Even frequent travelers scratch their heads when it comes to how much they should tip hotel employees, tour guides and others who provide services when they are on the road. The holiday season, however, adds another element of confusion to a practice that is already perplexing enough: Are you supposed to give an extra tip in the spirit of the season to the concierge at your hotel who helps with dinner reservations or the Uber driver taking you to the airport? What about the travel agent you use to book your vacations?
Here, travel industry experts share their advice on who and how much to tip over the holidays:
The season, generally, warrants extra tipping. Reneta McCarthy, a senior lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, who has lectured on tipping in the hospitality industry, says that from Dec. 15 through Jan. 1, tipping at least 25 percent above the usual tip amount to anyone who serves you when you’re traveling is a much appreciated gesture. People to consider include the van driver of the free airport shuttle who takes you to your hotel and helps you with your bags, the Uber or Lyft driver who gets you to the airport through heavy traffic and hotel employees such as bellhops, housekeeping staff and servers. “Remember that these people are working hard through a very hectic season, and it’s nice for you to show them that you recognize this,” Ms. McCarthy said.
Frequent hotel guests should tip double. If you’re a regular at a certain hotel and staying at that property over the holidays, it’s a good idea to tip twice what you normally would, according to Josh Alexander, a travel specialist at Protravel International, based in New York, who has written tipping guidelines for his clients. “Regular hotel guests often receive exceptional service, and the holidays are a time to reward that service,” he said.
Baseline tip amounts at a luxury hotel, he said, are $5 a day for housekeeping, $3 to $5 per bag for bellhops and $2 to $3 for employees who call you a taxi or hold the door open for you. Concierge tips vary from $5 to $50, depending on how elaborate your request is.
For hotel employees that you have gotten to know especially well through your stays and who are proactive when assisting you, such as the concierge member who remembers that you enjoy meals at trendy restaurants and emails you in advance of your stay with a list of the newest ones in town, Mr. Alexander recommended not only doubling the amount you tip but also giving a nonmonetary gift, like a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or a scarf. “When you have a friendly relationship with someone, it’s thoughtful and more personal to give something beyond money,” he said.
Tip more on the actual holiday. On Christmas, the first day of Hanukkah and on New Year’s Day, Mr. Alexander says, all hospitality employees deserve extra tips because they are helping you enjoy your holiday instead of sharing the day with their loved ones. Rather than suggesting a specific amount, he said it was best to tip from your heart. “Sometimes you’re truly moved by someone, like the smiling breakfast server at your hotel who tries hard to please you,” he said, “and you want to give him an extra $5 or $10 because it’s Christmas.”
Don’t tip your travel agent. If there is a travel adviser you rely on to plan your business or work trips, please don’t tip him or her, said Misty Belles, the director of global public relations for Virtuoso, a luxury travel network with more than 11,000 advisers. “An adviser’s job is to create memorable trips for you and they get compensated for their service, so they don’t expect more money on top of that,” she said.
She added that it was not uncommon for agents in the Virtuoso network to receive gifts from longtime clients, such as wine, food baskets or tickets to a sporting event or show.
Guides don’t need extra tips. The standard tip amount for a private, English-speaking guide who takes you on a full-day tour is from $25 to $50; for group tours that are one to four hours long, that amount is $10 to $15. Come the holidays, Ms. Belles said, there is no need to exceed these numbers. “Maybe you want to lean toward the upper end of these ranges during the holiday season or give more money if you’ve had an exceptional tour, but guides don’t rely on tips for their income the way other service providers do,” she said.
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