Posted: July 29, 2014

A Traveler’s Complete Guide to Tipping
How much should you tip?

Twenty percent? Traveling from the door to door often requires taxi drivers, bell staff in airport hotels and other intermediaries along the way. And when it comes to tipping, it can be hard to find that sweet spot – you don't want to appear cheap but at the same time, you know you ought to stick to the travel budget. Check out this guide to tipping, and you and your wallet will be ready for your next vacation.

Variance Across the US

Even though Americans rank as the best tippers in the eyes of the rest of the world, tipping etiquette changes in regions across the U.S. You might be expected to tip 20 percent to a good waiter in New York City, but a server in Tulsa, Oklahoma, may be cheery about a 15 percent tip.

The tip is always calculated as a percentage of the bill, not including tax. As a good rule of thumb, it usually follows this rule: 10 percent if you were unsatisfied, 15 percent if it was OK, 20 percent for excellent service, 25 percent for above-and-beyond service.

Importantly, not all services require the same amount.

Restaurants and Bars

Whether you're out to eat with family or co-workers, it's proper etiquette to tip servers. A cheap tip can rub off poorly – especially if you are trying to impress potential clients over drinks. As good business travel advice, here's the breakdown.

A full-service food service should receive 15 to 20 percent of the pretax bill. So, if your bill comes out to $55, a generous 20 percent tip would be $11. A 15 percent tip totals $8.25. If the server was bad but not horrible, put down 10 percent, $5.5. (Slice of advice: An easy way to calculate 10 percent in your head is to simply move the decimal left one digit.)

It's always worth keeping in mind that in many restaurants, the waiter is required to give part of his or her tips to the bus boy, hostess and food runners. Try to tip in cash when you can and directly to the person who provided the service. Saying a simple "thank you" when handing cash over is customary.

For food servers in a buffet-style or pickup-style restaurant, such as coffee or sandwich shop, tips should be at least 10 percent.

There is no obligation to tip for take-out service, but a 10 percent tip is favorable for extra service – curbside delivery or a large, complicated order.

For bartenders, tip $1 or $2 per drink, or 15 or 20 percent of the total bill.

Gratuity included?

Gratuity included means the same thing as a tip. If the bill clearly states "18 percent gratuity included," that's the tip for the server, and you don't have to tip any extra. If you want to tip more, you can, but it's not necessary.

Restaurants often include gratuity in the bill if there's a large party, so be sure to check it out. Yet in some cities, such as Miami Beach, Florida, it's customary for bars and restaurants to throw in an included tip no matter what.

Taxis

Most vacations are filled with cab drivers who make their living on tips. Depending on the city you're traveling in, a 15 percent tip is usually enough. If the driver helps with any bags, include an extra $1 to $2. For example, a cab ride costs $13 and the driver helps with bags. How much should you pay? $16 is suitable.

The price depends on your comfort level, how safe you feel during the drive and the friendliness of the driver.

Hotels

Between room service, maids and bell staff, knowing your tip amounts at hotels is sure to come in handy. Tip the bell staff around $1 to $2 per bag, and more if the bags are especially heavy. For room service, you can give 15 to 20 percent of the total bill, like tipping a waiter or waitress at a restaurant. After your stay at an airport hotel, it's customary to leave $2 to $3 per night and more in upscale hotels or if more than three people were staying the room. Leave the tip on the pillow or the main table, wherever is most visible.

If you get valet parking, hand $2 to $5 to the driver when your car is returned to you.

Many airport hotels in destinations such as Boston and Denver offer a complimentary shuttle from airport to hotel. Tip these courtesy shuttle drivers $1 to $2 per bag.

Airports

At the airport, if you happen to use an airport or a train porter, it's proper to tip $1 to $2 per bag. Airport wheelchair assistance gets $3 to $5 upon arrival at the gate.

Beauty

Enjoying a little pampering on your leisure travel? Consider leaving a tip. Beauty salon professionals deserve around 15 to 20 percent for a manicure or pedicure. A good tip for a hair stylist or barber is a minimum of 15 to 20 percent of the cost of service, which might be split among others who assisted. For spa services like a massage, drop a 15 to 20 percent tip. However, no tip is necessary if the service was provided by the owner of the establishment.

Extra Advice

Consider whipping out the calculator on your phone, or downloading tipping apps such as Tip Me or Tip N Split Tip Calculator. These tools can make tipping a lot easier.

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