How Much to Tip when I travel?

Fran's tipping guide for the holidays

Tipping guidelines for keeping up with etiquette while traveling.

There are general travel tipping guidelines, but during the holidays it’s even more important to remember to thank those with whom you interact and accept their services. Check out my videos on the subject of tipping: one on general tipping etiquette and another on tipping for travel.

When you’re traveling it all starts right at the airport with the skycap. Think of tipping $1-2 per bag for curbside check-in unless they are doing additional work for you – maybe you need extra assistance from curbside to the desk for a special request. In those cases, then a flat $20 for an “all in” tip is appropriate.

For tipping for hotel maids and housekeeping, typically the tip should be $3 to 5 per night of your stay. It varies due to the hotel I’m staying in or how much mess I’ve made.  If you have several people in one room (think kids, etc) then it would be closer to $5/night.  At the end of your visit, place the tips in an envelope clearly marked ‘housekeeping’ and give it to the front desk. They’ll make sure that it is divided among the members of the staff who actually ‘touched’ your room during your entire visit.

The porter or bellman that delivers your luggage to your room deserves something too. Typically, this is $1 to $2 per bag; but add a bit more if the bags are heavy or awkward. And don’t forget to tip when the porter comes to retrieve your bags at the end of your stay.

Think about the person who delivers that extra pillow, gets you more hangers for your closet, or produces the toothbrush you forgot. The tip should be $1-2 for each time someone brings something to your room.

If you’ve ordered room service – read the check. If there is a tip included it will be a separate line item listed as ‘Gratuity Added.’  If it says, ‘convenience fee’ or ‘service charge,’ these charges do not go to the server. So, if you don’t see ‘gratuity added’ then add a tip of about 15% to 20%.

I tip taxi drivers all the time as well as Uber/Lyft drivers. That tip should be $1 to $5 depending on the distance and service received.

There are many instances where you’ll want to calculate the tip based on a percentage of the bill. This tip percentage varies depending on the service and even the state. For instance, in New York City at higher end restaurants a 25% tip is often expected. In Colorado, the usual tip would be 20%. Many people tip on the ‘pre-tax’ amount of the check but others find it easier just to calculate it on the total. Either method is acceptable. But, if the service has been bad then do not fret about dropping the tip to 10%. A low tip sends a sharp message to the server. If the service is particularly bad, make sure you speak to the manager before you leave.

Remember the bartender whenever you sit at the bar, even if you’ve just ordered a pre-dinner drink while waiting for your table.  A minimum tip of $1 to 2 per drink is appropriate – especially if it’s a fancy mixed cocktail!

In Europe and other non-tipping countries, the ‘tip’ is already built into the price of the food or service. In Asia – like Japan – don’t bother tipping. They won’t accept it.  Check the internet for the tipping guidelines for the countries you will be visiting.

Back in the U.S.A., tips are often the major source of income for wait staff and other service providers.  In some states the minimum wage for ‘tipped employees’ is very low – employers anticipate that the tipped income will make up the difference. However, always check your bill before tipping as some restaurants have started adding an automatic gratuity to the bill.

Be a good traveler and have fun!

Leave a Reply