Frequently Asked Questions About Tipping At Walt Disney World

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One of the most frequent areas of confusion for Disney guests is the topic of tipping. International guests may be unfamiliar with American tipping in general. There are some Disney travel situations where guests tip differently than at other travel destinations. And some folks are just plain miffed that they have to tip at all.

With an aim at reducing anxiety, here are some frequently asked questions about tipping at Walt Disney World.

TRANSPORTATION

I’ve arrived at Orlando International airport, do I have to tip anyone here?

At the airport, and throughout your trip, you should tip anyone who handles your luggage for you in your presence. The rule of thumb is that you tip about a dollar per bag, or two dollars if the bag is extra heavy. If you’re claiming your bags yourself and taking them to a cab, rental car agency, limo service, or Magical Express bus on you own, then you won’t need to tip anyone while you’re in the airport. If you use a porter to assist you with moving your bags from the luggage carousel to ground transportation, then you tip the porter.

No need to tip your inter-park bus driver.

I’m taking Magical Express to my Disney resort, do I have to tip the driver?

You’ll see a sign at the front of the bus telling you that driver will accept tips. If you’re just hopping off and on the bus, you shouldn’t feel obligated. However, if the driver is helping your store luggage under the bus, go by the dollar per bag rule.

Did you notice that I said you should tip anyone who handles your bags “in your presence”? If you’ve used the yellow Magical Express luggage tags and had Disney take your bags directly to the hotel for you, then you won’t see the person who’s doing your luggage transport. In this situation, you’re off the hook for tipping.

I’m taking a shuttle to an off-site hotel. Do I tip the driver?

It’s the same situation as Magical Express. If the driver helps with your bags, offer about a dollar a bag.

What do you mean “about” a dollar a bag?

Assuming that you have normal weight bags, aim to tip a dollar a bag. However, it’s good manners to round up, and poor form to ask a bellman or porter for change. This means that if your family has three or four suitcases and all you have a five dollar bill in your wallet, give the porter the fiver.

I’m renting a car. Do I have to tip anyone?

Not at the airport, but maybe later.

I’m taking a limo service or town car to my hotel. Do I tip the driver?

Depending on the agency you’re using, the tip may be included in the price. Be sure to ask this when you set up your booking. In general, plan to tip about 15% of the fare. If the driver has done something extraordinary for you, such as making an extra stop or assisting with car seats or colossal amounts of luggage, tip more.

I’m taking a taxi to my hotel. Do I tip the driver?

Yes. Taxi drivers also get about 15% of the fare. Again, if the cabbie does something above-and-beyond, tip more.

Does the taxi tip level remain the same for shorter trips?

Generally, yes. For shorter trips on WDW property you may end up with a ride that costs seven or eight dollars. In a situation like this, it’s often easier for both you and the driver if you round up to ten dollars. It’s considered poor form to tip the driver in coins. Always round to the next higher dollar in your tip.

Taxis are one situation where asking for change for the tip is OK. For example, if your cab ride is $11 and you have a twenty in your wallet, it’s perfectly acceptable to say to the driver, “Here’s a twenty, can I have six back, please.” This tells the driver that you’re paying the fare and giving him a $3.00 tip.

What was that “maybe later” you said earlier with the rental car tipping?

All the Disney resorts have self-parking which is free for guests. No need to tip anyone if all you’re doing is self-parking your own car or a rental car.

The deluxe resorts also have valet parking available for a fee. If you use the valet parking service, in addition to paying the daily rate (currently $14), you’ll need to tip the attendant each time you get your car. A dollar or two will suffice.

Do I have to tip the bus/boat/monorail driver who takes me from my Disney hotel to the theme parks?

Nope. This is a no-tip situation, but a smile and a cheery “thank you” would be nice.

Is there anyone special I need to tip when I’m leaving Walt Disney World?

If you use the Resort Airline Check-In service at your Disney resort, you should tip the agent who tags your bags. These folks are not Disney employees. Consider them in the same way you would porters at the airport and give them about a dollar a bag. Remember, Resort Airline Check-In is responsible for getting your luggage onto your plane. It’s better if they’re happy.

You do tip the folks at Resort Airline Check-In.

AT THE HOTEL

Ta da! I’m at the hotel. Who needs a tip first?

Much of the tipping at your hotel is centered around luggage assistance. Yet again, if someone touches your bag, they should be tipped about a dollar a bag. If a bellman not only takes your bags to your room for you, but also provides additional information about the hotel or the workings of your room, then a bit more may be in order.

You’ll also give a dollar a bag to the bellman who helps you with luggage when you’re leaving the hotel.

All this tipping for moving my bags is really adding up. How can I economize?

You can avoid a lot of tipping if you transport your bags yourself. This may not be feasible for guests with medical challenges, copious amounts of luggage, more small children than adults, or owners of non-wheeled luggage. However, if you’re able-bodied and each member of your party can handle their own rolling bag, then by all means deal with your own luggage and circumvent the tip stream.

What’s this I hear about tipping mousekeeper housekeepers?

Yes, this is a thing.

It’s polite to leave about a dollar per day, per person in your party, as a tip for the cast members that make up your room. If you’re a family of five, this means a five dollar tip for your housekeeper each day. You’re supposed to leave the tip separately each day, rather than at the end of your stay, because there likely will be different cast cleaning your room over the course of your visit. You’re also supposed to leave the tip in an envelope with a nice note that says “thank you.” This makes it clear to the housekeeper that the tip is indeed for her, and not just a bit of cash that you forgot you left on the dresser.

Many guests make fun projects for their kids based around decorating the housekeeper tip envelopes. A quick Google of “Mousekeeping Tip Envelopes” will give you lots of links to people who are more creative and patient than I am.

