While there are dozens of items on the average traveler’s packing checklist, one item commonly omitted is tip money. This can be a confusing topic- who to tip, when, how much? Here are some guidelines that may help.
If a rental car shuttle driver is helping load heavy suitcases, it’s a good idea to tip at least a dollar or two per bag. Double that for airport skycaps who assist in checking your bags. And depending on the length of the trip from counter to gate, a wheelchair attendant should receive $5 and up.
Arriving by taxi? Taxi drivers should receive 15 to 20% for good service. You can adjust upward or downward for a particularly good or bad ride. If you drive in with your own car and use the hotel’s valet service, there’s always the question of when to tip- coming or going? Answer: Definitely going. Tipping $2 to $5 when the valet retrieves your car when you are leaving is fairly common. Bellhops should receive $3 to $5 a bag, obviously on the lower end for a gym bag or shopping bag and on the higher end for carry-ons and larger suitcases. Tipping the concierge can be tricky, so think of it in terms of hierarchy. A simple dinner reservation is worth a tip of $5 to $10. But if he or she is scoring you tickets to Hamilton or pulling strings to get you front of the line at a trendy club, it clearly demands much more — even upward of $50. The concierge doesn’t necessarily expect it, but it is always appreciated. Your hotel maid also deserves a tip, and most experts suggest $2 to $5 a day, a little more for a larger room or a suite. Clearly mark the envelope and place it on the nightstand or another prominent place. If you are staying at a high-end hotel/resort and have butler service, the general rule of thumb is 5% of the hotel bill.
You should know the tipping policy of your cruise line before you go. In general, the mainstream cruise lines will charge you about $14 a day per person in gratuities. That money is split among the crew members you come in contact with most every day, mostly your housekeeping and dining staff. And some cruise lines, such as Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas, have strict no tipping policies because such charges are often built into the cost of the ticket. Your bar bill will likely already include a 18 percent tip on it, but just like a night out at any establishment a few dollars up front will certainly serve you well with your bartender. Spa treatments also usually include a 15 to 20 percent tip on the bill. It is still customary to give a couple of dollars to porters who help with your bags and for a room service order. Shore excursions are sometimes set up by companies separate from the cruise line, but you should generally tip your guide $2 to $4 for half-a-day, double that for full-day excursions.
Did you raft down the Colorado River and live to tell about it? Think about tipping your guide $25 per day per person in your party.
Tour Bus Drivers
While not necessarily customary, tipping the driver a couple of dollars when you are returned to the hotel or to the port is a nice gesture. There are times when a tour organizer might ask the bus passengers to drop a dollar or two in a jar for the driver as well.
Again, this is an area where you and your travel agent must do some research, because different countries have varying, and sometimes opposite, rules and customs. In some countries, such as Japan and China, tipping, especially at a restaurant, is considered an insult. In countries like the United Arab Emirates, tipping is a government mandate and is often added to a bill. Make sure you're familiar with expected tipping in your foreign destination!
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Ann Jones, CTC, MCC