Tipping Rules, Etiquette, & Survey Data at Home & While Traveling – How Much to Tip in America & Around the World (2023)
Tipping is a hot topic these days. Our recent Workers Americans Usually Tip Survey shows a lot of people do not regularly tip. The pandemic changed many of the old rules, and people are confused about when and how much to tip. While the “new normal” for tipping is evolving, here are my guidelines to follow in America and when traveling around the world.
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Tipping Guidelines in the United States
Pressure to tip in America is at an all-time high due to card reader tablets, jars, and online ordering prompts. While there are some obvious workers you should almost always tip, there are questionable ones that depend on the circumstance. Here are my recommendations.
Bartenders & Servers at Sit-Down Restaurants (Always Tip)
Unless the service is dreadful, you should always leave a tip for bartenders and dine-in waitpeople. Restaurants pay these workers less than minimum wage, so they rely on tips. Here is a good rule to follow when tipping for food and drinks.
- Food Before Paying – Always Tip
- Paying Before Food – Maybe Tip
Here are more specific guidelines for bartenders and sit-down restaurant servers.
- Bartenders – At the minimum, tip $1 per drink. If you’re ordering cocktails, consider tipping $2 per drink. Tip 15% to 25% of the pre-tax bill if you also order food. Also, consider tipping more if you’re at the bar for over a few hours and drink slowly.
- Servers at Sit-Down Restaurants – Tip 15% to 25% of the pre-tax bill unless service is awful. I personally always tip at least 20% and have gone as high as 100%. Tips over 20% are never expected, but I recommend giving your server a little extra for exceptional service. I also recommend tipping over 20% if your group stays at the table after eating to hangout.
The Vacationer Tip
Before tipping, scan the bill to see if the restaurant already added a “service charge”. In most cases, this is a predetermined amount added to every bill. If there is a service charge, consider adding an additional tip for exceptional service.
Food & Grocery Delivery Drivers, Including DoorDash & Competitors (Always Tip)
Whether or not your food or grocery delivery driver earns minimum wage depends on their employer. For example, I worked for Papa John’s as a delivery driver and made minimum wage plus tips. Other food & grocery delivery drivers make less than minimum wage and rely on tips. Regardless, most, but not all, food & grocery delivery drivers use their own vehicles. Maintaining a car is expensive, which is why I recommend these tips.
- Food Delivery Drivers – This includes in-house restaurant delivery drivers and those working for DoorDash and competitors. Tip 15% to 20% of the pre-tax bill. In addition to driving their own vehicle, your driver picks your food up and delivers it right to your doorstep. Consider tipping above 20% for larger orders, a long driving distance, and when the weather is bad.
- Grocery Delivery Drivers – This includes in-house grocery delivery drivers and those working for Instacart and competitors. Tip at least 20% to 25% of the pre-tax bill. Grocery delivery generally requires more effort than food delivery because the driver has to shop in the store.
Restaurant Takeout & Curbside (It Depends)
Before the pandemic, tipping for takeout was not a big thing. While some people did it, it was never really expected or pressured. Unfortunately, there is a lot of pressure now, mainly due to online ordering prompts and what feels like more tip jars than ever. Here are my guidelines.
- Picking Up Your Order at the Counter – There is no tip requirement here. While the pressure is there, do not feel obligated to leave a tip. I personally tip $3 to $5 for takeout orders, but I recommend only tipping if you are feeling generous.
- Curbside to Go – I recommend always tipping a few dollars for curbside to go. In this situation, the worker brings your food to your car so you do not have to walk into the restaurant. For larger orders, consider tipping more.
The Vacationer Tip
Whether or not to tip for takeout seems to be the most controversial event. Many people never tipped for takeout before the covid, but somehow it stayed even after the pandemic ended. I still argue tipping for takeout is optional.
Other Food Scenarios (Maybe Tip)
Here are a few other scenarios involving food and drinks and whether you should tip or not.
- Coffee Shop Worker – Baristas are paid at least minimum wage, so tipping is unnecessary. Regardless, I recommended tipping one dollar or two for custom and complicated drinks. For a simple drip coffee, do not feel obligated to tip. Personally, I always leave at least a dollar when frequenting local coffee shops, regardless of what I order.
- Fast Food/Fast Casual Restaurant Workers – Fast food workers earn at least minimum wage. Tipping is unnecessary, but feel free to leave something for unusually large or complicated orders. I personally have never tipped a fast food restaurant worker.
- Food Trucks – There is no obligation to tip food truck workers. Feel free to leave a few dollars for bigger orders, but do not let the tip jar or tip screen on the payment tablet pressure you.
- Bartenders at Open Bar Weddings or Other Events – Tip the normal $1 to $2 per drink. I sometimes give $5 to $10 for the first drink.
- Buffet Servers – Tip at least 10%. Our tipping survey showed only 16.70% usually tip buffet servers, which I think is way too low of a percentage. Buffet servers still take your drink order and clear your plates.
Travel Services (Usually Tip)
Knowing who to tip when traveling can be very confusing. Here is how I handle common scenarios.