Now it’s time for Erin’s true confessions: I rarely tip the housekeepers. If the housekeeper does something special like make towel animals or arrange my kids’ stuffed animals in a Mickey-centric Last Supper tableau, then yes, I’ll leave a few bucks in appreciation. Also, if my kids have been super messy (um, the sand was supposed to be wiped off your feet before you got to the room), I’ll leave some cash to assuage my guilt. But otherwise, I usually don’t.

Clearly this is some glitch in my programming because I go absolutely insane with rage when people undertip at restaurants. A housekeeper is clearly working just as hard in a service job as a waiter. Do as I say, people, not as I do.

Even if your Jungle Cruise driver is so good he makes you cry, he still doesn’t get a tip.

Do I tip those random helpful people at the hotel?

Generally not. Disney has greeters and random helpful, cheerful souls all over the place. They don’t expect to be tipped for answering simple questions, opening doors, or pointing you in the right direction.

Are there exceptions to this?

If someone actually does something for you, offer a tip. For example, if you call down to housekeeping for more pillows or towels, give the person who brings them a few dollars. If a bell desk cast member calls a taxi for you, give them a dollar or two.

What about the concierge?

Every Walt Disney World hotel has a concierge desk where you can ask directions, pick up tickets, get assistance with dining reservations, etc. For basic requests, there’s no need to tip. If you find a concierge particularly helpful or if they make multiple meal or recreation reservations or solve a thorny problem for you, offer a tip of $5-10. Most likely this will be firmly, but politely, declined, but it’s kind to offer.

If you’re staying at an off site hotel and a concierge there provides you with assistance, you should tip $5-10 for simple requests, and $20 or more for complicated requests. This most assuredly will not be declined.

DINING

Is there anyone I’m supposed to tip at a counter service restaurant?

No. There’s no need for tipping at counter service venues.

Restaurant tipping information is provided in several languages.

How much am I supposed to tip at table service restaurants?

I’m just going to say it: You should be tipping 18-20% at table service restaurants, possibly more if you’ve had truly exceptional service or have lingered at a signature restaurant.

Eighteen to twenty percent? Really? I though I was being generous by tipping fifteen percent.

Yes, really. The 15% thing is just so 1990s. No flames, please.

I super-double-plus promise you that I’m not making this up. 18-20% is now the tipping norm in U.S. metro areas (of which Orlando is one).

To keep everyone on the same page, Disney restaurants often place a little card about tipping in the bill presentation folder. The card says: “We are often asked about gratuities. No gratuity has been added to your bill. Quality service is customarily acknowledged by a gratuity of 18% to 20%. Thank you.”

Many of the questions we receive on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel are related to tipping. To keep myself educated on the topic I’ve been collecting articles about tipping for the past four years. I have sources ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the most recent edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette that will back me up: you really should be tipping at least 18% at table service restaurants.

In all cases, remember that you’re tipping on the bill, not the bill plus tax.

OK, that’s what I should do, but is it what I absolutely have to do?

Of course it’s really up to you to decide how much you want to tip. If you’ve taken root in the land of 15% tippers, then it’s up to you to decide if that’s where you want to stay.

There are, however, a few situations where the 18% tip is mandated. These are:

  • Parties of six or more. The 18% gratuity will be assessed regardless of the age of the guests (babies are included) and regardless of whether the bill is broken up into separate sub-checks.
  • Guests dining at prepaid restaurants and dinner shows including: Cinderella’s Royal Table, Hoop Dee Doo Review, Spirit of Aloha Luau, and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.
  • Guests using the Tables in Wonderland discount card or Cast Member discount.

If you fall into one of these categories, take extra care to look over your bill. You’re certainly welcome to add more to your tip if you received exceptional service, but you don’t want to inadvertently double tip.

I’m eating a buffet. Do I have to tip the same amount as at a regular table service restaurant?

In my experience, the servers at Disney’s buffets work just as hard, if not harder, than those at traditional table service restaurants. There’s a lot more clearing and refilling than at other meals. However, if you feel that buffets are in a different category of dining, then it’s up to you to decide your tip level. But remember, if you’re a party of six or more, an 18% gratuity will be automatically added to your bill.

Most Disney restaurant bills include suggested tip amounts.

Do I have to tip if I’m using the Disney Dining Plan?

Yes, you do. Many years ago, the tip was included with the Dining Plan. It’s not any more.

If I’m paying with Dining Plan credits, how do I know how much to tip?

If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, your bill will include a notation about how much you would have paid had you been paying cash. Tip based on that amount.

If you’re a big eater on the Dining Plan, your tips over the course of a vacation can end up being quite substantial. Be sure to factor this into your budget.

Do I have to pay my restaurant tip in cash?

No. You can use any acceptable form of payment at Disney World to pay your tip. Cash, credit card, debit card, room charge and Disney gift cards all work well.

What happens if I have really bad service? Can I stiff the waiter?

Personally, I have never had truly horrendous service at Walt Disney World and have only had semi-bad service a handful of times in upwards of a thousand dining experiences. The likelihood of you having a horrible server is minimal.

However, if you do encounter service that’s sub-standard, the best thing to do is speak to a manager at the restaurant. They can work with you to rectify any negative issues. It’s better to get the problem fixed than to walk away angry.

Also, remember that your tip is related to your service, not to the food. If you’re unsatisfied with your food, speak to the manager, don’t take it out on the waiter.

Only a few dining experiences have the tip included in the price of the meal.

I’m having a night-cap. What do I tip the bartender?

If you’re just having drinks, one to two dollars per drink is the right amount. If you’re also getting food, go with 18-20%.

I’ve had looong day in the parks. We’ve decided to get room service. What do I tip?

The In-Room Dining menus state, “A $3.00 delivery charge, applicable sales tax, and an 18% service charge will be added to all orders.”

It’s not obligatory, but if the server who brings your food to your room is extra nice or helpful, you could hand him $3-5 to be extra nice back.

IN THE PARKS

I’m a mover and a shaker. Can I tip the cast member at Soarin’ a sawbuck to sneak me into the FastPass line?

