For me, when in doubt, I leave something to let the person know I appreciate their service. I've yet to see someone return the money I've given them.
So who do you tip? The list can be daunting...waiters, housekeepers, pool boys, concierges, drivers, bartenders, and just about anybody that goes out of their way to make sure your vacation is special.
The way you tip can also make a difference. You should tip the maid who cleans up your room. I recommend daily so the tip can make a difference during your stay. If you leave the tip somewhere money might be left by mistake, like the top of the dresser, the maid will probably figure it is not a tip and leave it. The common place for a daily tip is to be left on top of the pillow on your bed. Money left there is known to be a tip. (Note: some travelers have let me know that they also leave maid tip money on the bathroom sink)
What about all-inclusive resorts where tipping is included in the price? This is a sticking point to some people, but I do leave or give a token tip for services. You will still get service if you don't but you will get better service if you do. Leave a dollar or two to the bartender, the person who gets your towels, the person checking out your sports equipment, etc.
Not only will you get better service, but a lot of times you'll be making a noticeable difference to someone who does not make a lot of money.
Some will say tipping adds to an already expensive vacation. I say, if you can't afford to give a dollar or two here and there, you can't afford the vacation in the first place.
To get ready for tipping, I'll go to my bank just before leaving on a trip and take out $100-150 dollars in one dollar bills and another $50 or so in five dollar bills, just to have something to tip.
I'll also study up on my destination before going to see what the local tipping etiquette is. One good site is iTipping.com .
No matter how hard you prepare, you will come across someone who you don't know if you should tip or not. In this quandary, if they did something a little extra for us, I'll tip them a couple of dollars.
If someone does something completely exceptional for you, like our pool boy in the Dominican Republic who reserved a special spot by the pool for us everyday, I'll make sure to find them when we leave to give them a special, larger than normal tip.
What if you don't know what the proper amount to tip is locally? In the absence of information, tip as you would at home. 15 - 20% of the bill in a restaurant is normal here in the U.S., so that's what I'll do abroad. A dollar a bag, with a minumum of $5 for the person who takes our bags to the room is what I pay here, so that's what I'll pay there, and so on.
Tipping is a personal decision, don't let me tell you exactly how it should be done...this is just my personal policy but, as Steve Martin said in My Blue Heaven, "tip everybody!" Maybe not quite everybody but don't be stingy either.
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
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