We’ve both been to the States numerous times and one of the things we had to get used to was the art of tipping. As we know, in Australia tipping is not something we do often, it’s really only when we have received exceptional service. In the US however, it’s a whole different story. Tipping is mandatory and that really is the first thing you have to get your head around otherwise you will find yourself whinging every time a service is provided to you. You have to remember that service staff usually only receive minimal wages and they rely heavily on what they receive in tips.
Important Tip – Before you leave
Make sure you have some $1 notes ready to pay for tips when you arrive in the US. You will need a taxi or shuttle bus to get your hotel and they will expect a tip. Having small notes makes it easier to pay them.
How much will I need to budget for?
You can expect to pay out between $10 to $20 per day in tips. This should cover two people travelling together. It may be more depending on what you do.
Here are our recommendations for tipping:
Tipping for Shuttle Bus Drivers
To get to your hotel you may find yourself using a hotel shuttle bus service. The driver will not only get you to your hotel but also carry your luggage into and out of the bus. The general tip for a shuttle bus driver is $1 to $2 per bag. You can of course pay more if they provide exceptional service.
Tipping for Taxis
This one is a little subjective. Some people don’t pay anything at all and some pay up to 30% of the fare. We don’t use taxis all that often when we travel but when we do, we normally calculate quickly in our head what 20% of the fare would be and then round up or down. For example, let’s say the fare comes to $12.55. Twenty percent of that would be around $2.50. If you add that on to $12.55 it comes to $15.05. At this point we would just round down and give the driver $15 or round up if he provided good service to $16.
And if you’re worried about not having the right change to incorporate the tip, then don’t sweat it. For our example above, we might give the driver $20 and receive the change and then from the change hand over 2 or 3 dollars for the tip.
Tipping for Maid Service
If you are going to be staying in a hotel then you are going to have your room serviced and this will require a tip. The general tip advice here is to leave between $2 and $10. We usually leave around $3 to $4. If you have left the room in quite a mess then you should leave more. And yes, you do need to leave a tip even if you are checking out that day.
Tipping for Room Service
Room service can be expensive in the US, not so much for the food but for the extras that you are required to pay. Always scan down to the very bottom of the room service menu and look for the small print. As I write this, we are staying at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and the fine print goes like this, “State tax and $3.75 operation charge per room will be charged. Gratuity is not included.” This is quite reasonable compared to some we have seen who often charge a fee per person.
When they say “Gratuity is not included”, they are basically saying that you will need to pay a tip as it is not included in the price. When the waiter brings the meal to your room there will be a spot on the slip where you will need to enter the amount you wish to add as a tip. The tip for room service is anything between 15% to 20% of the cost of the meal.
Always check to see if the tip is included in as you may find yourself paying the tip twice.
Tipping for Porters
It will depend on the hotel and the number of bags you have but sometimes you will require a porter to help you take your luggage to your room. You will usually pay $1-$2 per bag but you can of course pay more if the porter was particularly helpful. We had one porter recently at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios who was extremely helpful and explained how the air conditioning worked and how to open and close the safe, amongst other things. We gave him a bigger tip because of that.
Quick Tip for Calculating a Percentage in Your Head
Sometimes it can be a little difficult working out a percentage in your head. The best way to do it is to use what I call The 10% Rule. It’s always easier to work out 10% of something than it is to work out 15 or 20%. It sounds a bit complicated but once you have done it in your head a few times you will see how easy it is.
Let’s use an example to explain it. Our taxi fare is $12.55 and we want to work out 20% of that amount.
Here is how I do it.
1. First work out what 10% of $12.55 is. The easiest way to do this is to simply drop the last number and move the decimal point to the left. Its not absolutely precise but it gives us a basic idea without having to use a calculator. So if we drop the last number on $12.55 we have 12.5. And if we move the decimal point to the left we have $1.25.
2. Now we just double that number to make 20%. So $1.25 x 2 = $2.50
If we wanted to work out 15% of $12.55 then we would still use the 10% rule by dropping the last number and moving the decimal point to the left to give us $1.25. That gives us 10% and to get the extra 5% we just halve that amount and add it on. You don’t have to be exact here. We are just getting a rough estimate. So if I were to halve the $1.25 in my head I would get around 60c. Now I just add the 60c to the $1.25 which gives me $1.85.