Um, no. But you get points for creativity. Cast members doing their regular job in the parks are not allowed to accept tips/bribes/grift/etc. If they are seen accepting tips, this is grounds for dismissal.

A cast member has completely made my day. She (pick one or more) helped my child find her favorite character, got me a new ice cream cone after I dropped mine, let me drive the Jungle Cruise boat, told me about the high-value Toy Story Mania targets. Can I tip her as a thank you?

You’ve got your heart in the right place, but still, no tipping for regular parks cast.

But I reeeeaaally want to thank them properly.

Some super sweet guests carry a small bag of thank you cards or tiny treats from their home town when they go to the parks. They’ll offer these to cast members who have shown them a special courtesy. Cast are allow to accept these de minimus tokens.

While giving a kind cast member a Statue of Liberty pencil sharpener is nice, what’s even better is giving the cast member some documented props. Guest comments weigh heavily in cast member performance evaluations. Your positive remarks can help good cast members get promoted into better jobs. To make an official comment, pick up a comment card at the Guest Services office at the parks. If you’d rather wait until you get home, you can send comments to:

Walt Disney World Guest Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

The e-mail address for Guest Communications is: wdw.guest.communications@disneyworld.com.

Be sure to include the cast member’s name and hometown (both noted on their name tag), as well as a description of the cast member’s good deed and approximately where/when it happened.

Is there really no one at the parks to tip?

There are a few small exceptions to the “no tipping in the parks” rule.

You can tip cast involved in your personal beautification at the Harmony Barber Shop, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or Pirates League. For the Barber Shop, tip about 15% of your bill. At one point tipping at the BBB had been prohibited, but in recent years this rule seems to have been relaxed. If you feel so inclined, you may offer a 15% tip to the Fairy Godmothers in Training or the Pirate tutors.

What about tour guides? Do I tip them?

Not the Walt Disney World tour guides. They’re not allowed to take your tip. If you’re with a private tour group, a tip very well may be expected. Speak with your tour carrier for guidelines.

ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD BE THINKING OF?

Outside of the parks there are plenty of relaxation and recreation opportunities. These activities are often outsourced to contractors. For example, Nikki Bryan Spas runs the spa services at the Grand Floridian and Saratoga Springs resorts and Sammy Duvall runs the water sports centers. Contractors generally are allowed to accept tips.

We’re treating ourselves to a massage. Do I tip the masseusse

Plan on tipping 15-20% of the bill for any personal care or grooming service. Massages, manicures, haircuts, facials, and those poolside hair wraps all merit a tip of at least 15%.

I’m taking my beloved out on the town and we’re leaving the kids behind. Do I tip the sitter?

The cast at the Disney childcare centers (Neverland Club, etc.) will not be expecting a tip. If you’re using Disney’s in-room sitting subcontractors such as Kids Nite Out, then a tip should be offered. This could range from rounding up the bill by a few dollars to an extra $100 or more if the real-world version of Mary Poppins has tamed your unruly mob. For a normal, competent sitter, a tip of $10-20 is a nice gesture.

I’m going water skiing at the Contemporary. Do I tip the boat driver?

Offer a tip of at least 15% for any specialty recreation. This includes boat drivers, waterski instructors, parasailing guides, tennis instructors, and the like. For golf instructors and caddies, use standard golf club etiquette on tipping.

Tips for your water sports guide are welcome.

I’m still lost, what do I do?

When in doubt, ask other guests, or ask at the Guest Services offices in the parks. They’ll give you the scoop on tipping norms.

If you had one piece of advice to give me overall, what would it be?

Carry a lot of singles.

That’s it?

When in doubt about tipping, remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words if you, or your parent, or child, or best friend were in a service role, how would you want them to be treated. Tip accordingly.

And at the risk of getting all soapboxy here for a sec, if you’re traveling with kids, think about the example that you’re setting for them. Do you want to teach your kids that it’s OK to stiff the waiter?

With that in mind, you heard it here first, I vow that from now on I will leave a tip for the housekeepers and will teach my kids to do the same.

I’m bizarrely intrigued by all this. What were some of those resources you mentioned about tipping?

Ask and ye shall receive. Here are some places to learn more about tipping:

So fellow travelers, what are your thoughts on tipping? Do international guests think we Americans are crazy? Have you made any tipping gaffes that are keeping you up at night? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on March 21, 2012

169 Responses to “Frequently Asked Questions About Tipping At Walt Disney World”

  • Great post. The only thing I didn’t see mentioned were the specialty cruises, like the Wishes Cruise or Illuminations Cruise. (Unless those were included in “specialty recreation”?) Those folks definitely do accept tips, and I’m never quite sure how much to give them.

  • The housekeeping tip thing is very, very variable in my experience. Outside of the Disney fan community, I would guess that the vast majority of people staying in ordinary American chain hotels do not tip housekeeping staff at all. In luxury/5-star hotels, it’s probably more common. Personally I never tip daily unless the housekeeper does something extraordinary. I follow the old rule of tipping at the end of the stay. Yes, I know different housekeepers clean the room each day. But the person who “turns” the room at the end of the stay does a LOT more work, so they win the tip lottery for me.

    • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 2:50 pm EDT

      The housekeeping tip is the area that does seem to have the most variability. And I definitely agree that tipping hotel housekeepers does happen more regularly at Disney and luxury destinations.

  • Thank you. Lots of useful info and reassuring to know I’m doing it right.

  • No flaming here on the 15% thing. I’ve always tipped 20% baseline (post tax even) since I paid my first bill at a restaurant. Tipping well is something I was taught at a very young age by my father whose family was supported in large part by the tips earned as a waitress by my grandmother.

    But I do have to say I find it frustrating that the standard for tipping has increased so much *as a percentage*. Yes, cost of living has increased over the last twenty years… but that includes the cost of the meals upon which tips are based. The lovely thing about a percentage is that it scales with the economy. If it raises 5% every twenty years… our kids are going to be paying as much in tips as they do for the meal itself, hahaha!

