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When travelers should (and shouldn’t) tip hotel staff

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Tipping can be incredibly personal. Some people are willing to hand over cash regardless of the quality of service, while others carefully weigh their experience before deciding what to tip.

In many ways, there is no wrong way to tip. However, in countries like the U.S., where workers depend on tips to supplement salaries, it can be considered rude not to do so.

Yes, we know there’s a lot of criticism that “guilt tipping” has gotten out of control in the U.S. — especially when the companies employing the staff are posting record profits. But sometimes it’s important to leave a little something for a job well done, particularly during a hotel stay.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t certain tipping rules to consider, especially when traveling. Hotels hired back staff laid off during the coronavirus pandemic, but thanks to a labor shortage that existed prior to the health crisis, there are still fewer workers doing more tasks.

Tipping for the extra effort is a nice or even essential thing to do.

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Over the course of a stay — whether it’s two nights or two weeks — you’re bound to solicit the help of numerous staff members, including a bellhop, a valet, a concierge, housekeeping and room service waiters. Some ultra-luxury hotels even offer butler service to help with everything from unpacking your bags to making sure your favorite flowers are on your nightstand.

But do you tip them all the same? Are there circumstances that don’t require tipping at all?

Tom Waithe, a former vice president of operations for Kimpton Hotels in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain region, has received notes from guests who express concerns about tipping.

“There’s this great fear factor they associate with a very simple gesture,” he told TPG in 2022. “But what guests need to recognize is that staff members very infrequently notice or associate you with the amount you tip. Any gesture is appreciated unless it is so small as to be embarrassing: think pocket change made up of many copper coins.”

So, a pile of pennies may be seen as a snub. What else should travelers keep in mind when tipping hotel staff? It often comes down to the job they do.

Should I tip hotel housekeeping?

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Many hotel and etiquette sources suggest that visitors should leave a tip for housekeepers. After all, they clean up our messes and make our beds.

“These are the hardest-working people in the hotel and the least recognized,” Waithe said.

According to a recent survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 76% of hotels are facing staffing shortages.

Housekeeping is “the most crucial staffing need,” with the AHLA reporting that 50% of its members rank it as their “biggest challenge” for hiring.

In the meantime, it may be a kind gesture to help out those housekeepers if you can afford to do so.

How much should I tip housekeeping?

The AHLA recommends $1 to $5 daily for housekeeping tips.

Business travelers who are rarely in the room might be expected to tip less, and families with messy kids might pay a bit more.

Although you may be tempted to leave something other than cash, don’t.

“We see this frequently, especially when guests have leftover wine or alcohol,” Waithe said. “But it really doesn’t work, as most hotels have strict policies about what can be taken out of a guest room. Guests often think that they are leaving a special treat, like leftover pizza or food, but it’s just thrown out along with any open bottle of liquid since no one knows what went into it.”

Further, some Las Vegas casino resorts have no-gambling policies for team members, so leave cash instead of a gambling chip from last night’s winnings.

What other hotel staff should I tip?

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Luggage attendants

This one is relatively simple: A $1 tip per bag will suffice, but consider upward of $5 per bag for heavier pieces. If you’re traveling with a big group or with enough bags to warrant a luggage cart, feel free to round up to an even number, like $10 or $20, depending on the number of bags.

Room service

It’s common practice for hotels to tack on a service fee to the room service bill — which makes that extra blank gratuity line even more confusing. Will you be considered cheap if you write a big fat line through it? Not necessarily.

“One hundred percent of the included service fee goes to the server, so adding additional amounts is not required,” said Waithe. “Often, the included gratuity is not well identified on the bill, so people add more without knowing it’s already been applied. So look before you add!”

The delivery charge you often see on the bill goes to the hotel and is paid to cooks, dishwashers and other kitchen workers.

In the rare case when gratuity has not been added, tip 15% to 20% of the bill. Also, no tip is required for taking your room service tray away after your meal is complete.

Valets

Generally, you should be prepared to tip $1 to $5 every time a valet retrieves your car from the hotel lot. A few inside sources — current and former valets — confirmed that’s standard.

“You can either tip a little at a time or tell the valet you will get [him or her] at the end,” said Eric Matava, a former valet at a Connecticut hotel.

