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Avoid the Awkward Silences And Guilt-Filled Exits
Tipping on vacation is awkward. There’s no way around it. Every country has its own norms, and every hotel has a hundred employees who all seem worthy of a few extra bucks. But who do we actually need to tip? When should we do it? And how often should we be doing it? And of course, how much?
Fear no more, for Travel Off Path has you covered. Here’s the ultimate guide on who to tip while traveling.
From the Airport To The Hotel
Obviously, this depends on how you get to your hotel. If you’re finding your own way, tip yourself with a drink at the bar later. If not, follow these rules.
If you’ve got a shuttle organized by your hotel, definitely tip your driver. A lot of them rely heavily on tips. Depending on the country, anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00 a person should suffice.
Don’t tip your taxi driver unless you really want to. They’re making money off of your fare at a decent rate. The tourist area rates are often brutally inflated, so don’t go out of your way for them.
In The Hotel
These guys can make your arrival and departure a breeze. Reward them as such. It doesn’t require anything crazy. A few bucks per bag is perfect. A family of four could tip $10-$15, especially if they carry the luggage a pretty long way or in rough weather. Many porters often set the mood for the entire stay with their attitude, so make sure they know they’ve done a good job.
Often unseen, this team helps make your room spotless when your return each day (at least, they usually do). They’re also some of the worst-paid workers in the sector, so a tip for them can go a long way.
It’s important to leave a small amount each day rather than one large tip at the end, as you may have multiple housekeepers in your room. It’s also a great idea to leave a slightly larger tip on your first day to help get a little bit of extra attention to your room.
Don’t go crazy. $5 a day is at the upper end of what is necessary, especially in countries with a lower cost of living. Make sure to leave it somewhere obvious, so it’s clear for them.
The Lobby Crew
In today’s internet-dominated world, the concierge has become a little less useful for many of us. But they are still around in most good hotels. They’re still capable of booking things, sniffing out a good reservation, and even bagging you a better room, but you might not use them so much. If you’re a hotel regular, the concierge should still be a useful person.
Tip them based on use. If they just throw you a direction or two, you’re fine. But if they spend half an hour working out your day, give them $5 or so.
Front Desk Staff
As helpful as they can be, the front desk doesn’t need to be tipped. Many of them are on a managerial path and are paid a yearly salary as opposed to hourly. The best thing you can do for them is to go online and namedrop them in a good review of your hotel.
This is where things get complicated. In the US, we tip almost every waiter or barman who serves us. This is mainly due to the way these workers are paid. In Europe and other areas of the world, bar and restaurant staff are paid a fair hourly wage, and tipping is not expected – in some cases, it can be taken as an insult.
As a rule of thumb, always tip your servers in the Americas. North, Central, And South America all expect a tip of some sort. In the States, Canada, and Colombia, for 15-20%. In other countries, you can swing a little lower, in the 10-15% range. Brazil, Costa Rica, and Chile all include a service or sit-down charge, so you don’t need to tip there.
Europeans are far less likely to take tips than anywhere else in the world. Most of the countries there receive good wages, and often, the waiters won’t receive the whole thing anyway. Some countries now actively list their service charge (the price is the same) to give the hint that tipping isn’t required.
In most of these places, you can leave a little extra if the service was exceptional. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. If you’re unsure about an individual country, just ask someone when you arrive.
Africa and the Middle-east
Tipping is widely expected in the Middle East. Even countries like Qatar and the UAE, which often include service charges, want an extra 15-20% on top of the bill. Many African countries also look for about 10-15% of the bill in tips.
Some Asian countries like China adamantly refuse tips, while others, like Japan, view it as something that needs to be hard-earned, above and beyond the good service that’s already expected. Some heavily touristy countries like Thailand are becoming more receptive to tipping after realizing the amount of money that can be made.
I just returned from a three-day conference.
While there, I was shocked at the number of conversations I overheard and the number of people who mentioned to me (perhaps knowing I am a fitness “guru”) how much fitness they lose while traveling, participating in multi-day conferences, and jetting to and from in planes, trainsn and automobiles without access to their normal daily workout routine or health club.
But I beg to differ. I’m not saying this to brag, but rather to give you a personal example. As a guy who is on the road for an average of two weeks out of every month, I manage to:
Maintain 3% body fat at 180 pounds of mostly muscle
-Compete in some of the most difficult races on the face of the planet
-Get sick an average of once every 3 years
-Squeeze 60-90 minutes of exercise and movement into every busy day
-Return from many days of travel across multiple time zones with zero jet-lag
You get the idea. So how do I do it?
1. Make the Airport a Gym
No, you don’t have to drop and do push-ups outside the Delta lounge, or perform head-turning, embarrassing burpees at the gate while waiting for your plane to depart. Instead, you can try a few of my personal tips:
-Don’t sling your bags across your shoulder. Instead, hold them in your hands to work on grip strength.