    None of this is a criticism of the column or the writer of course, more a lament of how things have progressed.

    • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 2:52 pm EDT

      I hear you.

      In much of my research on the topic I found mentions that the expected tip rate in super posh city restaurants is now approaching 25%. Oy.

      • I never understood the “tip a percentage” thing. I can go to my local coffee shop & order breakfast, pay $20 for myself & 2 kids, & the tip is… $4? Or go to ritzy place, meal is $100 & I tip.. $20? Yet the coffee shop waiter did much more work than the one at the Ritzy. Understand, I’m not arguing, but just never understood it. I tip 30% or more at coffee shop & 15% at Ritzy. Sorry.

        • To clarify: I always tip more for stellar service & am happy to do so.

        • by Scarlett Litton on March 22, 2012, at 10:33 am EDT

          I do the same at coffee shops! I always overtip them. And bartenders. I feel so silly tipping just a couple of dollars when they worked so hard.

  • Great article! I’m notorious for overtipping mainly because I’m too lazy to break down the percentage on bills, etc – especially at a place like Disney!

    I’m also big on tipping at least $5 each day for Housekeeping when travelling (usually it’s no more than two adults in a room and we aren’t messy at all). I put the bill flat on the pillow so it’s obvious that it’s for them. We’ve even had someone leave a note thanking us for the generous tip so I’m thinking they don’t always get it on a daily basis.

    • Divide the bill by 10 & double that (for 20%) or divide bill by 10 & add half of the result (for 15%). For 17.5%, split the difference. It really isn’t hard. Should be able to do it in your head in about 2-5 seconds, yes? :-)

  • Great article! Tipping anywhere can be confusing, but with all the activities going on at WDW, it is even more so. We tip $5 per night (leave in an envelope addressed to “Mousekeeping” on the sink vanity).

  • Great post! One of my biggest pet peeves in poor tipping. I’ve even been known to go back and leave more at restaurants when my MIL undertips.

    I do think that there is no excuse for not tipping housekeeping. They’re in the service industry just like bellmen, servers, hairdressers etc. and most likely they work harder and make less than any of those positions. The only reason why I wouldn’t tip my housekeeper was if they did a poor job and there were cleanliness issues. Just look at it as one of the necessary costs of getting to go on a fabulous trip :)

    Also, leaving one tip at the end of your stay is really not cool when you’ve had (likely) numerous attendants over the course of your stay.

    • Jami, I agree. I’ve worked a number of jobs at hotels, including housekeeping. It’s definitely the hardest job I ever had, and as a guest, one of the ones people notice the most if it isn’t done well. I often felt it was highly unfair that bellman (jobs that are overwhelmingly staffed by men) just push a cart around and chit-chat with guests and go home at the end of the day with wads of cash, while housekeepers (jobs that are overwhelmingly staffed by women) break their backs all day long and rarely see a tip. Yet whose role ends up being the one that you live with day in and day out during your stay?

      I *always* tip housekeepers.

  • What about if u order a meal to-go from a restaurant to take back to the room?

    Like I pick up a pizza from pizza hut and never paid a tip.

    But what about togo from outback or olive garden?

    Great article.

    • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 4:32 pm EDT

      I hadn’t looked into this before since it’s not something I normally do. Based on some research, it seems that the prevailing wisdom is that if you pick up food from a restaurant that is mainly a sit-down establishment, then a tip of about 10% is the way to go.

      If you’re just picking up a pizza from a place that deals primarily in picked up pizza, no tip is necessary.

      • Not trying to be a scrooge here, but if the purpose of a tip to reward the wait staff for service performance, I’m failing to see the purpose of a tip for carryout where you don’t deal w/ the wait staff. Is it guilt seeing the tip line on the credit card slip? :) PS And practically-speaking, who would such a tip go to – the person at the cash register? hardly seems right.

        • This is also not something that would have occurred to me. When I looked into it, the rationale for tipping at pick-up is that usually it is a waiter who gathers the food and boxes it up nicely for you. While they’re doing this, they’ve been taken away from table work, where they would be earning tips. The tip at pick-up is to compensate the waiter for lost time at the tables. Again, I did not know this and have probably stiffed waiters in several food pick-up situations in the past.

          • I have never even once considered (nor would I really) tipping if I went out & picked up the food. Delivery? Absolutely, whether it’s delivered to my home, office, or my table at the restaurant. But a tip if I pick up the food? Really?

  • by Michelle B. on March 21, 2012, at 4:03 pm EDT

    I think one reason people aren’t likely to tip housekeeping, is that they don’t interact with the person. But they certainly are the staff that attends to my needs most, even if I never see them. Always make sure you place the tip on the pillow or bedsheets to make it obvious it’s for them. I always leave a tip daily (unless I’m out of one’s), and add an extra buck on the day I check out for the person who has to do the most work.

  • Might I suggest, Seinfeld season 4, episode 12 for tipping advice.

  • Great article, and I think it’s a terrific reminder that a couple of bucks can really make a difference to someone working hard for you.

    A quick question: if you valet a car, what are your thoughts on tipping – at drop off, pick up, or both?

    • When I valet a car (which is rare since I live in NYC and don’t own a car), I usually give $5 to the person taking the car and $5 when picking it up. That’s probably way too much but is what I do.

      • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 6:53 pm EDT

        I live in the NYC burbs and valet in NYC and environs with some regularity. $5 for each end seems like crazy too much to me. But in general, you’re right to err on the side of being too generous.

        • I just realized that I neglected to mention that when I do valet a car it’s usually at a hotel for a day or two so I’m not constantly taking it in or out of the garage. :-)

    • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 6:54 pm EDT

      When I was looking into this, I saw that you always tip at pick up. The experts were mixed on whether to tip at drop off. When in doubt, it never hurts to give a buck or two to the valet.

