Tag Archives: tipping

How Much to Tip when I travel?

Fran's tipping guide for the holidays

Tipping guidelines for keeping up with etiquette while traveling.

There are general travel tipping guidelines, but during the holidays it’s even more important to remember to thank those with whom you interact and accept their services. Check out my videos on the subject of tipping: one on general tipping etiquette and another on tipping for travel.

When you’re traveling it all starts right at the airport with the skycap. Think of tipping $1-2 per bag for curbside check-in unless they are doing additional work for you – maybe you need extra assistance from curbside to the desk for a special request. In those cases, then a flat $20 for an “all in” tip is appropriate.

For tipping for hotel maids and housekeeping, typically the tip should be $3 to 5 per night of your stay. It varies due to the hotel I’m staying in or how much mess I’ve made.  If you have several people in one room (think kids, etc) then it would be closer to $5/night.  At the end of your visit, place the tips in an envelope clearly marked ‘housekeeping’ and give it to the front desk. They’ll make sure that it is divided among the members of the staff who actually ‘touched’ your room during your entire visit.

The porter or bellman that delivers your luggage to your room deserves something too. Typically, this is $1 to $2 per bag; but add a bit more if the bags are heavy or awkward. And don’t forget to tip when the porter comes to retrieve your bags at the end of your stay.

Think about the person who delivers that extra pillow, gets you more hangers for your closet, or produces the toothbrush you forgot. The tip should be $1-2 for each time someone brings something to your room.

If you’ve ordered room service – read the check. If there is a tip included it will be a separate line item listed as ‘Gratuity Added.’  If it says, ‘convenience fee’ or ‘service charge,’ these charges do not go to the server. So, if you don’t see ‘gratuity added’ then add a tip of about 15% to 20%.

I tip taxi drivers all the time as well as Uber/Lyft drivers. That tip should be $1 to $5 depending on the distance and service received.

There are many instances where you’ll want to calculate the tip based on a percentage of the bill. This tip percentage varies depending on the service and even the state. For instance, in New York City at higher end restaurants a 25% tip is often expected. In Colorado, the usual tip would be 20%. Many people tip on the ‘pre-tax’ amount of the check but others find it easier just to calculate it on the total. Either method is acceptable. But, if the service has been bad then do not fret about dropping the tip to 10%. A low tip sends a sharp message to the server. If the service is particularly bad, make sure you speak to the manager before you leave.

Remember the bartender whenever you sit at the bar, even if you’ve just ordered a pre-dinner drink while waiting for your table.  A minimum tip of $1 to 2 per drink is appropriate – especially if it’s a fancy mixed cocktail!

In Europe and other non-tipping countries, the ‘tip’ is already built into the price of the food or service. In Asia – like Japan – don’t bother tipping. They won’t accept it.  Check the internet for the tipping guidelines for the countries you will be visiting.

Back in the U.S.A., tips are often the major source of income for wait staff and other service providers.  In some states the minimum wage for ‘tipped employees’ is very low – employers anticipate that the tipped income will make up the difference. However, always check your bill before tipping as some restaurants have started adding an automatic gratuity to the bill.

Be a good traveler and have fun!

A Handy Tipping Guide for the Holidays

Handy tipping guide

The easy “how-to” for tipping during the holidays.

We all have service people that help us throughout the year, but sometimes it’s confusing on how much to tip or even whether you should tip at all during the holidays. I’ve been in the restaurant business for more than twenty years, and sometimes it’s a little confusing even for me! Tipping is easy enough in a restaurant – not so easy in other settings.

I have a simple guideline for who to tip during the holidays. It comes from my uncle who said, “At the end of the year, think of the people who have helped you. If you’ve been helped, it never hurts to tip.”

So, I think about the places where I’m a ‘regular’ – at least once a month, weekly, or semi-weekly. I also especially think of businesses that know me well, and where I’m always satisfied. For instance, the hairdresser, barber, or manicurist. Maybe the dog walker or the groomer.

As for how much should you tip, that depends on the price you typically pay for one visit. If a typical visit is $50, then your tip should be $50. If you’re only an occasional client, then the holiday tip can range from $10 to $25.

For the person who babysits for you, the tipping guide could be one day’s earnings. If you have a full-time nanny, then consider giving out a holiday gift or ‘bonus’ that’s equivalent of one or two weeks of salary – depending on how long they have worked for you.  Remember the person who comes to clean your home – the tip amount could be equal what they receive for a day’s wages.

I don’t forget individual cases like the mail carrier. Even if you live in a high rise and don’t know them at all – it’s important to remember them. You’re at their mercy when it comes to getting your mail that might not have your apartment number on it.  Federal law prohibits a USPS worker from receiving anything higher than $20, so make your tip anywhere from $5 to $20. I think this rule applies to other anonymous delivery people (consider newspaper and laundry).

Speaking of apartment and condo living – I also think of the staff who are there for me 24/7/365. How much to tip each person varies significantly depending on if you rely on that person daily or perhaps rarely ever see them. Gratuity can be anywhere from $50 to $200 per person depending on their job and how much you actually interact with them during the year.

Proper tipping etiquette says that when you tip with cash, give it directly to the person whom it is intended. However, giving cash is not always the right thing to do for everyone.  If you are tipping professionals like physicians or teachers and day-care providers, then a thoughtful gift or gift certificate is the appropriate tip for their service.

Unless you want to go completely anonymous, think of putting the tip (cash or gift card) in a personal card that’s addressed to the recipient. I use a seasonal greeting card, but some folks like to use a nice thank you card. The card accomplishes two things: first it puts a face to the tip; and second, it lets the person know why they’re appreciated.

Don’t forget –tipping is a ‘thank you’ for everything people have done for you during the entire year. It’s an indispensable part of what sophisticated living is all about.

Tips for Hotel Tipping and Then Some

Fran Berger's tips on tipping

Tips help make your trip more enjoyable – in more ways than one!

Fran Berger's travel tips on tippingI have done quite a bit of traveling in my lifetime and I’ve picked up tips and tricks along the way.

The big one for all international travel these days is to scan your passport, airline tickets, driver’s license, and itinerary and keep the images on iCloud or Dropbox (don’t forget to upload the app to your phone). That’s one of the nifty things about technology these days – full access to just about anything from just about anywhere. Take advantage of that convenience on your next trip.

Here’s another important one for international travel. I always use ATMs to get local currency (e.g., Euros) and always bring at least one credit card that doesn’t charge exchange fees. I don’t use the currency converters in airports and hotels anymore –  I save a small fortune by cutting out their very high exchange rates and fees. And, I always keep different currencies separate: I have separate sections in my travel wallet for my US Dollars and Euros or other foreign money.

There’s a burning question that I’m always asked: “Do I have to tip?” You never HAVE to tip anyone, but it’s a real faux pas if you don’t. Let me explain.

Starting at the airport – if you’re checking in curbside, $2 per bag is a very nice thing to do for those guys who are hefting bag after bag. They make sure your bags get to the plane.  But, they can do so much more than that sometimes.  My girlfriend travels with her small dog.  She makes sure she is at the airport really early for her flights but she always has extra paperwork for the dog that has to be checked.  So, when she gets to the curbside porter she makes sure he knows she will tip him very well if he helps her complete the paperwork for the dog.  It has been extremely helpful more than once.

Bellhops are on the same level as the curbside checkers. All they do is haul bags. I think it’s only fair to tip $1-2 per bag when they deliver your luggage straight to your room. Consider bumping that up if you have a lot of bags or you’re staying at a very nice hotel (like a five* – trust me, it comes back to you in more ways than you know).  Tip them after they’ve delivered your bags and explained your room.

Got a special request from housekeeping – maybe an extra pillow or the toothbrush you forgot to pack? Make sure you have at least $2 each time they deliver something. Another note on housekeeping, I tip $2-3 per every night I stay. If you’ve got extras in your room – kids, more than 1 of you, a mess, et cetera – then the tip is more like $4 to 5 per night.

Room service seems like a no-brainer. Of course, you’re going to tip the delivery steward. If gratuity is included in the bill, you can just add an extra $1-2 for the extra. If gratuity is not included, then don’t forget to tip as you would a restaurant: 15-20% of the check.

It used to be no question about tipping Doormen.  Maybe they’re just opening the door – but maybe they’re also helping you get a cab? Calling bellhops to help you? Giving you local travel tips? Unless they are only opening the door for you – you’ll want to give them $2 each time you pass. If you use Valet-Parking, then give the Attendant $2 to 3 each time they fetch your car.

I use the hotel Concierge all the time for restaurant reservations, theater and concert tickets, and questions about all sort of things. Generally, I tip $5 to $10 or more (for difficult to get reservations or tickets) per each time I come to the desk.

