Monday, December 3, 2012

Gratuity…Tipping While Traveling

To tip or not to tip?

Well, that is silly. Of course you tip.  But how much?  How often?  Who?  It is easy enough to know what to tip servers at restaurants, but when you travel, you meet all kinds of people that work to make your vacation be the best it can be, and tipping rewards them for good service.

It begins at the airport.  If you check your bags outside, you should tip your porter about $1 per bag.  If the porter is especially nice and helpful, and whisks you through quickly with a smile, perhaps give him/her a little more for their cheer.  If the service costs (some airlines charge to curbside check) that money does NOT go to the porters, it goes to the airline, so tip them anyway.

Tip flight attendants?  No.

When you arrive at your destination, porters will be waiting by the baggage carousels, hoping to help you.  Again, figure an average of $1 per bag, but if they are willing to take it to your rental car for you, give them a bit extra.
Land vacations
·        If you have a car service picking you up, you should tip the driver 20% unless they made you wait or were cranky...then reduce accordingly.

·        If you take a courtesy shuttle, give the driver a couple of dollars, or more if they help with your bags.
·        Once you arrive at your hotel, more porters wait to help you!  Definitely tip them as they handle your bags from the car and then eventually deliver to your room.

·        Tip hotel employees checking you in?  No.

·        Other hotel employees that get tipped...porters hailing cabs for you get $1-$2.  Valet parkers when you are dropping off and picking up your vehicle, $2 or $3. 

·        Servers in restaurants get 18-20% if they provided good service, but please tourist destinations, it is customary to add gratuity to a bill, even if you don't have a large party, so make sure you aren't double tipping.

·        Spa and salon employees get 20%.

·        Housekeepers should receive about $1 per day, per person, although if there are only two of you I suggest giving at least $3 or $4.  It should be left so it is obviously meant as a tip, or they will not take it; the bed is usually a good spot, perhaps on a pillow so it is clear you left it for them.

·        Room Service staff: almost always gratuity in addition to a service charge is already added onto the bill, but when in doubt, ask.

·        Concierge:  Normally, no, unless they get you a great reservation, then a $5 bill is much appreciated.  If you are on a concierge floor and someone was extra helpful, you might slip them a little tip.  If they don’t accept cash, you might consider giving them a nice box of candy, or writing them a thank you letter upon your return.

·        Tour guides: if it is a group tour, a few dollars per person for a job well done is a good idea.  For a private tour, it depends on the length…on a full day tour, $10-$15 per person would be appropriate.

Cruise tipping
Usually, you can prepay gratuities, or they are added to your room bill.  Those tips cover room stewards and the dining room staff.  When you buy alcohol or items of food that cost, gratuity is usually automatically added, even if it is just a can of soda.  Be aware of that before you tip, to make sure you aren't double tipping.  I usually, however, give the room stewards extra if they did a good job (and they usually do!)
Standard suggestions for cruise tipping per day (to be done on the last night, per person in your party):
·        Dining room server: $3-4
·        Assistant server: $1-$3
·        Maitre D or Head Server: $1
·        Room Steward: $3-4
·        For excursions, usually they are run by staff not employed by the cruise line.  Definitely tip…for example, on the boat we recently took in Nassau for a three stop snorkel, we gave the two employees on the boat $20 to share.  It is very subjective, based on what you did and how nice and knowledgeable your guides were.
·        For daycare staff onboard, gifts are nice.  They especially appreciate prepaid International phone cards, as many staff members come from different parts of the world.  That is a great thank you for entertaining your children during your vacation!
International tipping
Tipping customs in each country vary, and there are too many traditions in regards to gratuity to cover.  When you are traveling to another country, poorer countries especially, expect to be asked for tips for everything from handing you toilet paper for the bathroom to waving to you.  Just remember, a good rule of thumb for tipping is when someone provides you something helpful, you tip.  If they just want a tip because they are standing there, smile and act like you don't understand what they are asking for. 
ALWAYS get a good guide book or a very experienced travel agent before going to another country on a land tour.  For example, when I went to Egypt, tipping was requested by almost everyone I saw…sometimes for just being there.  If I hadn’t been prepared, I wouldn’t have known how to handle it.

Lastly, travel agents.  When you have a good travel agent, you may be inspired to tip them…but don’t.  If you want to thank them, a wonderful thank you letter, or a gift is more appropriate than cash.  Almost always, they are compensated from the travel companies when they book your trip…and you get their knowledge and service for free.  But a thank you is always appreciated!