-Duck into the stall of the bathroom and do 50 body weight squats
-Take stairs. Always. No escalators, ever (unless there aren’t any stairs)
-Don’t sit while waiting for your plane to board. Either walk, stand or find a quiet corner and do calisthenics like jumping jacks and body weight squats or stretches that move lymph and blood flow, like arms swings and leg swings.
-While standing in line at security, to board the plane, to get a coffee, etc. always be doing toe raises, arms curls with your bags, knee dips or squats and any other movement you can muster. Don’t worry: there will be plenty of time waiting for your plane to leave the ground for you to do any last-minute phone checks.
2. Exercise Upon Arrival
Exercising when you get to your final destination is one of the best ways to beat jet lag and establish a normal circadian rhythm (the other ways are via exposure to natural light and eating at the set meal time for the destination you’re traveling to).
And yes, I’m just like everybody else: I find exercise to be difficult when I get done with a long day of travel. My body is stiff, my eyes are tired and all I really want to do is flop on the hotel bed and flip on the TV.
But here’s a few of my key secrets to making exercise happen anyways:
-Get through the first 2 minutes of exercise and it all gets easier from there, probably due to the fact that 2 minutes is about how long it takes for your body to switch from an anaerobic non-oxygen utilizing mode to an aerobic oxygen utilizing mode. So I suggest beginning with something relatively passive and easy that tricks your body into getting through those first 2 minutes, such as jumping jacks, walking on a treadmill, treading water in a pool, etc. Trust me, starting with heavy squats or burpees is much more difficult than easier options.
-Have a plan. On the plane, for example, I’ll jot down on a piece of paper what I will do when I get to my hotel, such as:
-2 minutes jumping jacks
-30 mountain climbers
-40 vertical jumps
-Reward yourself. I’ll often avoid eating any snacks, food, meals, mini-bar indulgences or anything else until after I’ve done my workout, but I do promise myself that if I can simply get through a 30 minute workout after arriving at my destination, I’ll treat myself to a walk over to a local restaurant that ranks high on Yelp or Trip Adviser, or make a trip to the hotel pool for 15 rewarding minutes in the hot tub with a newspaper and a glass of wine. You get the idea: give yourself a carrot on the end of a stick.
If it’s written down and outsourced to a piece of paper, I’m far less likely to succumb to decision making fatigue, and far more likely to simply set my bags down in my hotel room and get it done.
3. Use Google Maps
As soon as I get to my hotel or AirBNB or wherever else I’m staying, I open Google Maps and plug in my lodging address. I then use the “Search Nearby” function to identify the following
-Gyms & Health Clubs: any of these often have very affordable guest pass rates or, if you visit the gym’s website, free guest passes you can print or put on your phone to get you a complementary visit to the facility. These facilities are often far, far better and more equipped than a hotel gym.
-Pools: Local city pools, YMCA pools, health clubs with pools and any other pools give you water to exercise in. When combined with the fact that I always travel with goggles and an underwater .mp3 player in my travel bag, this allows me to get instant access to lap swimming, water running, underwater breath holding routines and all my favorite water workouts.
-Parks: the oxygenation from plants and trees, therapy from nature, green and plant aromas, sunlight, and fresh air can make the overall “blah”, stale feeling a body often has during travel to simply melt away. A brisk walk through a local park is something that can easily be mixed with dips and pushups on park benches, burpees, short sprints, pull-ups from tree branches or mini-yoga sessions.
You get the idea. With just a few habits and systems worked into your travel routine, you don’t need to be the person whose body gets wrecked every time you go to a conference, event or other travel obligation. Instead, there’s no excuse not to arrive back from a bout of travel even more fit than when you started!
10 Commandments of Eating While Traveling
- 1. Plan your picnic ahead of time and buy as much as you can before you hit the road/air. You’ll be less stressed, and odds are you’ll spend less and end up with much better options. A wedge of good cheese and a baguette can easily be shared among three or four people and should set you back less than two soggy airport sandwiches.
- 2. Choose items that can last for a while at room temperature without suffering (e.g. cured meats instead of fresh, crackers instead of bread, hard cheeses instead of soft). Even for a short flight, you’ll need to account for the additional time spent getting to/from the airport, going through security, etc.
- 3. Plan for several mini meals instead of one or two large ones. We (and our kids) tend to get peckish while traveling—normally we’re not proponents of eating out of boredom, but these are extraordinary circumstances!
- 4. Pack your food in appropriate containers. Either use disposables like foil or old deli containers that you can toss immediately, or—even better—reusable bags that you can wash and press into service during your trip (we take lots of these silicone bags, which can hold snacks for our kids throughout the trip—also great for wet bathing suits!).
- 5. Include a couple of special treats—now’s the perfect time to splurge on those fancy Italian chocolates or handmade spelt crackers you’ve been eyeing.
- 6. Focus on things that don’t require utensils, or a transfer from one container to another. Dried fruit, nuts and seeds, cut up veggies, and homemade pita chips and hummus are all good options.
