You're Not Tipping Your Hotel Housekeeper Enough

Think $2 a day, minimum.

cash left under pillow
No, tipping isn’t a “suggestion.” | elwynn/Shutterstock
No, tipping isn’t a “suggestion.” | elwynn/Shutterstock
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Even well-intentioned folks sometimes don’t tip properly, not necessarily because they’re rude, but just because they didn’t know. Let’s clear that up, because tipping isn’t a kindness or a favor—especially in a country like ours, where most of the hospitality industry relies on tips.

One area where tipping continues to be an issue is hotels—only about one-third of hotel guests remember to tip the housekeeping staff, who already make less on average than housekeepers in non-hospitality industries do (such as those who work at hospitals).

Lodging and accommodation accounts for nearly one-quarter of the nation’s housekeeping jobs. Those housekeepers make, on average, $13.58 per hour—around $26,000 per year. Housekeepers count on tips to make something marginally closer to a living wage, and if you enjoy the reduced room rates that hotels are able to offer you by not paying their staff anything higher, then you have the responsibility to make up your share of the difference.

Anytime you check out of a hotel, motel, resort, or any type of facility that A) provided you lodging, and B) employs cleaning staff, remember to leave a separate tip for housekeepers in your room—and not just give one lump sum to the front desk (that tip will go to various other hotel employees, but probably not the housekeepers). A good standard here is to leave $2 per day.

For you, this only means leaving a couple of bucks. For housekeepers, this can add up to a couple of bucks each per hundreds and hundreds of cleaned rooms.

For pretty much any other service you are unsure about, tipping 20% is the minimum. It just is. It is not 15% or 10% or whatever change you happen to have rolling around. It is 20%. It is 20% of the total bill, not the total bill before tax. If you enjoyed the service you received and would like to express that financially, as is appropriate, then by all means tip more.

To reiterate, for housekeepers, tip a minimum of $2/day. For bellhops, concierges, etc., bare minimum $1 per service rendered (like calling you a cab). If you really need it, here’s a handy guide from the American Hotel & Lodging Association to bookmark for future scenarios.

But if you’re traveling on the luxury side of things, the rules slightly differ. Did the concierge plan every detail of a weeklong trip or just book a dinner? According to Annie Davis, president of boutique travel agency Palm Beach Travel, “At the end of your stay, a traditional tip should be between $30 and $100, depending on the length of your stay. A $500 tip is not unheard of if your concierge planned a special occasion and made your trip unforgettable.”

For housekeeping, she suggests $5 per day, and for valet, “$5 is the new $1,” she says. “And depending on the amount of luggage and difficulty it may be to get it to your room, tip higher; I recommend $3-$5 per bag.”

Traveling is cool! Don’t ruin it for the housekeepers and everyone else whose labor allows you to do it in the first place. If you can afford the trip in the first place, you can afford the correct tip.

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Kastalia Medrano is a New York-based journalist and avid traveler. Follow her on Twitter.