  • I’ve never seen anyone tip at Resort Airline Check-In, and prior to reading this article, I’ve never even heard anyone mention tipping there. It never even crossed my mind, maybe because I never use porters at the airport and of course, no one tips at the airport counter when you hand your bags over. I have to say, even if I had equated them with porters, I probably would have assumed they had a business arrangement with Disney and were already being compensated!

    • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 6:59 pm EDT

      Interesting, I’ve seen many people tip at Resort Airline Check-In and always tip there myself.

      I also tip when I use curbside check-in at an airport because this is generally run by a contractor and not the airline itself. If I check bags inside the terminal, they’re put on the belt by an airline employee, then I don’t tip. I equate RAC with curb-side check-in.

      • Thanks Erin for opening my eyes. Embarrassed to realize I’ve been stiffing the RAC folks. :(

      • Yes indeed, always tip at curbside check-in at airports. The consequences of not doing so (at least in these parts) can be disastrous. ;-) Never occurred to my to tip inside terminal. Good point about RAC, I may have missed that distinction. Kudos.

  • I have to say, my experience getting comment cards from guest services last summer was dicey. Most of the time, the people there were confused that we were asking for such a thing and didn’t have any at all.

    • by Erin Foster on March 21, 2012, at 7:01 pm EDT

      I’ve seen them out on the counter from time to time. If you can’t locate comment cards, the email address works well too.

  • by Susan McCabe on March 21, 2012, at 7:07 pm EDT

    For our trip home the van driver picked us up at the FW cabin, two adults, two kids, four bags and a stroller and transported us to the Outpost. When we got to the ME bus to go back to MCO there was a mix up and when I turned back around the van driver had already left. To this day I regret missing the opportunity to tip him.

  • I am adamant about the table service tips remaining at 15%. I do not understand the reasoning behind raising a percentage. A percentage is just that. The tip goes up as meal prices rise. The waiter makes more money based on the price of the meal and there is no valid justification for raising the percentage.

    • Very much agree — not sure why “super-posh” cities expecting 25% (post above) should matter… I came of age on 15% standard service, 20% above and beyond – haven’t seen a reason why that should change.

      • by Erin Foster on March 22, 2012, at 8:28 am EDT

        Well, all tipping is just a social construct. There’s really no reason to tip at all, except that’s what we’ve all agreed to do. In the US, waitstaff salaries are paid based on the assumption that because we’ve agreed to the social construct of tipping.

        Much of this is different in other countries. I was in Barcelona last summer. We had cake and cocoa at the counter of a small cafe. The bill was about 15 Euros. We tried to leave our server a 20 Euro note and she freaked. She truly looked shocked and told us that it was inappropriate to give her so much money. We did the “I insist” dance and she looked at us like we had six heads. She did NOT want our tip.

        In doing my reading on the topic, I found that the standard tip in the US in the early 1970s was about 10%. That was the social construct during that time period.

        Sometime over the few decades that crept up to 15%. That’s what you came of age on, so that’s what feels right to you. And barring the mandatory 18% tip situations (parties of 6+ etc.), you’re welcome to tip that amount.

        It seems that tips, like all social constructs, are a moving target. Take a look at show like Mad Men. Beyond the many indiscretions of the main characters, I find some of the most shocking aspects of the program to be some of the social behaviors that are different from now. Evolution is constant.

        No judging, just my two cents.

        • This hasn’t been mentioned, so I’m not sure if any of you know. A waiters minimum wage is less than $3, many times after taxes they won’t get any money on their paycheck. Now I’m not sure how much Disney pays their waiters, but they are expected more. Keep in mind, they are doing YOU a service. I generally do not tip less than 20% unless they did a really bad job. And I will give more if they went above and beyond.

  • A loooong time ago, in a college town far, far away I worked in housekeeping. Hey, had to pay that tuition somehow… We all worked crazy hard and the money was dismal. Tips were very few and far between, but when they did happen they were hugely appreciated. I really think most people don’t know they should be tipping housekeeping… We always have a stash of $5′s when we travel for tipping the housekeepers.

  • As far as housekeeping goes… what about housekeeping in DVC rooms? They don’t come everyday and when they come on the 4th day, it’s just trash and towel. What’s the standard for tipping these mousekeepers?

    • by Erin Foster on March 22, 2012, at 7:57 am EDT

      I’m a DVC member and often stay at WDW on my points. On the no-service days (days 1-3) there’s obviously no need to tip – a housekeeper is not even entering your room.

      I think a small tip would be merited on Trash & Towel towel day. If you’re lucky enough to be staying through a day-8 full service, then a more substantial tip would be in order.

      • Although we’ve had everything from wonderful to terrible mousekeeping when staying in a 1 Bedroom at DVC (Beach Club or Boardwalk), we leave a $5 bill each day (even though there are only 4 of us, and the only mess we leave is a pile of used towels), because there are really 2 rooms, and we feel it is more work for the staff than a just a hotel room.

  • by Peggie Crawford on March 21, 2012, at 10:29 pm EDT

    I am still confused about tipping when using dining plan credits at a dinner show like Hoop-Dee-Doo. I understand that the tip is included in the price, but is it covered by the dining plan? Should I be prepared to pay the tip there just as at other table service meals?

    • by Erin Foster on March 22, 2012, at 7:54 am EDT

      I agree that this is a particularly confusing area.

      The Disney Dining Plan brochure distributed to guests very explicitly says that the gratuity is included. This means that for meals where there is a flat rate and gratuity included for cash guests, then it is also included for DDP guests. This makes the HDDR a particularly advantageous use of two DDP credits. Not only is the tip included, but you also get free tap beer, wine, or sangria included in your two credits.

      However, adding to the complications, there are also specialty alcoholic beverages available at the HDDR (margaritas, for example). These are not included in the plan. If you want one, you’ll have to pay for this out of pocket. While the plan does not explicitly say so, in my opinion, if you’re generating an additional charge, then you should tip on this charge.

