the level of service you are requesting. A simple reservation would warrant a $5 tip, while a complete multi-day itinerary with recommendations and directions is worth at least a $10 tip.
Keep in mind if you are requesting special reservations or something difficult for the concierge, to leave a larger tip.
Tipping your hotel maid is covered, in extensive detail, how much to tip hotel housekeeping, however in general, $2 to $5 per day is the recommended tip for your hotel maid.
Again, this depends on how messy you are and how many people are using the room. If you are staying several days and tipping well daily, you will likely receive pretty good service throughout your stay.
Every once in a while, you want to stay in for the night and enjoy some guilt-free TV and relaxation. Room service is a favorite guilty pleasure, but it comes at a steep price! Resort food is already expensive, and for room service, they tack on sales tax, a service charge, and a delivery fee.
The delivery fee is generally a flat rate, while the service charge is a percentage of your meal, usually around 20%. That is a gratuity, but it is often split amongst the entire team, so if you receive exceptional service from the person who delivers your food, feel free to add a bit more when you sign for your bill.
Another fun part of travel is going on tours. Whether it’s a walking tour, a food tour or a safari, you will have at least one tour guide and sometimes a driver. 10% to 20% of your tour price is a good guideline for your tour guide. On shorter tours, it’s appropriate to tip the driver a few bucks, or a full day tour would warrant a $5 to $10 tip per person.
The tipping tips above apply to most Western countries and hotels, however, there are additional implications to consider when traveling to other countries. Americans, in particular, are known for over-tipping and this can either be insulting or even cause issues with the local economy.
The best thing to do is to research your destination before you leave; ask other travelers, read guide books or travel forums and figure out what the appropriate tipping customs are in the places you plan to visit.
One final suggestion I would make is to always tip in cash when possible. Of course, you can write in a tip on most receipts for services received, but the only way to ensure that 100% of that tip goes to the person providing the service is to hand them cash.
What is your approach to tipping while traveling? Have we left anyone off the list who should also be tipped?