Between booking flights and Insta-stalking all the things you can’t miss, planning a trip can feel an awful lot like a full-time job these days. One thing many people forget to take into account, though—both in terms of budget and just in general—is that technically it’s encouraged to tip the staff members (yes, multiple) whenever you spend the night at a hotel.
Even if this isn’t news to you, the matter of how exactly to go about it isn’t readily transparent. Do you tip at the beginning of your stay or the end? Should it always be in cash? And, um, how much do you give? In short, figuring out an equation for best practices when it comes to tipping for a hotel stay can be overwhelming.
To shed some light on how much you should really be giving, to whom, and how often, we spoke with different hotel personnel across the country to find out what’s typically expected. Read on for their advice.
Who Should Guests Be Tipping?
This depends on two factors: How dependent staff members are on tips, and how great the guests feel their services were. According to Mark Hayes, General Manager of the Kimpton Aertson Hotel in Nashville, TN, the bellhop and valet staff are the most dependent on tips, because they’re “usually working below or at minimum wage,” and the same goes for in-house bartenders. Housekeepers tend to receive tips the least frequently (less than 25 percent of rooms leave tips for them). Guest service agents (those who greet arriving guests, assign rooms, issue keys, and collect guest payment and billing information) don’t rely on tips, “but are, of course, appreciative of them,” says Hayes, and while the concierge team makes the same hourly rate as the guest service agents (or greater), tipping them is more customary.
Mat Chapman, a concierge at the JW Marriott in Chicago, IL, says the doormen and bellmen are a must, particularly if they’re assisting with your luggage. “These positions do not pool or share tips typically,” he explains. If a request is made and fulfilled to the guest’s satisfaction, the concierge should also be tipped, and the same rule applies for the housekeeper.
When it comes to the hotel food and beverage staff (think: room service attendants), things get a bit more complicated. Yes, gratuity may frequently be included on your room service check—in some cases it’s listed as a service charge or delivery fee, FYI—but it can be less than the restaurant industry standard of 20 percent. Explains Hayes: “15 to 18 percent is [more] typical,” so feel free to add a few dollars if you feel the delivery warrants it. The same goes at the in-house restaurant. “At Kimpton and other new-wave hotel restaurants that are designed to stand alone, the restaurant wait staff is paid comparably to any other standalone restaurant,” says Hayes. “So please tip!”
So, the short list: The doorman, bellman, valet, food and beverage staff, shuttle drivers, housekeepers, and concierge staff. But if you’re looking for a more general rule of thumb, tipping any hourly employee you feel is providing great service is a job well done. (Pro tip: You can usually distinguish hourly employees by their name tags, which typically have only their first name listed, says Hayes.)
How Much Should You Tip—And When?
“It depends on what [the staff] is doing for you,” explains Hayes. “Grabbed your car or a bag? $2 to $5 is customary. Upgraded you, got you a tough ticket, or last-minute dinner reservation? $10 to $100, pending the difficulty of the request. Cleaned your room? $2 to $5 per day is appreciated.” Chapman also agrees that tips fluctuate depending on the service rendered: “For Doormen and bellhops, $1 to $2 per bag should be a baseline estimate. For a concierge: $5 should be a baseline starting point. Housekeepers, $2 to $5 per night, depending on the service.”
According to Melinda Vesterfelt, the front office manager at The Woodlands Inn in Wilkes Barre, PA, housekeepers are generally tipped an average of about $2 per day, per person, and people are more likely to tip housekeeping when they leave. Although, as Vesterfelt points out, if you make a special request, it’s ideal to tip then, too: “It’s not as customary, but if there is a request to have towels or toilet paper or something brought to the room, [sometimes] people give a dollar or two because you’re bringing that service to them.” This also applies to a hotel employee helping with your luggage: “While it’s not required, most people will give a tip [for this], and that can be anywhere from $2 to $5,” Vesterfelt says.
But should you tip per service, or at the end of your stay? According to Hayes, that depends, too. “You could go broke if you tip every time your car is brought around, or every time a cab is hailed,” Hayes says. “Different housekeepers may take care of your room during your stay, but tipping on your day of departure rewards the one with the hardest job.”
But no matter what you choose, your decision to tip does not go unnoticed. In fact, it may even help better your stay: “While I strive to give my all of my guests the best service possible, I will say that once I’ve established a relationship with a guest, I’m more inclined to go above and beyond for them,” explains Chapman. “By that I mean thinking about their preferences and itinerary without being asked, and trying to come up with new and interesting ways to wow them.”
And even though the hotel may be providing a certain amenity, it doesn’t mean the complimentary service should go unnoticed by your wallet. “We have a complimentary shuttle service and some people think: ‘Oh, this is just part of my free service,'” but here, Vesterfelt encourages tipping the driver at least $2 to $5. As a rule of thumb: If a hotel employee is doing extra work for you, it’s tip-worthy.
In Short: “If You’re Happy, Share The Wealth!”
While most hotel staff workers are receiving an hourly rate, their pay does not cover some worker fees. “I work in an urban luxury brand hotel where service fees are not included in my compensation,” explains Chapman. What’s more, not all hourly rates are created equal: “If you’re a housekeeper, front desk clerk, or a driver, we get paid at least minimum wage or higher, depending on the position,” Vesterfelt says. “But the bartenders, and on the food and beverage side, [they’re] getting like $2 an hour, so [they] rely on tips.”
In the end, Hayes summarizes the major takeaways as these: “1. People who tip up front, thinking it will prompt great service, tend to be more disappointed about their return on investment than guests who tip in response to great service. 2. Tipping is not obligatory in a hotel, but if you’re happy, share the wealth. 3. If you don’t have cash to spare, mentioning an employee by name on a survey or in a note to a manager will usually trigger an incentive paid out to the staff member too.”
This story is part of Glamour‘s guide to tipping. Tips are approximate and based on varying factors. Learn more about how much to give in this seven-part series.