Family Vacation Tips

Tipping Tips for your Family Vacation

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 5, 2013 12:27:00 PM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Tips on Tipping Doesn't the photo of this tip jar make you smile and want to leave a tip? I know I would certainly add a fat tip to this jar just for it's creativity and the smile that it gave me.

When it comes to family vacation planning, folks tend to focus on price of big ticket items like plane tickets or hotels and tend to forget about calculating tipping costs. A dollar here and 20% there can quickly add to the bottom line.

Vacations are suppose to be fun. We want our parents to enjoy themselves and have fun with their kids. Proper planning and budgeting allows you to do this instead of worrying and stressing about finances.

The majority of folks aren't really sure how to tip when on vacation. They aren't sure what's normal, what's expected or how to tip properly. Nobody wants to be a cheapskate but people do not want to overspend either.  We offer these guidelines to help you set an accurate travel budget, be well informed and understand proper etiquette...

How To Tip At the Airport - If a porter helps you along your way at the airport, typically it's good practice to tip $1 per bag. Considerations for larger tips would be if you're traveling with oversized or heavy bags, lots of baby gear or luggage for a larger group of travelers.  If you need special assistance like a wheelchair or shuttle cart ride to the gate then $2-$5 depending on the effort, service and distance.

How To Tip Your Drivers - It's good practice to tip taxi and limo drivers 10-15% of the cost of your trip.  Hotel shuttle bus drivers generally expect $1-$2 per person. Again, special consideration is needed if you need help with heavy or oversized bags.  If someone parks your car, figure a tip of $1-$2.

How To Tip At Your Hotel - Just like in the airport, anytime someone handles your bag, figure $1-$2 per bag. The same holds true for bellman at your hotel. This means arrival, departure, if they store your bag in security storage and if you need them to fetch it for you to get something out of your suitcase. For housekeeping care in your room, figure $2-$5 per day. When determining the amount of the tip, think about the detailed care you've received and how messy your family has been. 

If a hotel concierge helps you with dinner recommendations, directions, advice etc., figure $5-$10.  If your concierge wrangles last minute, sold out concert tickets then figure 10-20% of the total cost of that miracle.  I tend to tip at the time service is given. This is because I think it's nice to be thanked in the moment and I wouldn't want to forget their extra care. Plus I don't have to worry about connecting with this person or seeking them out later on.  My husband likes to tip in advance. He feels this extra incentive insures extra care through the course of our vacation. Other folks tip when they say good bye.

If you specifically ASK FOR ANYTHING in a hotel, a tip is generally expected.  If someone brings you extra pillows, towels or a new remote for the TV then $1-$2 is expected.  With room service orders, it's important to double check the bill/receipt.  Many hotel automatically include a 15% gratuity to any room service order. If you don't check and tip the delivery person then you've tipped twice. If the hotel does not automatically include a tip then 10-20% is standard.

Tipping At All Inclusive Resorts - Gratuities are automatically included in the price of your vacation. Technically there is no need for you to tip.  That said, most all inclusive resorts are located in foreign countries where cheap labor and no unions can be found.  Many resort workers are paid the equivalent of $50-75 USD per week for their long hours of service. For this reason, I personally tip when our family stays at an all inclusive resort. We use the same tipping guidelines as noted above for staying in a regular hotel that is not all inclusive. It IS important to check with the rules of your resort.  Some resorts forbid staff from taking any tips from guests. Workers can loose their job for taking tips so if you encounter this, do not force the issue.

How To Tip In Restaurants - In the U.S. the standard restaurant tip is 15% but it can range from 10-20% depending upon the attention and service you receive. Bartenders or wine stewards expect 10-20% of your bar tab. If you run into any problems, it's appropriate to speak to a manager instead of walking out without tipping.

In fancier establishments, it's appropriate to tip the maitre d' between $5 and $10 if he gets you a table, especially on a busy night or if you show up without reservations. It's proper procedure to tip coat check or bathroom attendants $1.

How To Tip On A Cruise - As a general rule, dining room waiters receive $3.50 per person/per day whereas the dining room assistant waiter should receive $2.00 per person/per day, the dining room maitre'd $3.50 per person/per day and the dining room manager $1.50 per person/per day. The room steward, for all his efforts, receives $3.50 per person/per day. Other personnel, such as bar waiters, bellboys and deck stewards may be tipped as service is rendered.

Most of the family friendly cruise lines now offer the option of adding gratuities in advance when you book your cruise.  Generally the gratuity fee runs between $10-$15 per person per day.  This is certainly MUCH easier than doling out envelopes and doing all these math calculations while on vacation.

One question we receive time and again from parents when it comes to tipping on a cruise ship is whether or not they have to tip for their kids.  The answer is YES. Cruise ships charge by the number of passengers in your cabin, not their ages. Housekeeping cleans up after your 2 year old. The wait staff will fetch a high chair when needed and kids club staff keep them happy safe and yes, kids count when it comes to gratuities.

How To Tip For Your Kids -If you hire a private babysitter for a night out from your kids while on vacation, a 10-20% tip is customary. Each hotel or cruise line has specific rules. Many automatically include gratuities into the price you pay for babysitting. After hours transportation fees may are also standard procedure.  Read the fine print and ask questions to be sure.

Many parents will utilize the services of a resort or cruise kids club, teen program or baby care services. Often these staff members will go above and beyond making sure your kids are happy, safe and entertained.  Our parents report an average of $5-$10 per child/per day to the kids club team when it comes to tipping. Once again this all depends on the quality of care and attentiveness. As we mentioned above, some resorts do not allow tipping. Double check what the established rules are regarding tipping as you do not want to get anyone in trouble with management.

How To Tip On A Sightseeing Tour - If you're taking a 1/2 or whole day bus sightseeing tour, it's customary to tip the tour guide and driver $1-$2 per person on behalf of your family.  If you opt for a private tour and driver, then it's customary to tip 10-20% of the total cost of your tour.

If you are on a guided tour where the same tour leader and driver stay with you for the entire length of your vacation, it's customary to tip your guide $5-$10 per person per day of your trip and give $1-$2 per person/per day tip to your driver.

One final Note - The tipping outlined here is standard for most of North America, Caribbean and Mexico. If your family's travels take you to Europe or Asia, tipping etiquette can be very different.  It's best to inform yourself prior to travel. Overtipping is a comon problem that can be compounded by currency exchange rates. If you expect to encounter any language difficulties, it's even more important to be aware of tipping procedures. If your not sure, just ask us, we're glad to help.

So if you've been attentively reading along, no doubt you were working out some math in your head. I normally tell clients when they are planning a family vacation, figure $100-$150 per person per week for gratuities....and YES, this means kids too.  If you use the cruise example above that would mean $75 gratuities for your time at sea and $25 for airport tips, drivers etc. Again, if you do not want to tip at an all inclusive resort or plan to carry your own bags then you can adjust this amount according to your own travel style. We prefer that you come home with a few singles in your pocket instead of being caught short while away from hom. Again, we offer it as a rule of thumb for budgeting purposes, trip preparedness and to help avoid multiple ATM visits (and extra fees) during your vacation.

If you completely suck at "math in your head" like I do please contact me.  On the back of our Vacationkids business cards we've printed a handy chart that does all the math for you. One quick glance and you'll know exactly how much tip to leave.  Just email Me Your Address and ask us to send you a couple of our cards. We'll gladly mail them out to you free of charge, so you'll have them for a quick, handy reference to keep in your purse or wallet. This way you'll know exactly how to tip right on the spot.



Topics: Affordable Family Vacations

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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