A Guide to Tipping On Your Vacation

Professional butler Charles MacPherson takes some of the mystery out of when and how much to tip at your hotel, at a restaurant and an all-inclusive resort.

Professional butler Charles MacPherson at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto, Photo by Liz Beddall

Professional butler Charles MacPherson at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto, Photo by Liz Beddall


The awkwardness of placing a folded bill into a stranger’s hand often causes people anxiety, says professional butler Charles MacPherson. “It’s kind of weird to give people money,” he adds. “It’s the sense of valuing someone and saying, ‘Based on your service, you deserve this.’”

MacPherson eases some of that discomfort, and demystifies the tipping process, in The Pocket Butler’s Guide to Travel. Out this month from Appetite by Random House, the book covers the essentials; from how to expertly pack a suitcase, to how much to give your bellhop for delivering your well-packed suitcase to your room.

“There is no global way to tip—unlike a handshake,” says MacPherson, who has more than 30 years of experience as a butler, including working with royalty. “Tipping is so different around the world, we become uncomfortable and are afraid of making a mistake.”

At a hotel

MacPherson says you tend to tip the people you come into contact with during your stay. But, with staff shifts changing on a daily basis, it can be complicated ensuring your tip goes to the intended person. “In the case of your room, leave something at the beginning, or a little every day.” The important thing, says MacPherson, is to leave it on the pillow. “[Housekeeping] are not supposed to touch money left elsewhere in the room. I also leave a note that says, ‘This is for you.’”

At an all-inclusive

Technically, you don’t need to tip at an all-inclusive because it’s included in your fee for the resort, says MacPherson. “But, I’m a strong believer that, if someone has gone above and beyond, then you should tip. A lot can be said for tipping at the start of your stay. I’ve been known to tip early, rather than at the end, so they’ll take care of me.”

On a business trip

“It’s important to find out what the [local] practice is so you do the right thing,” says MacPherson. “Otherwise, you’ll look ill-prepared or uninformed. The impression it gives your client is if you don’t know something as simple as tipping, [how are you going to handle] their business?” MacPherson adds it’s also important to follow your company policy. “If the policy is to tip no more than 10 per cent, then tip 10 per cent on your card. If you feel more is appropriate, then pay in cash.”

In a restaurant

In parts of Europe—such as France—the tip is included on the bill, so you don’t need to leave one. “If you do decide to leave a tip, it’s just one or two Euros. That’s all,” says MacPherson. When in doubt, look at the bill to see if a service charge is included. “If you are still unsure, instead of asking the waiter or waitress, ask the manager.”


Charles’ handy guide to tipping in North America

  • Bellhop: $5 for the first bag, and $2 to $3 per additional bag.
  • Housekeeping: $2 per day, and it should be left on the pillow with a note.
  • Taxi driver: Five to 10 per cent, more if your driver helps with your luggage.
  • Wait staff: Fifteen to 20 per cent, as much as 25 per cent in larger cities.


[This story appears in the October 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]