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(Photo by BurningKarma)


I recently received an email from a reader about travel tipping etiquette. It’s an interesting topic, and one that I think is a subject of confusion and frustration for many travelers. Her letter reads:


Dear Erin,

We just got back from a three day trip to Niagara Falls, after not having been on a vacation for YEARS. I was wondering, when did tipping get so out of control? I could not believe how many different people we were supposed to tip and I never had any idea how much was appropriate.

People we tipped at the hotel included the valet parking attendants (valet parking was required and cost $20 daily, plus tip), the server at the daily breakfast buffet (she brought drinks), the bartender at the daily “manager’s reception” (where we each received a free drink daily), the maid, the bellman , the front desk staff (they actually had fishbowl tip “jars” set out so they could be tipped for checking you in and out) and the staff at the tour desk. We had no idea how much to tip for most of these, so we made wild guesses. Do you have any advice for future trips?

Thanks, Brittney


First of all, I would like to note that I do not think a tip jar on the hotel’s front desk is appropriate and any hotel that allows this should be embarrassed. The front desk employees are paid a salary and do not survive on tips, like waiters and valet attendants. This goes for the concierge and tour desk employees, as well. You never need to tip desk attendants. If someone goes above and beyond for you, particularly in the case of a concierge, then a gratuity handed directly to that individual is nice, but not strictly required. The problem with a tip jar is that you never know who is going to get that money and how it will be divided. Skip the jar and hand out tips only to the person assisting you.

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