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Tipping Etiquette

When I first started traveling, I did not know tipping etiquette. Arriving at a hotel, I dreaded the bellhop’s approach. Exactly how much would he expect me to tip for carrying bags to my room? Nervous, I’d wave him off, feeling bad for rejecting him, but saving myself the embarrassment of undertipping. Think about that — to avoid personal embarrassment, I wouldn’t even let him do his job.

Maybe you can relate?
Do you know how much to tip the taxi driver, the concierge or your hotel maid? Do you know how much to tip the server when your food arrives cold or under-cooked? Some fabulous people have developed a great tipping etiquette tool to demystify tipping and help you — and me — travel like a pro.

The fine people at Travel Sense created a handy PDF tipping card you can print and carry with you during travel. This little “cheat sheet” ensures you’ll always know the appropriate amount to tip during travel. The card even includes space for standard tip amount currency conversion when traveling outside the country. How’s that for convenient?

Tipping Etiquette Quick Tips

While researching for this post, three points struck me as most helpful.

  • Tip restaurant servers 15-20%, regardless of the quality of service. I can hear some of you now, “What???” Indulge me for a minute… Restaurants run smoothly when the front of house (servers and host/hostess) and the back of house (cooks, kitchen manager and bartenders) have their timing in sync. Problems with your meal may not be the server’s fault. The back of house may have burned a dish or dropped a plate on the floor to mess up the timing of your meal service. Someone may have called in sick leaving the staff short-handed. So, tip the server 15-20% and ask to speak with the manager who can discount your meal. Only then can the true problem be remedied.
  • Tip in a timely manner. When staying at a hotel for a number of days, tip the doorman, bellhop, concierge and housekeeping when service is given. Consider their benefit, appreciation. Consider your own, too, better service the next time around.
  • Tip more for excellent service. When you receive an unexpected compliment, doesn’t it brighten your day? When I served tables one summer during college, I served lunch each day to a family staying at the resort. By midweek, I knew the family’s preferences well and was ready when they arrived. On their last day, they left me a 200% tip — in addition to the regular tips through the week. I was elated. More recently, my son and I were traveling on a tight timeline and informed our IHOP server of the rush. He was efficient and polite. We left him a 100% tip with great joy. If a concierge secures a hard to get table for you in the big city, reward him. When the hotel maid service tucks your daughter’s teddy bear among the pillows on the bed, let her know you appreciate the gesture. You get the idea: reward service industry kindness with a generous tip — it’s mutually beneficial!

Now you have everything you need to understand proper tipping etiquette during travel — and at home. Now get out there and have some fun! Just remember to thank those who provide it.


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