      And of course, you’re always free to tip a bit extra if your server has gone above and beyond for you.

      • by Erin Foster on March 22, 2012, at 8:36 am EDT

        Just to be clear: The DDP brochure says that the tip is included for the HDDR, Spirit of Aloha Luau, Mickey’s BBQ, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and in-room dining (room service). In all other cases, DDP guests must add a tip.

  • I am a true believer in tipping mousekeeping each & everyday. We noticed on our first trip to the World just how hard they work, so we started tipping. Next trip we took our niece (4) – oh my, each day she couldn’t wait for nap time so she could see what her toys had done while she’d been in the parks – Hehe. Plus our mousekeeper must have thanked us ten times that week, which leads me to believe many people do not tip. A few dollars to make 2 great gals happy – well worth the expense.

  • Great Article – thanks!. Any chance you could write one for the Disney Cruise Line? I’m taking my first cruise this summer and don’t know what to expect.

    Paul

    • Hope you don’t mind if another Paul jumps in to answer this one. :-P DCL tipping is much much simpler than WDW. On the last night of your cruise, you’ll be given a sheet with recommended tip amounts for four specific people: your state room attendant (equivalent of mousekeeping), your restaurant server, your restaurant assistant-server (takes care of your drinks), and your restaurant’s head server (oversees all the other servers). The amount of the recommendation will vary based on the length of your cruise. They’ll also give you four small envelopes. You have two options on what do do with them: 1) put cash into these envelopes; 2) fill out the form and return it to the Guest Services desk, and they’ll charge the tips to your room and give you little slips of paper with the amount printed, and then you put the papers into the envelopes. Then that final night, give those envelopes to each of the four people.

      Note that when you order a drink from a bar or lounge, the tip is *included* on the receipt. Feel free to write in an additional tip amount for outstanding service, of course, but don’t feel the need to.

      • Thanks – Paul! How about the people who handle your bags – embarking and disembarking?

        Paul

        • I’m probably too late to comment on this for the OP but in case anyone was wondering. On embarkment there is a small chance you see the person unloading your bags. I will say my wife and I saw the one in our hallway and he looked and acted as if he was having a particularly bad day. I threw him a 10 dollar bill and I have to say my baggage seemed to have extra care taken to it as we got a knock on our door when some of it had arrived. Goes to the saying it never hurts to tip people that you see handling your baggage. I will also say I later saw that young man working in two other parts of the ship and various hours. He greeted me with a smile both times so I hope he remembered my generosity. On disembarking I highly recommend taking your own luggage if you are capable. If you are not, you leave your bags out the night before and I don’t think I would feel comfortable leaving money out in the hall. Just my thoughts on that for cruises (and rules could have changed in the years since I have been on one).

  • Enjoyed this article, thank you :) .. tipping is very different here in the UK (I can only think of restaurants and hairdressers that we’d tip, and that is at 10%) – so I’ve had to learn who to tip, and how much, when in the US.

    About the tip envelopes, I’ve found that many Cast Members seem to really like them! On our last trip, I gave a bell-hop one with a few dollars in it.. and he came back to us to say ‘thank you’ for the envelope, in 20+ years of working there, he’d never seen anything like it! :)

  • Interesting article. As a Brit (aren’t we known for being tight?) we have different rules at home. Generally here if service is bad you tip zero. Good 10%. Better = more. In Disney my rules change. I tip $2 a day for 2 of us to mouse keeping unless they do something extra then I might tip $4-5 a day. I think service at somewhere fancy e.g. Flying Fish can warrant a 20% tip but at a buffet I’m unlikely to give much more than 10%. Magical Express drivers will normally get $2-3 but we will carry our own stuff. It would never have occurred to me to tip many of the others listed except spa treatments and taxis which would get c.10% ish too.

    So…am I tight?

    • I don’t think so – and frankly I think most of the US is also like what you describe. Only in more large urban / tourist areas have I heard of these ideas.

  • by Mark from Canada on March 22, 2012, at 2:03 pm EDT

    What I don’t like is how the owners in the service industry use tipping as an excuse for not increasing wages with inflation. Had wages increased with price of living indexes, then 15% could have remained as a reasonable standard. Instead, they can not increase their menu prices as much (which is good marketing for them) while instead setting the “norm” of 18 to 20%. What I really, really don’t like is that many restaurants have implemented a tip pool practice, wherein all service staff are expected to turn over their tip money, and it is then distributed amongst all the service staff. If customers end up not tipping, the managers still require the wait person to provide this money from their own pocket to put into the pool (assumption being that the wait person is otherwise trying to pocket the cash themselves, or should be punished for poor service). So, in that case, you could have an excellent wait person, but for whatever reason, a customer decides not to tip at all, or only tips a small amount. The waiter/waitress then has to make up the difference from their own pocket. Tipping is supposed to be discretionary, even if it is customary. I always tip a standard 15% with a bit of rounding up, leave a dollar person per day for housekeeping when I travel (with a note), a few extra dollars for the taxi driver, and a $1 per bag if I am leaving my bag at the hotel after checkout, when I pick it up, not when I drop it off (feels like paying twice).

  • Regarding bellhops, what about this?
    Scenario 1: You drive up to check in and your room is not quite ready. so the bellhop takes your bags and stores them (usually the bags are put on a roller cart and the whole cart is stored). Then an hour later you call from your room and a bellhop (you don’t know if it will be the same or a different guy) brings the bags. Do I tip the first guy AND the second guy a dollar a bag?

    Scenario 2: Same thing at checkout. I had the bellhop gather my bags before checkout time but I had a few hours to kill before my ride to the airport. Do I tip the bellhop that picks up my bags AND the bellhop that brings them out of the storage area? Meanwhile that second bellhop does not do much since the cab driver will usually go out of his way to grab the bags and put them in the taxi himself.

