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The Ultimate Guide to Tipping While Traveling

June 04, 2019
4 min read
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Hilton’s president and CEO Christopher Nassetta made news this week when he noted at a hotel industry conference in New York City that he doesn’t tip housekeeping.

But even for most travelers (you know, those who don't operate international hospitality brands and employ hundreds of thousands of hotel staff members), tipping can be an extremely complex and personal thing. After all, most of us want to thank the right people for great service. So, who deserves a tip — and how much should you give?

Tipping customs vary greatly depending on where you are in the world, the room rate, the level of service and the details of your stay. (Did you refuse housekeeping for the duration of your trip? Or did you trash the room with a massive all-night party?)

Over the years, The Points Guy has covered the topic extensively — even exploring when to tip on all-inclusive vacations and the hard-working airport professionals you probably aren't tipping (but should). To help you decide whether you should leave a crisp George Washington on your nightstand or if you should abstain altogether, we put together this ultimate guide to tipping while traveling.

Who to Tip at Hotels

Most experts agree that, depending on the length of your stay, the rate of your room and the level of service, you should tip housekeeping $1 to $5 per day, at the end of every day (not all at once, upon check out). “These are the hardest-working people in the hotel, and the least recognized,” said Tom Waithe, the vice president of operations for Kimpton Hotels in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain Region.

Typically, luggage attendants who help you with your bags should receive $1 per bag, and valets should get a few bucks every time they retrieve your car. Butlers and concierges are also eligible for tips, depending on how much they've done for you. Who doesn't need a tip at a hotel, then? The people delivering room service — except for the rare cases when gratuity isn't included.

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Tipping Around the World

“Tipping abroad is so much more than converting currencies. Many countries and cultures each adopt their own nuanced take on this, at times, delicate matter,” Tom Marchant, the cofounder of luxury travel company Black Tomato told The Points Guy earlier this year.

In some countries, like Australia, tipping is "not a common transaction," Marchant said, and it can even make recipients a bit uncomfortable. China doesn't have a tipping culture, either. And in Japan, tipping is actually frowned upon. Over in much of Europe, touristy areas of Mexico, the Caribbean (assuming you're not bedding down at an all-inclusive) and Canada, distribute gratuities as you would in the US. Tipping is also customary in India and the Middle East. In Central and South America, leaving small change in the local currency is greatly appreciated. If you're traveling to Africa, expect more intricacies, depending on whether or not you're on safari or staying at an urban property in a major city.

The bottom line? If you're really unsure what's customary, feel free to ask around or err on the side of being overly generous.

When to Tip on an All-Inclusive Vacation

Daily service charges are typically included on your bill if you're taking a cruise or bedding down at an all-inclusive resort. Just be sure to check your folio carefully or inquire with the front desk upon check in.

Most traditional all-inclusive resorts, like Sandals in the Caribbean, include gratuity, Lindsey Epperly Sulek, the founder of Epperly Travel and a Caribbean expert, told TPG last year. If gratuities are not included, you can follow the same basic hotel guidelines: $1 per bag for the bellhop, $5 per day for housekeeping (left every day), nothing extra for room service (it’s included on the bill), and a sliding scale for concierges, depending on the difficulty of the task. If you're on an all-inclusive safari or tour, however, you should be tipping your guides.

Tipping Flight Attendants and Airport Employees 

Generally, airline employees are not allowed to accept any tips on the job, while airport employees — often hourly workers who rely on your generosity to help pay the bills — are permitted to to do so. One notable exception? Frontier Airlines, which recently implemented an inflight tipping program. On a flight at the end of 2018, TPG's senior points, miles and deals writer, JT Genter, was prompted to add a gratuity to his beverage purchase.

Additional reporting by Jessica Puckett.

Featured image by Getty Images/Uppercut RF

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  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
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  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
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Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees