Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping

The Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping, first published as Hotel tipping etiquette 101 in October 2011 was up dated, retitled and republished on September 12, 2019.

“How much should I tip?” is a frequently asked question. As former hotel concierges, this is an area we know about. To assist readers we created the Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping. Knowing how much to tip for services can make all but the savviest travelers insecure. People seem to be even less sure about gratuities at higher end hotels and resorts where there may be lot of people to take care of. Go with your comfort level and don’t be afraid to over-tip. No one ever complained when they got an overly generous tip. Understanding tipping can take the anxiety out of the process so that you can enjoy your stay without fretting about what to give the housekeeper, the valet, the bellman, even the concierge. Hope our Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping takes the stress out of tipping.


Ultimate guide to hotel tipping -The dining room at Nine-Ten, the chic, sophisticated dining room at the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, photo Billie Frank

The dining room at Nine-Ten, the chic, sophisticated dining room at the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, photo Billie Frank

When dining is a high end restaurant,  18 to 20% of the bill is the norm. Tip more if you have an incredible experience or deep pockets or service exceeds all expectations.

If you are staying at a chain motel or; low-end hotel, mostly you don’t have to worry about tipping. If you stay for a few days, leave $2 a day for housekeeping. Here are some guidelines for tipping at higher-end properties.

The valet/bell-person

Ultimate guide to hotel tipping - The first person you see at the hotel will be the valet, photo Stephanie Diehl

The first person you see at the hotel will be the valet, photo/
Stephanie Diehl

The first person you are apt to meet when checking into a luxury hotel is the valet (he/she may double as the bell-person). These folks really hustle and earn that tip. Now, here’s the tricky part; do you tip on both in and out? A common valet tip is $2, given when the car is delivered. Some people tip at both ends with the larger tip when the vehicle is brought to them. The valet that takes your car is often not the same one returning it. There is usually more hustle on the return end as the valet knows you want your car quickly. Some people tip $1, some $10, $20 and even more. Remember, a too small tip or no tip at all is as memorable as a large one. Guests who tip lavishly are often remembered whenever they return.

or luggage assistance, give at least $1 to $2 per bag; $5 to $10 is reasonable for good service. Tip more for an extremely heavy unwieldy bags or if there are a lot of odds and ends on the luggage cart. A good bell-person will set your luggage on caddies and hang appropriate garment bags and loose garments. Before leaving he/she will make sure you understand the intricacies of the heating, audio-visual, telephone and Wi-Fi systems. Tip more generously for this kind of service. Sometimes, there is a doorman, a valet, and bell person. That’s a lot of people to tip. Often, they pool tips. The only way to find out is to ask. For parking, unloading and luggage delivery, tip $10 to $20 depending on how much luggage you have.

The housekeeper

the untimate guide to hotel tipping - The housekeeper at Post Ranch Inn works hard to keep this suite perfect, photo Steve Collins

The housekeeper at Post Ranch Inn works hard to keep this suite perfect, photo Steve Collins

One of the hardest, most thankless jobs in a hotel is the housekeeper’s. People sometimes leave rooms in appalling condition. The housekeeper is not expected or in fact allowed to move your possessions, so leave the room in a cleanable condition. A suggested minimum amount is $3 per day; $5 is generous. If your room is really messy and requires a lot of work or really trashed when you check out, leave a larger gratuity than normal. It’s a good idea to leave housekeeping tips daily in an envelope marked “Housekeeper.” If you wait and tip at the end of your stay, it might be a windfall for a fill-in housekeeper who has done your room once in a multiple-day stay. During your stay, the envelope is important. In many hotels, if housekeepers touch money left in the room, they can be fired. If you need something brought to the room; pillows, extra towels etc. a dollar or two is appropriate. If the hotel offers turn-down service, a few dollars is a nice gesture. If a member of the housekeeping staff does something above and beyond, tip accordingly.

The concierge

Want dinner or tour recommendations? Talk to the concierge, photo Stephanie Diehl

Want dinner or tour recommendations? Talk to the concierge, photo/Stephanie Diehl

One of the trickiest tipping situations is the concierge. A good one can take your experience from good to incredible. He or she is there to make restaurant reservations, arrange for tours, secure tickets to shows or concerts, make hair or spa appointments or anything else you may require. The concierge can arrange your entire visit for you. A good concierge is a better resource than the best guidebook you can buy. A guidebook’s information may be obsolete before it arrives at the bookstore. New restaurants come, old ones go, shops and galleries open and close, hours and days of operation of businesses, museums etc. may change. The book won’t know about the hottest new restaurant, club, shop, gallery or attraction in town and it can’t tell you what the current exhibition at a museum is. The concierge and their level knowledge can make your visit really special. If you need flowers or candy delivered or the right gift for that special person, the concierge will know just how to get it done for you. These special touches can make your occasion and your stay memorable.

If you’ve been working with a concierge prior to arrival, a tip inside a card or a thank-you letter is a great gesture. You may also wait until departure to tip. These people can be your greatest asset in a hotel. Dedicated concierges do not expect a tip, but they appreciate getting one. Base the tip on what you ask them to do. If it is dinner for an evening, $5 is appropriate. If they are making a lot of arrangements for your stay, tip $10 or $20 or more, depending on the amount of work involved and your satisfaction. Sometimes you spend a lot of time with a concierge and tipping may feel awkward to you. Personal gifts are a wonderful idea, but before buying something, figure out if it’s an item they can actually use. A bottle of fine wine is an appropriate gift to a wine-lover, but if given to a recovering alcoholic, not so great. Food can be a welcome thank-you, but what if they’re on a diet. If possible, find out what store or restaurant they love and give them a gift certificate. But remember, cash is king and your concierge will appreciate being remembered.

Room service

untimate guide to hotel tipping - Don't forget to tip for room service. photo Stephanie Diehl

Don’t forget to tip for room service. photo/Stephanie Diehl

Room service is tricky. The hotel usually adds a service charge to the bill. This is not a tip and a gratuity may have been added. The attendant does not get the service charge, and the tip, if included, may be pooled by the hotel. An appropriate tip is between 18% and 20% of the food and/or drink bill before taxes. If the server sets your food up and goes above and beyond, you may want to tip them a bit extra. You know the server gets to keep this.

The Spa

ultimate guide to hotel tipping - The serene waiting area at the spa at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, photo Steve Collins

The serene waiting area at the spa at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, photo Steve Collins

Many luxury hotels feature spas. If you are pampering yourself with a spa service, often the tip is added on to the bill. If it is, no additional gratuity is needed. If it’s not included, tip 18 to 20% of the pre-tax bill.

The pool attendant

untimate guide to hotel tipping - You'll get great poolside service at the Paradise Pool at the Arizona Biltmore, photo Steve Collins

You’ll get great poolside service at the Paradise Pool at the Arizona Biltmore, photo Steve Collins

If there is a swimming pool or beach attendant and they bring towels or do other personal services tip $1 or $2. If you order food or drinks delivered to you and a tip is not included, again, 18 to 20% of the bill is appropriate. If a tip is added by the hotel, give the server a few extra dollars. You never know if these tips go to the server or the hotel.

Shuttle or Car Drivers

The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, CA shuttles guests in an authentic London taxi, photo Steve Collins

The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, CA shuttles guests in an authentic London taxi, photo Steve Collins

Many hotels offer shuttle or car service to guests. You can leave the car at the hotel and not have to worry about driving (and parking) locally. It’s a great convenience when going out to dinner. You can enjoy your cocktails or wine knowing you won’t get behind the wheel on the way back to your lodging. A suggested tip for the driver is $2 to $5 per person, per ride.

All inclusive

The Vine in Cancun, an all-inclusive resort, photo Stephanie Diehl

A panoramic view from a balcony at Secrets The Vine in Cancun, an all-inclusive resort, photo Stephanie Diehl

If you are staying at a hotel where a service charge is added “to cover tips”, don’t presume that the staff gets it. If you feel that you want to tip anyone or everyone who provides good service, go for it. It will ensure great treatment during your stay. Here are guidelines for an all-inclusive property: $2 to $10 for room service depending on the order, $5 per couple buffets, $5 to $10 per couple for a la carte restaurants, $1 to $2 per round or $5 to $10 for the day for drink service whether you’re at the bar, the pool or the beach. Staff members appreciate the reward and often depend on it.

No tipping policies

Some places have “no tipping” policies in place. It is usual for the employee to refuse once. If you really want to tip them, offer again. If they refuse a second time, it may be that there job is on the line and you don’t want to get them fired.

Some people are pleased with service but don’t tip. They feel the trip is already too expensive and that they can’t afford to. If you can afford to stay at a luxury hotel, you can afford to tip; use our ultimate guide to hotel tipping as a guideline. If the stay is a splurge or you got a great promotional rate, budget the tips into your expense planning prior to the trip. At least, tip the minimum; you’ll earn good karma points. Hotel staff generally remember the generous tippers and this small gesture can make the difference between a good and great stay. You’ll be rewarded in subtle (and often not-so-subtle ways) for your generosity.

Was the Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping helpful to you?

You can even print out the Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping and carry it with you or save it on your phone for reference.

Writer’s note: Thanks to Stephanie Diehl of Travel Designed by Stephanie for her input into this post. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.