- 7. Pack things that range the full flavor spectrum to keep things interesting (see #3 re: boredom above). This will also help you avoid eating too much salt, which can cause uncomfortable fluid retention.
- 8. Opt for assertive flavors (olives, herbed or wheaty crackers instead of plain, aged cheeses). Your taste buds are less sensitive when traveling, for a whole host of reasons, so you’ll want to stay away from bland foods.
- 9. Eat the most perishable items first, and work towards the least perishable. If you only get part-way through that prosciutto and fontina baguette with arugula or you’re left with a bunch of battered bananas, those will have to go straight in the trash when you land. Leftover nuts or rice crackers will last you the rest of the trip.
- 10. Pack some napkins and wet wipes. If you bring delicate produce like tomatoes, peaches or plums, wrap the fruit carefully in the napkins to keep them from bruising or splitting.
Looking for an in-depth USA travel guide?
Then you’re in the right place!
Whether you’re a born-and-raised American or exploring the country for the first time, the United States of America makes for an incredible trip.
From stunning national parks to vibrant cities, the USA truly has something for every kind of traveler.
Plus, there are so many ways to see the country. You can plan the ultimate road trip in the USA, circumnavigating the contiguous 48 states to get a comprehensive look at the nation, or just stick to one region, exploring the beauty and quirks of the area. There are also plenty of solo road trip ideas in the USA if you’re traveling alone.
The options are truly endless, so we’re here to help you plan the best USA vacation for you.
There are lots of ways to look at a map of the USA, but most experts generally break the country up into five major geographic regions, including the:
- Western Region
- Southwest Region
- Midwest Region
- Southeast Region
- Northeast Region
The West, stretching from California to the Rocky Mountains, is home to many of the country’s most-visited National Parks. These each offer something different and you’ll definitely want to visit each one at some point in your life.
You can explore the desert in California’s Death Valley National Park, hike through the mountains of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, visit Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park, marvel at the mountain view at Yosemite National Park (especially from the Nevada Falls Loop and Glacier Point), see out-of-this-world trees at Olympic National Park, and discover ancient cliff-side dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.
You can also hit many of these parks on a west coast road trip in the USA, driving through California up to the Canadian border.
Prefer the beach?
Opt for a California coast road trip, complete with incredible ocean views — especially when driving Big Sur — and a few stops at the state’s famous wineries via a Paso Robles weekend getaway (just don’t drink and drive!).
Of course, the great states of Hawaii and Alaska are worth their own adventures, boasting some of the best sights in the nation.
The Southwest Region — made up of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma — offers a mix of old and new with incredible desert views, vibrant culture, and so much to see over just a few states.
Texas is worth a trip on its own for its incredible natural wonders and rich history. And did we mention the barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine? No trip to the state is complete without it!
In Arizona, you can visit the famous Grand Canyon as well as other incredible sights like Monument Valley and Saguaro National Park.
New Mexico offers both desert adventures and incredible ski trails, making it a perfect destination all year round.
And don’t forget to get your kicks on Route 66 in Oklahoma!
The Midwest — a vast region spanning from the Dakotas in the west to Ohio in the east — offers much more than just corn fields.
South Dakota alone is home to some of the country’s top attractions, including Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Get a taste of Southern Hospitality in the Southeast, a vibrant region stretching from Virginia to Louisiana. The region is home to some of the country’s best Atlantic beaches as well as some of the most delicious food you’ll ever eat. The picturesque city of Charleston in South Carolina offers incredible seaside views, colorful buildings, and a rich history worth exploring. Over in North Carolina, you can explore the Appalachian Trail, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway or pretend you’re part of the 1920s elite at the Biltmore in Asheville. We also can’t forget to mention Florida, one of the nation’s top tourist destinations for its gorgeous beaches, world-class theme parks and Latin American cultural influences. The region’s warm weather also makes it a perfect place to visit all year round (particularly if you’re trying to escape a gloomy winter!).
You can do some buffalo spotting in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, featuring miles of some of the best hiking trails in the world and some of the most spectacular views of the stars you’ll ever see.
Need some city energy? Head to Chicago, an incredible city on Lake Michigan featuring some of the world’s top museums and cultural institutions.
Speaking of the Great Lakes, you’ll find most of them in the Midwest as well as plenty of ways to enjoy them.
Finally, there’s the mighty Northeast, spanning from Maryland to Maine.
This region is home to some of the most bustling cities in the country, including the capital of Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York City. From museums to vast city parks to chic boutiques, you won’t want for things to do in these world-class cities that attract tons of tourists every year.
There’s also much more to the region than just these bustling metropolises, though.
Stroll the boardwalk at the New Jersey shore and enjoy some frozen custard while you lounge on some of the country’s top beaches.
Or head up to New Hampshire to tackle Mount Washington — or just ride the Cog Railway up to the top.
And you can’t miss Acadia National Park, the jewel of Maine, with miles of rocky Atlantic coast and incredible foliage views in the autumn.
Wherever you choose to go, you’re bound to have a good time in the USA!