Photo of a tip jar

Tips about tipping

“When it comes to gratuities — at the hotel, during a bus tour, on a cruise ship — I never know who gets what. Any advice?”
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In an age of tip fatigue, o the discussion of tipping never seems to abate. Travel seems to amplify this, the different culture and currency of your destination only adding to the confusion. Some nations — Australia, Iceland, Thailand, Japan — don’t tip at all.

I always like to arrive in a new country with a bit of its currency in my pocket so I can pay the cab driver in cash with a tip of 10% to 15%. Helpful shuttle drivers get $2 per person. When using a transfer service, make sure the tip is not already built into the fare. If my hotel is an hour away from the airport, I’m likely going to give the van driver an extra $5.

At the hotel, tip valets and bellhops $2 to $5. The concierge who scored hard-to-get theatre seats or dinner reservations gets $5. Give housekeeping staff $3 to $5 per day. Spa treatments and restaurant meals (usually) warrant 15%.

Tour operators and guides who show you around for three or four hours should receive $5 to $10. Give boat crews 10% to 15% of the fare as a thank-you. If you’re at the pool enjoying all-inclusive drinks, give the servers $1 per order. Taking pictures of people with snakes or having your own picture taken with a snake, $2 to $5.

Cruises are a whole different kettle of fish, the gratuities almost always automatically applied to your account per person, per day. Always check the cruise-line website for their policy.

In the end, tip what you feel. I’m happy to give money to people who deserve it, particularly in less-privileged places where a little extra money goes a long way.

Flight advice: How to err on the side of caution

I’ve always been a go-to-the-airport-early kind of person — it just makes the whole experience more relaxing.

  • As so many unpredictable things can go south when you’re flying — the weather, traffic, airline delays disguised as maintenance issues, the stupidity of others, your own stupidity — steel yourself for sudden changes of plan. This makes them easier to roll with.
  • When booking a flight with a connecting leg on the same airline, leave at least 90 minutes for the connection, especially if you’re checking a bag. When connecting to a different airline, leave 24 hours. This will give you a day to rebound if the first leg of the journey is delayed or cancelled.
  • Expect delays if you’re travelling through airports in snowy climes — or sidestep them if you can. For example, if you’re heading to the Caribbean and there are no nonstop flights, choose to connect in Miami instead of Chicago or Newark.
  • Book flights scheduled in the morning, so if there’s a problem, a flight later in the day may get you back on track.
  • If you’re taking a winter flight to attend a destination wedding or to hop on a cruise ship, arrive at least one day before. What if your luggage doesn’t turn up — or you yourself don’t and you’re the mother of the bride?
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