How to Practice Good Tipping Etiquette While on Vacation

Whether you’re en route on a two-week vacation or creating a budget for your next big trip, there’s one cost that’s commonly forgotten in the process: gratuity. Although you might’ve just spent hundreds or thousands of dollars booking your flight and accommodations, you’ll likely encounter staff throughout your vacation who merit a tip.

As you’re enjoying your relaxing getaway, consider expressing thanks to the people who’ve made your vacation an experience to remember. Here’s how to practice good tipping etiquette on your next trip.

Tipping etiquette in the U.S.

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Figuring out how much to tip depends on the type of service you received and how well it was done. In the U.S., the general rule of thumb is to tip 15% to 20% of the bill or service cost. If you feel the service you received was exceptional, you may choose to tip higher than 20%.

When it comes to the question of who to tip, an easy way to decipher this is based on which staff earns an hourly wage. According to etiquette experts, you’re not expected to provide gratuity to salaried employees (although, it’s your prerogative to offer a tip if you feel they went above and beyond to help you).

One thing to keep in mind: tipping etiquette experts never advise you forego tipping on account of poor service. Instead, if the service was truly egregious, consider tipping on the low end (e.g. 15%, and if you’re really miffed, the lowest 10%) and speak to the manager about your experience. 

How much to tip when on vacation

While you’re on vacation, you’ll encounter a few people along the way who continuously work to make your trip the best it can be. These people can span from hotel housekeepers to your rainforest hiking guide.

The following breakdown is from the Smarter Travel Tipping guide as well as etiquette experts. It can help you decide how much to tip across different service staff:

Hotels

  • Valet: $2-5 on delivery of your vehicle

  • Bellhop: $1-2 per bag

  • Concierge: $5-10 per request; $10-20 for special service; no tip necessary for simple suggestions, like a nearby coffee shop or directions

  • Doorman: $1-2 per bag

  • Housekeeping: $3-5 daily, more if you left the place a disaster

  • Room service: $1-3, plus 15% to 20% of the bill

Transportation

  • Curbside baggage check: $1-2 per bag

  • Airport shuttles: $1-2 per person

  • Taxi or rideshare drivers: 10% to 20% of the fare

Dining

  • Waiter: 15% to 20% of the bill

  • Bartender: $1 per drink or 10% to 20% of the bar tab

  • Maitre d’: $5-10

  • Sommelier: 10% to 20% of the wine bill

  • Coatroom attendant: $1-2 per coat

  • Bathroom attendant: $1 per visit

Activities

  • Tour guide: 10% to 20% of the tour price

  • Tour bus driver: $1-3 daily

  • Spa services: 15% to 20% of the bill

  • Caddies: $15-25 per person

When you run your final tipping calculation after your vacation, you might be surprised at how much went into expressing gratitude for the great service you received. Before handing out tips, it’s good practice to check whether gratuity was automatically added to your service. If you or your party were already charged gratuity, there’s no expectation to add an additional tip unless you feel it’s particularly deserved.

Tipping etiquette when traveling abroad

U.S. tipping etiquette and expectations vary from state to state, but tipping customs can differ even more when traveling to another country. For good measure, consider researching the tourism website of the country you’re visiting to learn more about common practice around tipping.

When possible, it’s always best to tip in the local currency. This ensures that the full amount you’ve tipped goes to the staff, and not to currency exchange fees.

Practice Thoughtful Tipping 

At the end of the day, the figures above are simply a guide of what’s commonly suggested in the service industry. Ideally, you’ve planned your vacation budget to express gratitude for the team who’ve made your trip a success, but if you don’t have the means to adhere to these suggestions, don’t feel pressured to blow your budget.

Any token of appreciation, whether monetary or a thoughtful thank you note, can help make service staff feel appreciated.