- All-Inclusive Hotel Employees – It depends on the resort. For example, Sandals does not allow tipping (except for butlers), while other all-inclusive hotels say it is acceptable. Check your hotel’s guidelines. Except at Sandals, I still recommend tipping $1 or so per drink. Additionally, I usually tip 10% at dinner as opposed to my usual 15% to 25% recommendation. While Sandals forbids tipping, I’ve seen it happen. Do not feel obligated to tip Sandals employees, but know it may lead to better service for those who do it.
- Hotel Bellhops – You should tip hotel bellhops $1 to $2 per bag. Do not feel pressured to use the bellhop service, however. In many cases, I say no because I would prefer to carry my own bags. In some situations, you do not have a choice, but you should still tip $1 to $2 per bag.
- Valets – Tip $2 to $5 every time the valet retrieves and parks your car. Some people only tip in one of those scenarios, but it may be a different worker. Unfortunately, some hotels and restaurants do not offer self-parking, so you may be forced to use the valet service. If you do not wish to tip every time, I recommend finding off-site parking.
- Hotel Housekeepers – Tip $1 to $10 for every day you use housekeeping. I tip $5 to $10 per day, but $1 to $5 per day is acceptable. Make sure to leave the tip each day as opposed to the end of your stay; Different housekeepers may tend to your room each day.
- Room Service – If gratuity is not built into the bill, tip 20% for room service.
- Taxis, Limos, & Rideshare Service Workers – I recommend tipping all drivers between 15% to 25%. I’m usually very generous when tipping Uber and Lyft drivers and sometimes tip as high as 50%. Defensive driving is very important to me, and I very much appreciate it when the driver safely transports my family and me.
- Tour Guides – This varies widely based on the tour. I have tipped anywhere from $10 to $50 per person. Factor in the cost of the tour, the length of the tour, and the level of service your guide provides. Are they knowledgeable? Were they personable? Did they answer your questions?
- Concierge – I generally tip $5 to $10 for each service the concierge completes. This includes making dinner reservations, scheduling tours, and securing other event tickets.
- Airport Shuttle Drivers – Tip $1 to $2 per bag if your driver helps you. Otherwise, do not feel obligated to tip.
- Cruise Ships – Many cruise lines provide recommendations on who and how much to tip. At the minimum, follow these recommendations and tip more for exceptional service. In many cases, tips will automatically be added to your bill.
- Flight Attendants – Do not tip flight attendants in cash. Some people apparently provide chocolates or gift cards to flight attendants, but I do not think that is necessary.
- Massage Therapists – Depending on the level of service, aim to tip massage therapists 15% to 25%.
Tipping Guidelines Internationally
I cannot stress this enough. Respect the tip culture in other countries. Unlike the United States, what is appropriate varies widely by country. For example, it is rude to tip in Japan. Even if you mean well, the employee may not see it that way.
Before leaving, research the local customs. In many places, those in the travel and hospitality industries are paid very well. Additionally, check your bill for a service charge before tipping anything, because that is common in Europe.
If tipping is a thing, opt for around 10% as opposed to the 15% to 20% that is expected in the United States. Unfortunately, Americans are bringing tip culture to many countries where it previously did not exist because they feel obligated to tip. For that reason, workers in some countries have come to expect tips from Americans. Do not feel pressured to tip in countries where it is not historically expected.
The Vacationer Tip
My International guidelines are about expectations and obligations. Always feel free to tip as much as you want internationally (unless it is considered rude) if you want to.
More Tipping Advice
Here are a few more thoughts I have on tipping.
- Cash is Generally Better – Most workers prefer cash tips as opposed to credit cards tips.
- Small Bills are Key – Before leaving for your trip, go to your bank and get as many $1 bills and $5 bills as you think are necessary.
- Order Foreign Currency Before Leaving – If you’re traveling internationally and want to tip, you should order foreign currency before leaving. Opt for smaller bills.
- Be Comfortable Not Tipping – Tip jars, card reader tablets, and online ordering for food pickup present a lot of pressure to tip. Do not give in to the pressure. Tip if you want to, but do not add a tip out of obligation in situations that historically do not require tips (food pickup, fast food restaurants).
- Make Sure a Service Charge is Not Built In – This is worth mentioning again. Review your restaurant bill to ensure a service charge was not already added. Generally, it will be between 18% to 20%. If it is, take the figure into account before adding more tip.
- Splurge Every Once in a While if You Can Afford It – Sometimes a server or other worker goes above and beyond. I’ve tipped 100% on restaurant bills before because I had the extra money and wanted to really reward exceptional service and make someone’s day. Obviously, this is never expected and you should not feel pressured to do it.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
Tipping is more confusing than ever. People are now tipping workers who previously did not get tipped. The dreaded tablet asking how much you want to tip is creating obligation and pressure for many people. Stick to the basics. Continue to tip most traditionally tipped workers 15% to 20%, with a higher percentage for exceptional service. For anyone else, tip because you want to and not because you feel pressure.
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