    • Jeff – we travel frequently as a family and my husband travels a lot for work and in both scenarios you set forth, we would tip both guys. Generally speaking, I find that the nicer the hotel is, the more people there are for you to tip!

    • by Erin Foster on March 23, 2012, at 4:16 pm EDT

      I agree with Dawn. In both situations, etiquette would likely call for you to tip on both sides of the equation.

  • Like someone said earlier, we always have $5s for housekeeping, at WDW or any hotel we stay at. First morning we ususally leave a larger tip then $5 each morning even though there is just two of us.
    I find that the extra towels, coffee, shampoo, etc & spic-span room make it worth the small investment.

  • Great post, it really helped me. I’m from Europe and find tipping in the USA a little confusing, we usually do not tip that much and in so many situations.
    However, for me, more confusing are the taxes. Here in European Union is mandatory by law that all prices include taxes, when visiting USA I always find myself doing some math to find the final price.
    What’s the best way to know how much are the taxes for each state?

    Sorry for any mistake. English is not my first language

    • by Erin Foster on March 23, 2012, at 4:21 pm EDT

      Taxes really are confusing here. There’s actually a slightly different tax rate at the Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge than at the rest of Walt Disney World, because the AK is in a different county with a different tax rate.

      I live in the New York City suburbs, which has a different tax rate than the City itself. To make matters more complicated, there is no tax on certain food items purchased in a grocery store, but there is tax on something like shampoo or batteries purchased in the same store. New York has no tax on clothing purchases up to a certain amount, but then there is tax after that. And sometimes during certain months, there is no tax on clothes (usually for back to school shopping).

      In the state of New Hampshire (and I believe one or two others) there is no state sales tax.

      In most places the tax rate is between 5-8%. When in doubt, estimate the tax being 10% and then consider anything less than that to be a happy bonus for you.

    • by Erin Foster on March 23, 2012, at 4:22 pm EDT

      And your English is great, by the way. No worries.

  • This thread is going to get way off topic, now… :)

    State taxes are pretty straightforward (FL is 6%), but several states allow counties or smaller parts to add their own tax rates, or on specific things (like hotels/resorts) Typically they make them small enough so most people won’t notice, except if you want to accurately predict. Best practical way is to buy something small in the same place you are, figure the rate, and that should get you pretty close going forward (except for those category exceptions, like hotels)

  • I have a question. If there’s an expected level of tip, no matter how good or bad the service is, then why don’t they just include that in the cost of the thing that you’re doing and pay the person a higher wage directly?

    • Because it will cost the business more. This way any ‘under tipping’ can be blamed on the ‘meanness’ of the customer. Sneaky really.

  • Just a quick “tip”, for those cast members that do a great job and you aren’t supposed to tip, leave a message at guest relations. (Make sure you get the name and work location of the cast member.) It lets management know cast members are doing a good job and sometimes that cast member may get some type of recognition for it.

  • Thanks for the advice!! I’m always wondering how much to tip and feel silly asking.

    One exception though to the counter service rule of no tip required is Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. We always leave $5 for the staff because they bring you cutlery and refills on soda. Off property, Pei Wei is similar, we make sure we leave a few dollars on the table before we leave. Thanks for a great article!!

  • Great blog thank you. I am afraid I hate tipping however. Being a Brit (and a minimum wage employee) I could never afford to tip that much! It took so so long to save for the holiday and would have taken at least another year to save enough for all that tipping. I am sorry to say I must have re-enforced the ‘tight Brits’ stereotype. We only tipped people who were wonderful, not average or simply doing their job. But then if I were tipped at my work I could afford to tip others, but I dislike the idea that a tip is due or owed to the server or driver. I really wish there were a sensible minimum wage and tipping was a true reward instead.

  • Love this topic, and I have to say, I’ve only ever “undertipped” once at Disney. We were at the bar at POR on a very slow night, and between my friend and I, four magical cocktails each meant a bill with a suggested 18-20% tip that almost surpassed my mousekeeping tip budget for the entire visit! Considering that I actually got one round of drinks at the bar myself, I stuck to my usual drink-tipping habit at home ($1 per drink). If we had ordered food, or if it had been a busier, I might have felt differently, but having waitressed myself, I just didn’t feel that the service provided justified a $15 to $20 tip.

  • I live in a country that doesn’t tip either, this is because they actually get well paid. I think I have learnt that in the USA they don’t and to make a decent living tipping is required. I will say adding the tips makes eating very expensive in the usa

  • I just thought of another tip question. How much do you tip at Palo on DCL? I never know how much to leave because 20% of the cover charge seems way too little. Anyone know?

  • Interesting and well written article.

    i feel robbed. We had a WDW Tour Guide on New Years Eve actually ask us for a tip and we gave it to him. Now I read they are not allowed to accept tips. Then again, at $10.oo a person (our group had 10 people) I guess the $100 tip was worth it especially since we skipped to the head of all the lines on all attractions on one of the busiest days of the year at the Magic Kingdom and our seats(yes actual chairs) for the Christmas Parades were phenomenal,

    • That’s the thing that bugs me, Paul. If, when you paid up-front for the tour guide, and that wasn’t paying for his service, then what were you paying for? The special viewing areas are roped off and the chairs laid out as part of the package. We’ve even been invited in there for free before. That wasn’t something special he did – that was what you paid for. I would’ve reported him, if I were you. One of the nicest things about Disney is that you’re not having your sleeve tugged the whole time, and that’s why that rule is in place.

  • by Sean Riley on May 30, 2012, at 3:10 am EDT

    As an international visitor (from Australia) I will concur: America’s tipping culture is nuts! Out here, the idea is that you tip for great service; your wage is the reward for standard service. That said, I will be tipping as advised here. When in the Italy Pavilion, do as the Romans do.