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24 Responses to “Ultimate Guide to Hotel Tipping”

  1. TravelDesigned
    October 10, 2019 at 8:54 pm #

    Thanks Billie for the chance to work on this post with you. It was fun and I hope to work with you again!

    • Billie Frank
      October 12, 2019 at 8:00 am #

      I would love that, too! What’s our next project?

  2. Karen D.
    October 11, 2019 at 6:25 am #

    Thanks for the guidelines. Tipping is one of those social graces that can be confusing!

  3. Charu
    October 13, 2019 at 9:57 am #

    I’ve never not tipped anyone, but these guidelines are helpful when you don’t know what amounts. The maid…definitely-truly can make a world of difference to them. Nice job Billie!

    • Billie Frank
      October 13, 2019 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks, Charu! I was asked about tipping a lot when I was a concierge- figured it would help many travelers out.

  4. Christina
    December 19, 2019 at 10:22 am #

    You make a good point about pooling tips; asking might just help you make a better decision. Giving additional compensation for those who help with heavier luggage is a nice thing to do as well.

  5. Deedee Lewis
    January 9, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    I always thought that when it came to tipping the valet, tipping during the drop-off was enough, but I can see why it would be important to tip during the pick-up as well. The valets do work hard to make sure your car is taken cared of and they should be tipped to show appreciation. I would just make sure that you are aware of how much you should tip them for the work the valet is doing.

    • Billie Frank
      January 19, 2019 at 4:56 pm #

      As you probably will get a different valet each time- it’s up to you. We definitely tip on the way out more often than we do on the way in. We do tip on check-in and chances are in many places the valet is also the bellperson, though not always. Tipping is always appreciated. I think tipping is up to the tipper.

  6. Brian
    January 9, 2019 at 12:52 pm #

    This is a really great guide to tipping for so many different industries. Tipping in america can be hard to gauge but this is very helpful.

  7. Christina
    January 19, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

    You make a good point when highlighting the hussle that people who valet need to have. It takes a lot to do such a physically demanding job and go above and beyond each time.

  8. Heather
    June 23, 2019 at 8:05 am #

    Tipping 18-20% is generally a good rule of thumb, but sometimes there’s those grey areas that make it difficult to know how much to tip. Your guide really helps with those tougher situations. I didn’t even realize some establishments had no tipping policies! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Abby
    August 31, 2019 at 8:29 am #

    I agree, not tipping enough or at all is just as memorable as tipping large. Most of these types of employees live off of tips so it is important to tip fairly. These are great guidelines! Thanks for sharing!

    • Billie Frank
      September 7, 2019 at 8:23 am #

      Thanks for the kind words. Tipping seems to be a stressful issue for people.

  10. Traveling Ted
    September 15, 2019 at 7:12 am #

    Having worked in the travel industry for many years, I am glad to see this post. Many people forget to tip because they are not sure of the etiquette. Way to raise awareness.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Hiking into the Corcovado cauldronMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      September 15, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

      Tipping is so important for the staff- thanks for the kind words.

  11. Ryan Biddulph
    September 16, 2019 at 8:23 am #

    Hi Billie,

    What a helpful post.

    Much of the world - outside of the US - has little idea of tipping etiquette, or, that they should tip these folks.

    Most folks leave no tip because they are confused about how to tip, or, who to tip, or how much to leave. I get a bit unclear sometimes and skip the tip.

    But knowing the proper amounts - and who can receive tips - gives folks greater clarity and confidence in leaving tips that go a long way for service folks. Especially when those 2 and 5 and 10 buck tips roll in over the course of the day, or weeks.

    Good stuff Billie.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • Billie Frank
      September 19, 2019 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks for the kind words, Ryan. Knowing tipping customs when traveling is really helpful. We always check when in a foreign country so we get it right.

  12. Jack Titchener
    October 2, 2019 at 12:53 pm #

    I never knew to tip the housekeeper between $3-$5. For how much they have to clean I guess it would make sense to give them something extra for their services. I imagine they also operate much like waitresses as well and make most of their money off of tips.

    • Billie Frank
      October 2, 2019 at 7:07 pm #

      In the USA, as far as I know, housekeepers have to at least be paid minimum wage as opposed to waitstaff who get a very small hourly wage that’s supposed to be supplemented by tips- it’s a bit long and complicated to go into here. But, the job of cleaning up after hotel guests is often really pretty gross and tips are very appreciated.

  13. Taylor Bishop
    October 26, 2019 at 6:09 am #

    Thanks for going over some information about tipping for hotels.You mentioned briefly that you should only leave about $2 for housekeeping at a motel or something similar. I’m interested to learn if this is a common thing or if there are some areas where you wouldn’t need to tip at all or you need to tip more.

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