Tipping Tips

Even the most experienced travelers can get hung up on tipping. Not sure whose palm to grease-and how much to give? Help is on the way.

tipping tipsEven the most experienced travelers can get hung up on tipping. There are so many questions: Should you tip every person you come into contact with at your hotel? Are there people you don't have to tip? And, of course, how much is enough? Read on, and you'll never have another awkward moment of fumbling with your wallet.


There's no denying it: The nicer the hotel you choose to stay in, the more people you will feel obligated to tip. Plan to tip $2 to $5 each time an attendant parks or retrieves your car, $5 when a valet delivers or picks up your bags and $1 to the doorman who hails you a taxi. Tip the housekeeping staff $2 to $5 for each night of your stay. Leave this tip in an envelope—you can usually find one in your guest-room's desk drawer—along with a thank-you note, and drop it off at the front desk when you check out, advises Carlos Freire, the head concierge at New York's Trump International Hotel and Tower. This way, if you had several housekeepers,they'll know to divide the tip.

You don't need to tip the hotel receptionists or the general manager, or for room service—in fact, a tip is often automatically included on the delivery bill. Tip the concierge only if he or she pulled some strings for you, like getting you a table at a fully booked restaurant. In that case, offer at least $20. The one exception to all this tipping is all-inclusive resorts, where the gratuities are built into the rate. Another caveat: Tipping is handled differently abroad Rules vary from& place to place—in Europe for example, tips tend to be lower than in the U.S., whereas in some parts of Asia people don't tip at all. Our advice: Consult a guidebook before you go or as your hotel's concierge as soon as you arrive.


Most Americans tip approximately 18 percent at domestic restaurants, according to a Zagat Survey® poll. Bartenders get $1 or $2 per drink; tip sommeliers only if they provided extensive personal service, such as helping you to pair wine with your food (10 percent of the cost of the bottle is sufficient). At the coat check, place a couple of dollars in the tip jar when you pick up your belongings. Of all the places you'll tip, a restaurant is where gratuity practices will vary the most, depending on where you are in the world—so when traveling abroad, be sure to ask your hotel concierge for advice.


In the United States, taxi drivers expect a 10 to 15 percent tip, depending on the city—except in places, such as Washington, D.C., where the tip is included. In most American cities, cabbies are required to post rate and gratuity information. Honeymooning overseas? Ask at the airport information desk.


For spa therapists, tip 15 to 20 percent per treatment; tour guides generally expect 15 percent. Plan to tip pool attendants $2 every time they bring you towels or ice water, and offer your golf caddie at least $10.


Cruise line policies vary widely; look for information about tipping procedures in the booklet sent with your tickets, or call the line directly.