Hotel tipping is one of those things that can paralyze even the most experienced of travelers with indecision. Who to tip? When? How much? The exchange can become quite awkward, even if you are prepared with a stack of dollar bills, and decidedly worse if you start over-employing the "I'll get you next time" strategy. There's also a question of expectations. At a modestly priced hotel, should guests tip at all? Freelance travel writer Renee Sklarew tackles the issue by going to the experts for this special Hotels Week 2014 report.
At self-service hotels like Courtyard or Best Western, travelers typically wheel their suitcases to their rooms and help themselves to coffee in the morning. In those cases, tipping is less of an expectation. In fact, some hotels have policies that discourage tipping altogether. Helen Morton, the director of sales at Skyland Resort inside the Shenandoah National Park, says their employees do not expect to be tipped. "We want our guests to relax and unplug'" says Morton. "It's a chance to get away from all that pressure." Nevertheless, many guests tip the housekeeping staff at Skyland, and servers in their restaurants receive between 14-20% gratuities.
At upscale hotels in metropolitan areas, it is customary to tip several members of the staff. "There are guidelines in the industry where tipping has become an expectation," explains Gabe Eveland, director of revenue management at the Park Hyatt Washington DC. "We tell our staff, tipping is a way of rewarding good service, and there's no way to say what's appropriate across the board. For our guests, we encourage tipping at their own discretion based on the service they receive, and how satisfied they are with that service."
Most luxury hotel guests expect to dole out dollars. According to Eveland, some members of the front desk team have even been tipped, though it's not customary. "Ultimately, the guideline is limited to the valet parker, shuttle driver, doorman, concierge and housekeeping. Those people are the ones providing a lot of services you take for granted, or you are doing on your own when you're not in a hotel." When tipping housekeeping, Eveland recommends you consider whether you're staying in a standard room versus a suite, and whether you're "very messy." The bigger the room, and the messier you are, the more you should tip.
A concierge typically receives between $5 to 10 depending on the service provided, including making a dinner reservation or obtaining tickets to a theatre. At some upper-upscale hotels like Capella Hotels & Resorts, the concierge contacts a guest before arrival, then makes arrangements for transportation, in-room amenities, spa appointments or childcare. Often that same concierge welcomes the guest personally at the hotel entrance, addressing the guest by name and showing him or her to the room. When a concierge makes multiple arrangements, guests should tip an amount commensurate with the service—say between $20 to $50—at the end of their stay.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association offers excellent advice on tipping standards in their Gratuity Guide. They list the staff members who should be tipped and a recommended amount. For example, it's customary to tip $1 to $5 to the bellman who takes your suitcase to the hotel room. You can decide how much, based on how heavy your belongings are, whether he showed you around, or provided you with useful information. Everyone appreciates a tip, but there's another way to show your appreciation—take time to write an online review or letter mentioning a staff member's exemplary service to the hotel's general manager.
Here are tipping guidelines provided by the American Hotel & Lodging Association in partnership with Forbes Travel Guide:
Hotel Courtesy Shuttle Driver: $1-2 per person, $5 per party
Valet/Parking Attendant: $1-5 when car is delivered
Bellstaff/Porters: $1-5 per bag when escorted to your room. Tip the same if you request bell staff service while checking out.
Doorstaff: $1-2 for getting a taxi. If they unload your luggage, tip in proportion to amount and weight.
Concierge: $5-10 depending on how involved the service, or lump sum upon departure.
Housekeeping: $1-5 per night, and tip should be left daily in the morning. If possible, leave a note saying the money is for housekeeping.
Delivery of Special Items: $2 for one item, $5 for more. Tipping is not required for someone fixing something broken or bringing something missing.
Room Service: A gratuity of 15-20% should be added if hotel did not include a room service charge on the bill.
Bartender: Tip 15-20% of total beverage tab.
Server in Restaurant: Tip 15% of total bill or 20% for exceptional service.