Concierges

When tipping concierges, consider it a sliding scale — how much you give depends on what they do for you.

While a simple dinner recommendation or reservation doesn’t warrant a tip, a $5 to $10 tip for a hard-to-get reservation is always appreciated.

However, if the concierge plans an amazing experience, pulls strings to get you into a sold-out show or arranges an in-room birthday or anniversary surprise for your spouse, that warrants something to say thanks.

How much is really up to you and your budget, but experts told TPG that $40 is on the low end, and even upward of $100 is appropriate for more complicated tasks.

Butler service

Even if your hotel or resort includes gratuities (which most often occurs at all-inclusive resorts and beach resorts), it’s still necessary to tip your butler extra. As with concierges, the tip depends on how much you use them — and for what.

“If you have them running around doing things, it’s important to show them some appreciation,” said Lindsey Epperly Sulek, owner and CEO of Jetset World Travel and a Caribbean travel expert. “But if you don’t use them most of the time, I wouldn’t feel obligated.”

She suggests $10 to $15 daily if they complete mostly basic tasks.

For butlers who “do their jobs 1,000%,” Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of travel advisory firm Embark Beyond, said he usually tips closer to $100.

When should I tip more?

“If you’re a family and have a garbage can full of diapers or a room that looks like a hurricane hit it, be sensitive to the fact that the housekeeper is going to spend extra time in there, taking [him or her] away from the rest of the rooms,” Waithe said, suggesting that would be a good time to leave an extra tip.

A person who hasn’t spent much time in the room might tip less.

When thinking about an extra tip, consider your individual situation, any special requests you might be making of your hotel staff, whether you’re making a mess and your empathy for their often thankless job.

Where should I leave the tip?

Experts recommend putting the money on the desk or another clear surface in your room — ideally in an envelope or even just wrapped in a piece of paper with “thank you” written on it so it’s clear to the housekeeper this is meant for them.

Some hotels are beginning to include housekeeping tip envelopes in each room. There are also hotel companies that are even rolling out mobile tipping for those who don’t always carry cash.

Waithe said you can also leave a note with the gratuity with any special requests (such as extra towels or new batteries for the remote) or add comments (say, if you broke a glass).

While it’s not an official policy at any hotel, it’s logical to think that including a gratuity with an extra service request may increase the likelihood — or at least the enthusiasm — that any current or future request is delivered.

Housekeeping didn’t clean my room during my stay — do I still tip?

Housekeeping will still be required to clean your room after your visit. With new and improved cleaning protocols in place following the pandemic, housekeeping will likely have some significant work to do no matter how clean you have left your room.

If you endorse the general policy of leaving a tip for housekeeping, you should still leave something at the end of your stay regardless of whether you’ve interacted with them or not. Perhaps adjust your daily tip rate downward to reflect a single service versus multiple cleanings.

When tipping isn’t required

While door staff can be very helpful in hailing a taxi or transporting luggage, there’s no need to leave a tip just for opening the door for you.

Upstairs in your room, you won’t need to tip engineering team members for fixing something that’s broken in your room or for bringing up an item that might be missing.

If a staff member switches rooms for you to be closer to friends or family members, there’s no need to tip here, either. Instead, leave a good online review, per the American Society of Travel Advisors.

Tipping cheat sheet

Checking out now and need to know what to tip? Don’t sweat the small change.

 

Low end

 High end

Don’t forget

Housekeeping $1 $5 Tip daily — and your leftover Champagne doesn’t count.
Room service 15% 20% Only tip when gratuity hasn’t been included, which it usually is.
Concierges $5 to $10 $40 to $100 Consider whether your request was easy or complicated.
Luggage attendants $1 per bag $5 per bag Round up if you’re using a luggage cart.
Valets $1 $5 It’s customary to tip when valets retrieve your car — not when they park it.
Butlers $10 $15 Tip daily (and consider higher tips for more complicated requests).

 

Bottom line

If there’s one big takeaway on how to tip, it’s that it’s more of an art than a science. So much depends on your personal budget, the destination, the type of hotel and what service charges or resort fees are already included in your bill.

In general, if someone touched it — your luggage, extra pillows, the room service tray — they may deserve a little something in return.

In the end, though, the best thing you can do for individual staff is to give what you can and know it will be appreciated.