Exactly Who to Tip at Hotels
Many people help to make your hotel stay more delightful, whether that’s by hefting heavy luggage, snagging hot reservations, or keeping your room spic-and-span. As with dining out, gratuities are the norm for thanking these service-oriented hotel employees.
“The act of tipping is a way of giving tangible thanks and showing appreciation to those who help make your life a bit easier,” says etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting and author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman & Manners for the Modern Man. “Often those you are tipping are the lowest paid with the hardest work,” she adds.
But knowing what to give — and when — isn’t always clear cut. The gratuity can vary depending on the circumstance. Factors influencing the tip include the level of service you receive and your budget, Smith says.
Cut through the uncertainty with this guide, drawing on insight from etiquette expert Smith as well as industry group expertise to break down everything you need to know about tipping during your next hotel stay.
Who to tip and how much
Door staff and valets
At many hotels, you’ll be greeted at the door by the staff of the hotel. “They may take out your luggage, valet your car, hold open doors, hail cabs, and provide directions,” Smith says.
Simply opening the hotel’s door or pointing you in the right direction doesn’t require a tip. But do for more involved interactions, Smith says.
The amount varies based on the task. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Carrying bags: Tip between $1 and $4 per bag, per guidance from Unite Here, a labor union representing hospitality and other workers. Up the tip amount for heavy luggage.
- Hailing a taxi: Guidance varies here. Smith recommends tipping $5 for hailing a waiting cab, and up to $20 for flagging a moving cab during a downpour. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) recommends between $1 and $2.
- Valet services: Unite Here advises tipping $2 to $5 when the valet drops off your car, and AHLA provides similar counsel.
If you use the hotel’s shuttle, tip the driver a dollar or two for yourself, per the AHLA and Unite Here. If you’re traveling with others, give $4 to $5 on behalf of the party.
Also sometimes referred to as bellmen, porters carry your bags to your room when you check in, and then out to your transportation as you depart. “They may also retrieve items you request, run small errands, and store your luggage in between check-in/check-out and departure,” Smith says.
With porters, the tip is typically determined by the amount of luggage. Both Unite Here and AHLA advise tipping between $1 and $5 per bag—tip each time you’re assisted, too. If the same porter helps you with luggage when you check in and check out, tip both times you interact.
For a full bell cart, tip $20, per Unite Here.
For any other tasks with which the porter may assist you, tip $5 or more, depending on complexity or time spent on the task, Smith says.
Buffet staffers and room service staff
During your stay in a hotel, it’s possible you’ll order room service or partake of a breakfast buffet. Before you tip, check the bill: It’s possible that it includes a service charge, AHLA points out. If it doesn’t, tip the person that delivers room service 15 to 20 percent. At the buffet, tip 10 percent.
If your room is clean when you arrive, and cleaned nightly throughout your stay, you have a team of housekeepers to thank. They’re also responsible for freshening up your towels, Smith notes.
Tip daily when it comes to your housekeeper because your room may not be cleaned by the same person. Give $5 per night, recommends Unite Here. Make sure to place the tip in a labeled envelope or alongside a note so that the housekeeping staff knows the tip is for them.
The tip amount should increase at five-star venues in high-rent locations (think: New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles) Smith says. There, the guideline is $5 to $10 per person per day, she says.
These days, it’s easy to look online for restaurant and entertainment recommendations and reservations. But concierge staff can tackle these tasks for you, giving your stay a luxurious feel. “They may make reservations at restaurants, procure tickets for shows, send you on guided tours, or arrange time for hotel amenities,” Smith says.
Tips for concierges vary based on the task, Smith says.
A good guideline is $5 to $10 per service — give more if the concierge is securing tickets to a sold-out show, or reservations at always-booked restaurants. If the concierge provides help throughout your stay, you can also give a lump sum when you leave the hotel, per the AHLA.
Here’s more advice on how to tip hotel staff:
- Give at the moment of service: With a few exceptions, you’ll want to provide a tip at the moment when service is received. The exceptions: You can tip the concierge when you depart, and for housekeeping, you should always provide a tip in your room each day. It’s possible that you’ll never see your housekeeper, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a gratuity.
- When in doubt, round up: That’s Smith’s advice on tipping. “It may be a few extra dollars for you, but can mean so much to those doing the labor,” she says.
- Cash is king: This is one situation where an app won’t help. Hotel staff expect to be tipped in cash, not asked for their Venmo username. Aim to give out crisp bills, Smith recommends. A pile of change left on the bedside table for the housekeeper can seem disrespectful.
- Do your homework before traveling internationally: “Tipping varies widely from culture to culture,” Smith says.
While there’s wiggle room when it comes to the gratuity amount, you now have a sense of the appropriate range, along with who and when to tip. For hotel staffers, who work hard to improve your experience during your stay, these tips are a meaningful way to express your appreciation.
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