How to Tip at Your Hotel

From the porter to the valet to the cleaning staff, here's how to tip at your hotel–as told to Where by a concierge for one of Chicago's top hotels.

Who do you tip at a hotel? If you’ve ever felt confused about who the decorum for gratuities, you are not alone.

From the bellhop to the maid to the concierge, hotels put forward a team effort to try to make guest experiences exceptional, but with dozens of brief interactions with different hotel staff members, it can be difficult to know when to reach for your wallet, and when a simple "Thank you" is enough. To answer this question, we went straight to a luxurious Chicago hotel and spoke with one of their top concierges. Read on to find our hotel tipping guidelines: 

Let's start with the very first person some guests meet, the valet. Should you be tipping the valet?

Generally you offer gratuity to this person each time they "pull" your car for you. However, a tip is never a bad idea upon arrival, and always greatly appreciated. Standard tips to valet are between $2 and $5.

Next up, the bellhop (or porter)—the person carrying all the heavy bags for you. Are we supposed to be tipping this person?

The bellman or bellhop has an extremely labor intensive job and your gratuity should appropriately reflect your appreciation of his or her hard work. I’d say $5 or more is a good amount.

Hotel bellman

What about the front desk? Should we be tipping?

It is rare to tip a reception agent at the front desk. Of course, this is not unacceptable by any means. If you feel the agent has intrinsically connected with you and delivered you shining and exceptional customer service, a cash tip is certainly not out of place.

Maids take care of our mess, but should a traveler tip every day, or just leave one tip at the end of the stay? And I’ve heard it’s good to leave $5 per day, but is this correct?

$5 a day is a wonderful idea, because the cleaning staff may be different each day that you stay. By leaving $5 a day, you ensure that your individual housekeeper is taken care of, and the burden of dividing a tip amongst varied shifts is not passed on to them.

What about room service? Do I tip the person who brings it up to my room?

For room service, the tip is generally included in this order, so a couple of extra dollars handed to the individual running the food up to you displays extra generosity on your part. 

Hotel maids making a bed in a luxury room.

It’s easy enough to assume that hotel bars work like any other bar when it comes to tipping—$1 per drink, or $2 for a specialty cocktail takes a while to create—but how do I handle tipping if I’m billing to my room?

Hotel bars do work like every other bar, so the same tipping rules apply. As far as billing drinks from the bar onto your room, treat the billing as you would any other credit card and tip accordingly.

How about the pool? Some luxury hotels will have staff members by the pool or in the gym area that are handing out towels. And do I tip the lifeguard?

Again, it is always good form to tip anyone who does something for you. So, if someone is handing out cool towels on a hot day at the pool, a buck or two to display your appreciation is certainly not out of place. As far as tipping a lifeguard, I've certainly never heard of this. However, say you came to the pool with a large group of small children and the lifeguard was on extra alert during your time at the pool, a tip upon leaving would be acceptable. 

As I’m checking out, should I add a tip onto the bill? Should I be giving a cash tip to the person helping me check out?

Upon check out, there is no need to add a tip onto the bill. It is best to directly tip those in the hotel who have assisted you during your stay rather than wait until the final bill to include gratuities. If you would like to tip the agent who assists you in your check out, that is fine. Again, tipping reception agents is not commonplace, but greatly appreciated by those who labor eight or more hours a day on their feet!

Last but not least, let's talk about tipping the concierge. Do they accept tips? And when do I give it to them, at the end of my stay, or after each time they help me out?

People have many different ways of tipping the concierge, and they are all acceptable, and definitely appreciated. Some guests choose to tip the concierge upon arrival, others at the end of their stay upon departure. Another very popular style utilized by many hotel guests is tipping at the time of service. If a concierge prints your boarding pass, $2 to $5 is usually commonplace for a tip. Procuring that hard to obtain, last-minute Friday reservation at a hot restaurant can be worthy of a heftier tip; $5 to $20 is definitely not out of place.

Is there anyone we're forgetting?

You've covered most of your bases, but there are a few more hotel employees that you may consider tipping. I've seen security guards go over and above in tracking down a lost item. For instance, if you just lost your shopping bag from Neiman's with a $1,500 dress for an event this evening and the hotel security guard finds it for you, you may want to give this person a little something. Also, coat checks and hotel restaurant hosts and hostesses certainly appreciate your tips as well.

Just to summarize, to whom should I always give a tip?

In my opinion, you don't always have to tip anyone. However, if there were one faction of hotel employee that you should always tip, it would definitely be your bar and wait staff. Remember, just like most restaurants in America, your servers and bartenders make a reduced hourly wage because it is expected for patrons to tip. As far as other employees you encounter during your stay, let passion and service be your guiding light.  When an employee not only does their job, but also goes above and beyond, a great way to show your appreciation is a little gratuity.

Is there anyone that isn’t allowed to accept tips?

In my experience, managers generally do not accept gratuities. However, when they step in and help in the place of a bellman or doorman, the manager will accept a tip and then hand it over to the appropriate staff member that they were filling in for. Also, if a manager takes special care of a guest during their stay, a thank you card (with or without gratuity) may be left.

Are these recommendations an industry standard, or just applicable at your hotel?

Generally, I believe that my answers ring true throughout the industry, unless of course you are staying at a specifically non-tipping property. In such a case, you will be alerted upon arrival, and notice that many of your bills are slightly higher because an automatic gratuity has already been included.