Tipping Etiquette for Hotels and Resorts

Room service tray with food and champagne
••• Should you tip for room service?. UpperCut Images / Getty Images

Legend has it, the word "tip" itself came years ago from a pub owner who used the acronym on a box "To Insure Promptness." In that spirit, tipping should be thought of first and foremost as a reward for prompt and attentive service.

In reality, tipping etiquette has evolved into a secret subculture with hidden expectations that aren't always well understood by travelers. Break the secret code behind tipping etiquette.

Time Your Tipping

Depending on the timing, tipping can be a reward for good service rendered or a subtle bribe. If you are using the service of one person repeatedly throughout your trip (say, a doorman) feel free to tip all at once at the end of your stay. If, however, you would like to ensure special service throughout your stay (say, from the concierge), a larger tip up front is a good idea. Tipping etiquette says either is acceptable.

Keep Bills Handy For Tipping

Keep several one dollar bills handy in an accessible pocket. You don't want to be digging for them when you're juggling luggage. Keep the bills neatly folded in groups of one or two bills.

Don't Ask For Change

According to tipping etiquette, it creates a very awkward situation to ask for change from the person you are tipping. If for some reason you don't have a tip ready, it's better to skip it, particularly if you can get change from somewhere else and return with your tip at some point in the future.

Know Your Tipping Tendencies

Be aware of your own unconscious tipping tendencies. Studies show women tend to tip men more generously (and men tip women better). Tipping goes up universally when the weather is good, lower when it is not. Attractive women earn higher tips, as do attentive men who don't make mistakes.

Know the Tipping Policy

Increasingly, higher-end hotels are instituting "no tipping policies" that include gratuities in the price of the room. Some, particularly resorts, are charging a daily fee that covers all gratuities. However, if you sign up for outside excursions or tours (even those that don't cost extra), chances are the drivers and/or the tour guides will expect tips. Ask when you book.

Bed and Breakfast Tipping Etiquette

In general, tipping etiquette dictates that business owners are not given tips. Most B&Bs fall under that category, and indeed, most have "no tipping" policies in place. If you are in doubt, ask about their tipping policy when you book your room. (If the housekeeping staff is not part of the family, do tip them as you would in a hotel.)

Tipping Is Never Required

It may be expected in many situations, but tipping is never required. Tipping hotel staff and drivers should be at your discretion and should be thought of as a reward for excellent service. Don't feel obligated to give a tip if the service given was sub-par. On the other hand, consider giving a larger tip for those who go out of their way to provide personalized or stand-out service. Although it is not required, tipping etiquette says that unless service was severely lacking in some way, do give a tip of some sort (or at least a smile and a thank you).

Tipping Etiquette Varies Worldwide

These tipping guidelines are for the United States only. Expectations (and tipping amounts) can vary quite a bit from country to country. Check a travel guide for the particular country you will be visiting for the proper international tipping etiquette.

How Much to Tip

Here's a general hotel tipping guide to follow whenever you travel. Remember, tipping more or less is at your discretion and should be guided by the quality of service you receive. Use this guide to give you an idea of the appropriate tipping ranges for typical services at a hotel.

Drivers

  • Courtesy Shuttle Driver - $1-$2 per person, or $4-$5 per party
  • Taxi or Limousine Driver  - 15-20% of the total fare

Tipping drivers extra is expected if they handle your bags (tipping about $1-$2 per bag). Tipping on the higher end if they go out of their way to help (i.e., get you to the airport on time) is a good idea.

Checking In

  • Porter/Doorman - $1-$2 per bag they help you with (more if it is very heavy). Tipping is not required for just opening a door (a smile and thank you is always appreciated).
  • Bell Staff - $1-$2 per bag if they bring the bags to your room. If they prepare your room and show you around, tipping $5-$10 should cover everything (including the bags).

In Your Room

  • Room Service  - In most hotels, a gratuity of 12-15% is already included in the price of your order (check the menu). Tipping extra is OK, particularly if the person delivering the order takes extra care to set up your meal. Room service tips are generally "pooled," or shared between everyone. If you hand something extra to a person who provides you extraordinary service, he or she can keep it.
  • Maids/Housekeeping Staff - A wide range is acceptable here, depending on the level of extra service and hotel level, but generally from $1-$5 per night. It is best to do your tipping daily since you might have different people cleaning your room. Whatever you decide to leave, be sure to put the money in a sealed envelope, clearly marked, so there is no confusion as to who it belongs to. How To Tip a Hotel Maid
  • Maintenance/Service People - For fixing something that was broken, or bringing something that was missing, tipping is not required.
  • Delivery of Special Items - For a special request (like an extra blanket), $2 for one item, or $1 each for more than one item.

Coming and Going

  • Doorman - $1-$2 for calling a cab; extra if he covers you with an umbrella in the rain, or has to actually hail a cab (rather than just signaling one from a cab line). If you wish, tipping a few bucks at the end of your stay (rather than each time) is fine.
  • Valet Parking - $1-$2 to the attendant retrieving your car. Tipping when they park the car is optional.

Dining Out

  • Waitstaff - 15-20% of the bill, excluding tax and expensive wine. Many restaurants automatically add a 15% gratuity for parties of six or more, so check the menu. You can add another 5% for exceptional service.
  • Wine Steward/Sommelier - If they help you choose a bottle of wine (or choose it for you), 10-20% of the wine bill only. Use discretion based on how much service was provided (did he allow you to taste before you selected?) If the wine is very expensive, it's generally acceptable to cap your tip at a reasonable amount (say, about $20), since you are tipping on the service received. Leave cash or specify on the credit card receipt which portion is for the sommelier.
  • Buffet Servers - $1-$2 per person dining. Lean toward the higher end if they bring you drinks.

In the Lounge

  • Bartender/Cocktail Waitress - 10-15% of the total tab. For free drinks in Las Vegas, $1-$2 per round. It's OK to tip with your chips in lieu of cash.

Special Services

  • Concierge - Tipping varies with the level of service provided. For simple requests like directions or restaurant recommendations, no tipping is required. If the concierge arranges show tickets or restaurant reservations, tip $2-$5. If he goes above and beyond (a table at the hottest restaurant in town), tip $10-$20.
  • Hotel Staff - If they set up something special for you (say, for your anniversary), tip at the end of your stay.

Leisure Time

  • Hair Stylists - 15% of the total bill. If someone else shampooed your hair, leave them $2-$5.
  • Manicurist - 10-15% of the total bill.
  • Massage Therapist  - 15-20% of the total bill.
  • Swimming Pool Attendant - Tipping is not required unless you request extra service (i.e., the attendant your pool float). If you want to keep the same pool lounges every day, leave $2-$3 at the beginning of your stay.