  • I absolutrly agree with all of this. We always tip Mousekeeping daily, and 18-20% really is the typical rate these days and I don’t even live in a major metro area. I would only tip 15% if I was dissatisfied. I am always floored by the mom’s panel Q’s where people are so angry about the rule of 18% for parties of 6+. Like, would your large party have elected not to tip otherwise? Servers make very little money before tips and its a tough job! This is a great resource for people… I always find the baggage side of things the most confusing! And valets… Mostly becuase I am rarely organized enough to have a 5 in hand when arriving somehwere.

  • When we were at Disney we asked one of the waitresses about cash vs. card for tipping. She stated that obviously they get cash that day but with cards (keys to the world card especially) they would have to wait until the end of your stay before your card had the full charge place on it for your entire trip. So for someone that waits on you your first day of a 2 week trip they may have to wait several weeks to see the tip. She also indicated it was difficult for her to be sure she was getting all of her tips as well.

    So I am planning on carrying cash to tip with from now on.

  • This is very helpful! I wish I’d seen it before our trip. We’ve always been good tippers at restaurants, but we had not idea about tipping bell services or mousekeepers. I was never taught that growing up. Is it tacky to send a tip later if you know the cast member’s name? I will definitely plan ahead for tips on our next trip.

    • As a former waitress, barmaid and hotel cleaner, I would like to iterate that there is definitely no such thing as tacky when it comes to tipping more!

  • We are visiting WDW in January 2013 and as we come from Germany we weren’t so sure about who to tip and not, this website has helped us a lot! In Germany it is quite common to give gratuity of 10% to a waiter but not more. Different culture, different customs I guess ;-)

    • I spent two weeks in Germany and Austria this past summer. I was as confused by the customs there as many European guests are confused by the US traditions. I think I accidentally mess up tipping protocol every time I leave the country. But I’m try to learn and that’s what really matters.

      • I hope you enjoyed your time in Germany and Austria! I’ll also try my best adjusting myself to the US traditions, not just on tipping the waiters but on other things as well! It is my totally biased opinion, but generally Americans are more cheerful and customer-oriented than most Europeans are, so I guess I won’t have any problems giving them the gratuity they deserve! ;-)

  • Oh my goodness – glad I read this – I had no idea about most of this!

  • My husband is going to be doing the Exotic car ride along that is available as part of our Platinum dining plan. It took me a lot of searching and I found the price listed as being $105, BUT it also said that the driver you ride along with is a former Formula1 driver. As a contracted service provider according to the article he should be tipped, but I think it would be a little bit embarassing to turn around and hand someone like that a tip. Maybe it’s just me but I would feel like no matter what we were giving him it was an insult.

    Also, what about the Dolphin interaction program at the aquarium? Are we really supposed to tip every person involved with that? If so it will end up costing more than the participation fee by the time we are done.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Can’t help you about a car ride…but…
      there is NO tipping for Aqua Tour, Dolphins in Depth, or Divequest in Epcot Living Seas. These are professionals. Aqua Tour and Divequest and Dolphins in Depth sponsored by NAUI Worldwide with NAUI Professional Divers. (BTW, you are only allowed to bring you own swim suit, and possibly your own mask if you have one – they provide everything else. Bring proof of ID/receipt for tour/Epcot admission ticket, but that is it. Everything gets locked in a locker.) Your experience is “all included” in your prepaid/prearranged tour in the Living Seas, Epcot.

      As for a driving experience, suggestion: if in doubt, ask when you schedule your time slot. They can answer the tipping question.

  • Great suggestions. What about tipping the front desk person?

    • No need to tip anyone at the front desk of a WDW hotel. If you’re staying offsite and getting help from a front desk concierge, you should be tipping them.

  • Tipping – Ok, your not going to like this. I leave around $ 1.00 per person eating. Eating a Buffett or over any over prices meal which defines my tip by a % is not fair to me. Now if the waiter does something besides take my order, refill a drink and bring food then I will increase it. Usually double. So this means when I have a buffett which costs me $ 75 – $ 100 for a family of 4, I dont tip 15 – $20, I leave $ 4.00 – $ 8.00 (4 more than 8).

    As I tell my relatives who work in the service industry, if you dont like it, find a real job, get an education, and do something productive. That being said, I have left $ 20 tips for waiters/waitresses who go above and beyond, and thats per person. But if all they do is the take the order, deliver the food dance, I can get that service at a $ 6.99 buffet outside WDW. I had one waiter, who would do the normal, do a magic trick or two, give a full review of desserts, etc. He got $ 20 a head.

    And just so you know, I bar-tended (a lot). I worked for my tips by doing more than everyone else. You didnt just get a drink, you got an experience.

  • As a visitor from the UK I find the practice of tipping to be a rip off. Pay staff properly in the first place. If I get exceptional service I will tip. If I get the level of service I would expect I see no reason to tip.

  • Just got “home” from a busy day in the parks. We left our pre-decorated envelope with tip out for housekeeping this morning and my parents in the room next door forgot to leave a tip. We came home to find a towel swan and about 4 bottles of shampoo. My parents? Nada, just a clean room and one shampoo. This research may not be Testa quality but I know for sure we will be leaving a tip again tomorrow LOL!

  • You say 20% of your bill so potentially 50 bucks to someone who only brings you food but your magical express driver who keeps your family safe and entertained for an hour deserves nothing if you did not bring a bag and only a dollar if you brought one bag. that’s ludicrous. Tip your driver at least a dollar per person just for the ride. and a tip if you want your hotel to be the first stop a five or ten at the airport in addition to the normal tip will make that happen.

  • Great post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our site.
    Keep up the good writing.

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  • This has been very helpful, thank you! Must say it’s a bit strange for us in the UK, am ok in the restaurants but its the bag handling and things like that, we get a bit uncomfortable with the face to face times, cultural difference I guess! Hmm, rambling! We usually go off the receipt on the dining plan as disney work out the tip for you, take it this is before tax as didn’t know that rule. Thanks!

    • Should also say we always leave money for housekeepers but leave it at end of stay, didn’t occur to me that all tips aren’t split evenly across whole team, learning lots!