I know those tips add up but service staff live for their tips. Because the staff that serves you is not always the same each day – especially if you’re staying several days, then put all the accumulated tips into one envelope for each department at the end of your stay and mark the envelopes for every service you’re leaving tips: “Housekeeping, Room Service, Valet, Concierge, et cetera.” Drop off the envelopes at the front desk. The managers will make sure that the tips are shared appropriately with the staff that was on duty during your stay.

One last tip – if you are traveling overseas, check an online travel guide for the customs of the countries that you will be visiting.  For instance, in some countries, the gratuity is included in the bill. In other countries – like China and Japan for example – the staff will not take tips. According to my friend who has traveled to Japan many times, tipping is considered an offensive display of wealth and pity. But, on the other hand, in many places around South America, if you don’t tip you’re committing far more than just a mere faux pas!

But, let’s roll this back to the good ol’US of A. Here, in this country, tipping is a courtesy. It’s a mark of appreciation – that you received good service and you recognize the effort. And here’s another thing. Word gets around the “house” who tips and who does not. Need I say more?

Etiquette for Tipping

tipping etiquette

Yes, there is such thing as proper manners for tipping!

A friend told me a story about going out to a nice restaurant with a small group of eight people who were traveling together in Hawaii. It was one of those boutique restaurants that literally dot Lahaina on the island of Maui. There was lots of ambiance, great food, and – according to my friend – really excellent service.

My friend said that they had such a great time largely due to their server who had terrific suggestions from a menu that was filled with dishes that were a little unfamiliar. After a wonderful dinner they got their bill, paid it, and left.

Out in the parking lot, my friend suddenly realized that they forgot to include a tip. A few of her friends struck an, “Oh well” attitude and were ready just to leave. But my friend – being the kind of person she is – demanded that everyone contribute for a “nice” tip which everyone agreed the server certainly earned. She collected from everyone, went back inside and handed it to the server herself.

She looked at me and said, “How on Earth could I let that sit on my conscious?”

Not everyone is as militant about tips as we are. We all know people who would have been perfectly fine with “getting away” with not tipping the server.

Our attitude about tipping might be because my friend and I both have long professional experiences as restaurateurs. I owned restaurants for 20+ years and can tell you – with absolute certainty – that your server depends on his/her tips. The very nature of the restaurant business is a cooperative one. The server is the frontline ambassador in any restaurant, doing whatever is necessary to ensure that you have a great time.  Moreover, servers’ actual paychecks are very tiny (most of which goes to taxes) and they use their tips to pay their bills. It’s a big chunk of what they take home.

Some states have laws where tips are calculated as part of the server’s minimum wage.  California, where I live, isn’t one of them.  But, no matter which state you’re in, tipping etiquette stays the same. Think only of how the server has helped make your meal entertaining and enjoyable. That being said, the amount of tip you offer should definitely depend on the service received.

The only thing that’s missing for you to figure out is what’s the proper amount to tip. On that note, it’ll be easier to pare this down to a few simple points.

If you’re at a coffee/fast food spot (what we in the business call “quick service”) where you stand in line and take your own beverage/food to a table or out the door – tip about a $1 for the counter person.

If you’re at a bar, some slightly different rules apply. The bartender depends on their tips just as much as a server does.  It is acceptable to leave two dollars per drink as a tip. If the bartender has been particularly great or you had him/her jumping around making complicated cocktails, then it is good to add a bit extra. The bartender always remembers a customer who tips well!

If you’re at a sit-down restaurant and the service was as good as you hoped, the tip should be about 20%. If the service wasn’t so great, you can take the tip down to 15% or even lower.  But remember, if you do have a service issue – let the manager know. It’s probably the only way they will know and trust me; the feedback (assuming the complaint is warranted) will be appreciated.

Tips are very easy to calculate. Just look for the total amount – before tax (don’t calculate your tip on the tax) – and move the decimal point to the left once. So, if the bill is “$120”, now you have “12.0.” That’s 10%. Double that for 20%, and you have $24.00 for a tip! Some people think that you don’t need to tip on the wine/alcohol you’ve consumed at your table – you do.  The server has taken your orders, brought your beverages and poured the wine – that’s called service.

One last note. You know that “birthday” dessert the server brought over? You should still tip on it as if you were paying for the special dessert. After all, your server still served the dish!