Money is tight these days, everyone seems to have a hand in your pocket, and that’s just when you’re at home. Once on vacation you’ll confront multiple times what’s often the most vexing and awkward decision for a traveler: Do you tip this guy or gal standing before you, and if so, how much? And if you do tip, what’s in it for you? If you don’t have a tipping strategy to speak of, herein are a dozen tips on tipping for your next trip.

1. While bellied up to the bar, produce a tip when the bartender serves up the first round to your party, says frequent traveler Colin Wright, as this “makes it clear that I’m someone who is willing to pay for special attention. This generally works, though depending on how generous the tip is, it may not even be noticed in the hubbub, so make sure when you give it they can see who is handing it to them.”

2. It’s kind to leave a hotel housekeeper a tip of $2-$3 per day, but the gesture doesn’t quite work if the tip doesn’t reach its recipient, notes hospitality industry executive Bruce Claver. Rather than leave a housekeeping tip in your room, especially on the last day of your stay when your housekeeper might be off, try leaving the tip “in an envelope at the front desk for the executive housekeeper with a note, ‘For the room attendant who cleaned room 803 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.’”

3. A tip ahead of time does not necessarily equal a bribe, suggests Claver, if “you know the employee is getting off shift soon and you want to take care of them because you won’t see them later.” While working as a concierge, Mike Holovacs says he received tips from guests before any services were rendered, “and the effect it has is simple: it draws more attention to your needs. Pre-tipping tells the concierge that you might be someone that frequently needs something, and it serves the same purpose as saying thank you in advance.”

4. If you want to pre-tip a concierge to snag you theater seats, most travelers say the amount of the tip ought to be proportional to how difficult the seats are to get. But it also helps to know a technique or two for pre-tipping. Frequent traveler and former hospitality employee Jon Wyler notes that one time in New York he approached his concierge about getting tickets for a Broadway show “that was supposedly sold out” and that’s what the concierge told him, but Wyler says he “found this surprising because [the concierge] just checked his computer [and] didn't make any calls. I slipped $10 onto the counter and he said ‘let me have a look again’. I put another $10 down and told him to let me know. Thirty minutes later he calls me in my room asking if I'm interested in center seats, fourth row.”

5. If you don’t feel like doling out cash at your hotel, there’s one non-monetary tip in particular that might pack appeal, Holovacs says. “Hotels do not run on electricity and hot water.  They run primarily on coffee. Even if the employee you are trying to thank with a coffee shop gift card isn’t a fan, they will say thank you and think of someone they know that can use it.”

6. Upon discovering that the taxi line outside her hotel was so long that she was in danger of missing her flight, business traveler Teri Gault “went back into the lobby, with $20, handed it to a bellman, and asked him if there was a way to get in a car without waiting in that line. He made a call, and a car service pulled up immediately for us, and he took our bags out for us to the car. Twenty dollars well spent to make our flight, and the car service ended up costing what the taxis cost.”

7. While in the Middle East, “savvy travelers recognize a service charge when they see it on a restaurant bill and mostly don't tip,” notes Sally Treadwell, “but the waiters -- often working desperately to send money home to families -- usually don't see a penny of that. So a very discreet tip for good service is appropriate and appreciated. She adds that in Europe, “waiters love Americans because they often tip the same way they would in the U.S. But waiters are actually paid more of a living wage there, so 10 percent is fine in the average restaurant.”

8. Shuttle van tipping can be perplexing, but Gault suggests “if it's late, and you're taking a free shuttle, like from a hotel to a restaurant, tip in advance about $3, and say something like, ‘I'll be getting some more cash in here, and tip you more when you pick us up, but I wanted to give you this for now.’ Then, plan on tipping more on pickup. That way, they're motivated to be sure to pick you up, and not leave you stranded at the end of their night.”

9. If you’re unsure about what to tip while on guided sports activities, world traveler Erin Michelson, who has been on kayaking, diving, and jungle hiking trips, among others, says “for these I always tip between 5-10% of the trip cost, especially if the guide is in charge of your physical safety and really works to ensure your trip is safe and enjoyable. I usually split the tip 5% to the head guide and 5% to the crew.” For more garden-variety day tours, she says she gives “a straight $5- $10 a day for a guide that performs his or her job well, provides a lot of good information, and patiently answers questions.”

10. Tipping a tour guide can reap other rewards, too, says Angela Lyda, senior editor, at Travel-Ticker.com. “Many tour guides are locals who really know the ins and outs of the destination and often offer their services with little personal financial gain. So, tipping is not only a good gesture, but can lead to some great money-saving advice for your trip. When I was in Peru, we tipped our tour guide 15% and at the end of our tour, he arranged for a car service to take us to the Lima airport the next day for 50% less than what we'd pay in a regular taxi. We got better service in a nicer car for cheap.”

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