Tipping Etiquette for Business Travelers

Learn who to give those dollars to, and how much to give

Woman putting money into tips jar.

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One of the things that I do before leaving for a trip is to think about a few small items, like making sure I have quarters in case I need to use parking meters, or checking on my electronics chargers. But another thing I do is make sure I have a number of single dollars (as well as five dollar bills) handy for tips—at the airport, at the hotel, in the taxi. There are plenty of places that business travelers have to think about possibly giving tips.

But sometimes it's hard to know whether to tip or not. And how much. To help untangle the best practices for tipping, we interviewed Stacy Rapacon, Washington editor for Kiplingers.com, a trusted source for business and personal financial advice.

Do business travelers need to tip differently than leisure travelers?

Not really. People are people, no matter their reason for travel. But service providers at more high-end hotels or resorts may be accustomed to receiving more generous tips that are in the upper range of what is considered standard.

Who should you tip when traveling?

Basically, you'll want to tip anyone who is providing you with satisfactory service along with your journey. And these people are typically paid lower hourly wages and depend on gratuities to earn a livable wage. Specifically, this might include the skycap at the airport, shuttle drivers, taxi drivers, hotel housekeepers, room service, valets, and the concierge.

Which tips should you avoid?

If you have a limited budget and can't afford to tip so many people, you can avoid using services that would call for a tip. For example, if you plan to use your car a lot while you're staying a hotel and you want to avoid tipping the valet each time you pick up your ride, opt for self-parking. Or if you don't want to tip housekeeping daily, just put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign and only leave a few dollars when you check out.

Also, some people won't expect a tip, including a maintenance person who helps you with, say, a leaky faucet in your hotel room, or a golf or tennis pro.

You should also be sure to read the tipping policies of your hotel or cruise line. Gratuities may already be included in your bill, so you want to be sure you're not being overly generous by accident.

What are your recommendations for foreign travel and tipping?

You need to do your homework if you're traveling outside of the U.S. Different cultures (like China) may have different tipping protocols. For example, in Italy and much of Europe, you will not be expected to leave 15% to 20% of the pretax bill for your waiter in a restaurant like you would here in the States. Instead, just the change from your bill and up to 5% would suffice. And in Japan, tipping is actually not part of the culture in any situation.

What are most people not aware of when it comes to tipping?

I think people don't really think about tipping until they're in the situation and panicking about whether or not they should tip this person helping them. But planning ahead and including tips in your vacation budget from the start can really help you relax and avoid throwing big bills at people unnecessarily along your trip.

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