Getting a grip on gratuities, both here and in Europe
Whether you’re heading to Bavaria or Boston this summer, or any points in between, knowing how to handle tips and gratuities while on the road this summer isn’t easy. But it should be a priority.
That’s because summer service workers, like bartenders, waiters, spa attendants, and Uber drivers, among others, aren’t paid a stellar hourly age and depend on tips to put food on the table.
The summer months are the busy season for service and tourism professionals, and this year should be no different.
According to AAA Travel, 64% of U.S. leisure travelers will take a summer vacation this year, with Orlando, Fla., London, Rome, Vancouver, and Dublin, Ireland rated (in that order) as the most popular destinations.
With millions of American fully engaging their summer travel wanderlust, getting a grip on gratuities can help travelers get better service, help hard-working service industry workers out, and help tourist hot spots economies continue to grow
What are the rules of the road for travelers on the tipping front? Read on and see what pocketbook protocols you’ll need to follow this summer.
General rules and guidelines for tipping in the U.S.
For starters, having a tip-friendly rulebook is highly helpful for U.S. summer travelers.
From knowing how much cash to leave behind at a beachside tiki hut or simply taking good care of your hotel bellhop, Northwestern Mutual offers travelers a handy guide to summer travel tipping here in the states.
Here’s a snapshot at what the financial services company advises on the gratuity front on the road, from Juneau to Jacksonville this year.
Food & beverage service
- Sit-down service: While the standard rule is to leave a minimum of 15% of the bill, tipping 20% is preferable.
- Dinner with a large party: Most restaurants will automatically account for gratuity for large parties, however, it’s always nice to add enough to the auto-gratuity to bring the tip up to 20% if need be — or more if you have a large (and loud) group.
- Take-out service: There’s no obligation to tip, but if your order was large or complicated, tip 10%.
- Drinks at a bar: The old standard of tipping is $1 per drinks, but for more complicated cocktails, $2 to $3 per drink is recommended.
- Food delivery: Whether you order your delivery straight from the restaurant or through a third-party delivery service such as UberEats, Postmates, or Seamless, tip 15% to 20% depending on how far the driver is traveling. Even if the restaurant has an added delivery fee, you should still tip on the subtotal — that fee is almost never passed along to the delivery person.
- Grocery delivery: Unless the delivery service has a no-tipping policy, a tip of $5 per delivery, regardless of delivery fees, is recommended.
- Ride service (Uber/Lyft): 15-20 % of the fare
- Airport shuttle service: $1 to $2 per person
- Curbside bag check: $2 for the first bag and $1 to $2 for each additional bag. However, feel free to use your judgment if you have extra bulky items or an especially helpful handler.
- Valet parking: $2 to $5 once your car is returned to you.
- Hotel Doorman: $2 to $3 if the doorman helps you with your bags; otherwise, no tip is necessary.
- Bellhops: $1 to $2 per bag but round up to $5 if you only have one or two bags.
- Front desk clerks/concierge: For front desk clerks and concierge service, it’s nice to tip $5 to $10 if you are given special treatment above and beyond quick directions.
- Housekeeping: $3 to $5 per day in a clearly marked envelope, and it’s best to leave tips daily as your providers may change.
Gratuity tips when abroad
Of course, how much to tip also depends on where you travel and what the local tipping culture calls for when traveling in the U.S. or in far-off foreign places – especially Europe.
Take these locale-friendly tips with you when you pack up and head out the door and across the Atlantic:
Flexibility in the UK
If you’re off to London and the UK, tipping is actually largely up to you.
“While tipping isn’t expected in any sort of U.K. establishment, it’s most definitely appreciated,” says Sophia Anderson, founder of the WanderfulMe travel blog. “If you’re a traveler at a pub, for example, and your service was exceptional, rounding up to the next number is a good way to show your thanks.”
For instance, if your total bill ends up around £9, give them £10; if it’s around £26, give them £30, Sophie says. “But overall, if you’re a budget traveler and trying to save money, you can get by without tipping in the United Kingdom and no one will be upset.”
If you’re in Southern Europe…
Pretty much the same guidelines that apply in the UK also apply when you travel further south in Europe.
