‘If they touch it, you tip it’: The definitive guide to tipping while traveling

Rodrigo Cordeiro

Tipping is completely voluntary, meaning individuals within the service industry can voluntarily see you as either a tightwad or a well-mannered traveler based on the rigidity of your purse strings. The choice is yours. I’m not one to tell people what to do, but if you decide to dole out tips like a reasonable person rather than a pinchfisted Scrooge McDuck, I have some helpful advice for tipping while traveling.

Tipping on the road is complicated business, made even more confusing by international rules that differ dramatically from those in the United States. Making matters worse, not all experts agree on how much to tip. But, according to etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, the rule of thumb for tipping while on vacation in the United States should be “if they touch it, you tip it.”

“In other words, if they touch your bag, if they bring your bag up from the car to the door, and you allow them to unpack your whole car, then you’re going to give them some type of gratuity,” she said.


Bottom line people: Recognizing good service can be an expensive endeavour, and until the US service industry changes its model and no longer expects consumers to pad out traditionally low salaries, keep your wallet at the ready while on the road.

There are general tipping guidelines for all US travel services, but, according to etiquette expert Elaine Swann, if a concierge secures you an otherwise impossible show ticket, or a restaurant reservation in an eatery that is fully booked, consider going higher. Swann said consider at least $20 depending on the scale of the task. Ditto for others who transform your trips from exasperating to extraordinary.

We’ll get back to the intricacies of US tipping in a moment, but first a few words about international tipping. If you’re traveling outside of the United States, do your research on how to properly tip.

“My experience is that most countries do not have the same tipping economy that the United States has,” said David Locke co-owner of the travel agency Seize the Seas. “Servers are paid a living wage, instead of less-than-minimum, and they are expected to provide quality service like any other job.”

Americans who don’t research often over-tip because they’re unfamiliar with local customs.


“In some cases, it might be customary to round the bill up to the nearest logical denomination,” said Jacob Marek, founder of the travel agency IntroverTravels. “In other instances you might not tip at all. In some places around the world, such as Japan, tipping can actually be considered rude.”

No matter where you are, always make sure you have enough single dollar bills, pesos, Euros, krona, or whatever the local currency is on hand for ease of tipping. Another rule is to include tips in your vacation budget.

“When you’re a service provider, it’s part of your income,” Gottsman said. “You’re making less because gratuities supplement your paycheck. We, as the consumer, or client, should be respectful and aware of that. Smart people want to do the right thing.”

If you’re not satisfied with your service, speak to a manager. Swann said do not undertip as an insult or to send a negative message.

“Make sure that whatever you leave for them is sincerely a tip,” she said. “If you don’t care to tip the individual at all, then don’t tip them at all, but don’t under-tip as an insult.”


With the help of etiquette experts, the American Society of Travel Agents, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, we’ve assembled a handy guide for tipping while traveling in the United States. Remember to do your research before traveling overseas.

“I’m not going to say that they’ll treat you poorly, but if you don’t tip accordingly, they’re going to remember you,” Gottsman said.

Who and how much to tip

Hotel or rental car courtesy shuttle driver

Tip $1 to $2 per person, or $4 to $5 per party if the driver helps you with your bags.


Tip a minimum of 10 to 15 percent. For an above-average driver who assists with heavier bags, tip 20 percent or higher.

Curbside check-in

Tip $3 for the first bag, $1 for each additional bag.

Porter at airport or railway station

Tip $1 per bag.

Valet\parking attendant

Tip $1 to $5 when your car is delivered. Tipping when dropping off your car is optional.

Hotel door staff

There’s no tip required for a welcoming “Hello” and a held door. However, if they perform a special service such as helping with shopping bags from the taxi to the front desk, or holding an umbrella from the front door to the car, think about $2 to $5.

Bell staff/porter

Tip $1 to $5 per bag when you are escorted to your room, especially if your luggage is heavy or they show you around. Tip the same if you request bell staff service checking out.
If you don’t want to leave a tip, simply tell them you don’t require assistance when you check in
or out of your hotel.

Storing luggage at the hotel

Tip $1 per bag when you retrieve your luggage. You do not need to tip when you drop off your bags for storage.


Tip from $5 to $10 depending on how involved the request, or a lump sum upon departure. Consider tipping higher if the concierge has gone above and beyond to procure something special. No tip is necessary for directions or an answer
to a simple question.


Tip anywhere from $1 to $10 a night depending on the quality of the hotel and the level of service. The tip should be left daily, preferably in an envelope or with a note so that it’s clear
it’s for housekeeping.

Room service

A gratuity of 15 to 20 percent should be added, but only if the hotel did not already include
a room service charge on the bill.

Tour guides

Tip $5 to $10 per person for a one-day tour. Tip bus drivers less.

Airbnb/VRBO/Homeaway rental

No tip necessary. If you rent a room in a house with an exceptional host, consider a small gift.

Uber/Lyft driver

Previously tipping was limited in ride share services. Now consider tipping the driver 10 to 15 percent through the app in your phone if you have a good experience.


Tip $1 to $2 per drink. If you open a tab, tip 15 to 20 percent of the total beverage tab.


Tip 15 to 20 percent of the total bill. Currently 20 percent is considered the norm for good service.

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Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and on Instagram @Chris_Muther.