“In Portugal, tipping might not be customary here, but it’s always appreciated,” says James Cave, founder of the Portugalist.com blog. “Even if you’re in a country where people are paid a minimum wage, it’s still the minimum wage (i.e. the bare minimum) that you need in order to survive.”
Cave advises travelers to Portugal to leave some cash behind as a gesture of good service and goodwill. “10% is usually a good percentage to aim for if you like to work to a percentage, but any kind of tip is always a bonus,” he says.
If you’re in France…
Tipping also seems to be a guessing game while in France, so practice your best discretion on gratuities.
“In French restaurants, the service is, by law, always included in the prices listed on the menu,” says Emilie Thyebaut, CEO of France Just For You, a self-drive touring agency. “You may hear people saying that it is not included, but this normally happens in very touristy areas where restaurants are used to foreigners leaving tips.”
Thyebaut says you “don’t need” to tip but it is customary to leave a small amount on the table after paying, particularly if you received a good service. “A tip of 5 to 10% is fine, but you won’t be insulting anyone if you leave a small tip or no tip at all,” she says.
Hotels are basically the same, but spa services and tour guides generally do require a gratuity in France.
“Tipping at spas varies from place to place, so check if gratuities are accepted, and if so, you may leave a 10-20% tip at reception,” she advises. “You should tip tour guides, museum guides, and drivers in France. Tip a tour guide between €2.50-5 after the tour, and museum guides will expect to receive a couple of euros. If you are on a bus tour, it is good etiquette to leave your driver €1-2 per person, per day of the tour.”
Taxis require a 10% tip, she adds.
If you’re in Italy…
Italians don’t tip or very little (like a coin or two) on a good meal, but U.S. tourists tend to upend that scenario, says Lisa R. Tucci, program director at Arte al Sole Private Family Tours & Kids Day Camps in Italy
“Americans “ruin the market” when it comes to tipping in Italy,” Tucci says. “That’s because Italian restaurant employees get paid a guaranteed minimum salary, have national healthcare, get paid vacation and pension fund contributions. But Americans feel guilty if they don’t tip and while appreciated, oftentimes the money doesn’t end up with the server, anyway.
American tourists may not realize it, but Italian eateries usually charge a 10% “table service fee” fee for just sitting down and that amount doubles when you go to a coffee bar or café, Tucci says.
Cab rides are even more problematic.
“A taxi ride from Rome’s airport is 48 euro set fee,” she says. “If the driver helps with bags, turns on the A/C (yes, you often have to ask for it), and is nice, you round up the cost to 50 euro,” she advises. “Just know that they will, upon arrival, give you a yarn that luggage or extra people is extra and find myriad ways to separate you from your money. Just pay what’s on the meter and say, ‘Arriverderci.’”
Hotel tips, no matter where you are
When it comes to summer travel, many times you’ll be on resort stays of several days and dealing with the same people over that stay.
Consequently, you’ll want to start tipping at the beginning of your stay to build a good relationship with your servers who will likely make your stay even better, says Daniel Gillaspia, founder of the travel blog, UponArriving.com.
“I believe in always tipping housekeeping at least a couple of bucks (or the foreign equivalent) per room cleaning service,” Gillaspia says. “Again, I don’t wait until the end of the trip to tip just to increase the odds of getting the best service during my stay.”
For things like cabanas, Gillaspia says he gives an initial tip of $10 to $20 and depending on how service goes, “may double or even triple it.”
Tipping at all-inclusive resorts is an art form, as well.
“I’ve spent a number of visits at all-inclusive resorts and I think it’s also a good idea to tip at bars,” he adds. “You might not tip every drink, but dropping a few bucks to a bartender who will remember you is a great way to ensure you’re not getting watered down beverages.”
Gillaspia also earmarks up to a 15% tip for a good spa massage, and if the experience is superior, he’ll increase the tip another 5%-to-10%.
Travel well and tip appropriately this summer
Hopefully, the “tipping tips” listed above will take the mystery out of tipping here in the U.S. and in Europe. It’s all part of the package for acknowledging a job well done – at home and abroad.