My first thought, when asked to write about tipping on vacation at all-inclusive resorts, was “match, meet powder keg” — BOOM!
Why? Because tipping at an all-inclusive resort is a highly controversial issue…….so before I get into the “tips on tipping”, I think it’s important to explain the two sides of this polarizing debate.
- Those against tipping at all-inclusive resorts say that the package they bought is supposed to include tips. They feel resentful if they have to tip on top of what they paid, and even more resentful that if they don’t they’ll get quickly identified as ‘non-tippers’ by the staff, who are all busy fawning over the cash-flashers.
- Those in favor of tipping for the most part do so for two reasons: 1) to get [what they believe is] better service, and 2) to help the local economy. No doubt there are other reasons, but I’ve spoken to other [American] travelers all over the world (tipping is predominantly an American behavior), and the vast majority cite those two reasons.
At this point I should probably ‘fess up……I’m a tipper. Yes, I know that by outing myself, I risk incurring the wrath of the non-tippers — and I respect your position, all of you non-tippers, I really, really do! I even agree with you on some level. Just not totally.
It’s the small cash we leave behind that really helps the local economy, much more than the thousands of dollars spent on a vacation that goes to a big resort company.
BUT, I don’t do it to get better service or special treatment. After all, if an all-inclusive resort doesn’t have great service, or doesn’t treat me like I’m important (without tipping), you won’t find me staying there. And I’ve learned that the staff at the best all inclusive resorts won’t risk incurring the wrath of some guests by not treating everyone with an equally superior level of service. I tip for the second reason mentioned above……many all-inclusive resorts are on beautiful beaches that just happen to be located in some very poor areas of the world, where the concept of a loan for a mortgage or education is not available to the common worker, or simply doesn’t exist.
SO I tip. I shop. I go on excursions and tours. I go explore the cities and towns outside of the resort walls, I occasionally eat in local restaurants and bring home silly souvenirs that I could do without. It’s the small cash we leave behind that really helps the local economy, much more than the thousands of dollars spent on a resort vacation that goes to a big resort company.
And now — Some Tips on Tipping:
- Know the resort’s policy beforehand. This is critical – if an employee could lose his or her job over it, please just don’t….for some it’s too much temptation, and no matter how well-meaning you are, you really could be doing far more harm than good.
- If tipping IS allowed, keep it small. Since many non-US destinations have a lower cost of living, you really don’t need to throw around Benjamins…..or Jacksons, Hamiltons, or even Lincolns…….good old George Washingtons will do fine for your beachside or poolside attendant, generally one for every three or four rounds of drinks, a bit more frequent if they’re also bringing you food, or you’re part of a big group (which means more trips and heavier trays). More frequently if you tend to be obnoxious when drinking, waaay more frequently if you are just an obnoxious person (no alcohol involved).
- Keep it unobtrusive. Although many resorts won’t fire employees for accepting tips, it can still be frowned on, or cause problems with other guests (the non-tippers) or other employees, so keep the hand-off on the down-low and it will be appreciated even more.
- Remember that it’s NOT charity – it’s a ‘thank you‘. No one wants to think you’re giving them cash because you pity them, but everyone wants to feel appreciated. Your attitude will count for much more than the cash will.
- Don’t forget those less visible. Tip your housekeeper a minimum of two dollars per day of your stay — daily is best as different employees work different days (the person cleaning your room when you check in is unlikely to be the same person cleaning your room when you check out) — and put it in an envelope with the words “For Housekeeping” on it so it’s clear it’s a tip and not some forgotten cash that they could be accused of stealing. If they’ve given great service (extra towels when you request them, extra bottled water, extra chocolates on your pillow, etc.), then add another dollar or two per day. Bonus points if you can manage to write “thank you for taking such good care of us” on the envelope in their native language (Google Translate can help here).
Whether or not to tip at an all-inclusive resort is a personal decision, my advice is to listen to your gut — you’ll know if it feels right or not. At the end of the day, the goal of a vacation is to go home feeling good about your trip……tip or don’t tip, as long as you’re okay with your decision, no one else’s opinion matters.
Important to Know: We’ve heard rumors that some resort staff have asked for tippers to use Zelle, Venmo, or other apps so they can avoid the currency exchange hit…..we strongly advise against doing this.
BONUS – Tip Calculator
One of the most frequent questions we get on this topic is “how much should I take for tips, what denominations and how many of each?”
You can download our guide, or keep reading (or both!):
Grab it here » Downloadable Guide - Tipping at All Inclusive Resorts It’s always wise to bring enough small cash with you so that you can avoid needing to get cash at your destination – currency exchange rates can be costly and sometimes it’s just not easy to do, many resorts don’t keep large quantities of cash on hand at all, or may be unable to break larger denominations ($20s or $100s) into smaller bills.
Here’s an example that should help, it assumes a typical 7-day all-inclusive vacation, shared round-trip transfer from the airport, daily room cleaning, and typical activities like requesting beach/poolside service, and eating 3 meals per day in the restaurants (most people enjoy the buffet or beach/pool grills for breakfast and lunch, and the a la carte restaurants for dinner, and rarely eat more than 1 meal – typically the buffet – on arrival and departure days).
NOTE that this is per room/couple. If you’re a family or other group, increase this by a small amount.
- Airport Transfer Driver: $5 per trip for shared transfers, more if it’s a private transfer/limo (a bit more if you have a lot of luggage, a bit less if you do your own loading/unloading of luggage)
- $5 x 2 trips = 2 $5 bills
- Bellman: $5 per arrival and departure assistance (again, a bit more if you have a lot of luggage)
- $5 per day x 2 days = 2 $5 bills
- Housekeeping: $2 per day (more if you go thru a lot of towels/sheets or are very messy!)
- $2 per day x 7 days = 14 $1 bills
- Buffet Staff: $1 per meal at the buffet
- $1 per meal x 2 meals per day x 5 days + 1 meal per day for 2 days = 12 $1 bills
- A la Carte Restaurant Staff: $2-$3 per meal in a la carte restaurants
- $3 per meal x 1 meal per day x 5 days = 15 $1 bills
- Pool/Beach Staff: $1 per round or two of drinks, $2-$3 per round if they also bring food or if several in group
- $1 (avg) per round x “XX” rounds (depends on how much you drink! Let’s go with 6 rounds) x 5 days = 30 $1 bills
- Concierge: If your Concierge or Butler has gone above and beyond to arrange an outing, hand them a $20
- Salon/Spa: If you enjoy the services of the Spa or Salon, you should tip your stylist or aesthetician/masseuse 20%, but you can typically charge this to your room, avoiding having to bring cash for this, however if you’d rather not do a room charge for the tip, be sure to bring larger bills, $10s or a $20 for this.
$1 bills = ~100 = $100
$5 bills = 4-10, total $20-$50
$20 bills = a few, it’s rare to tip that much
Grand total: Bring roughly $150 – $200 in mostly $1 and $5 bills
Grab this downloadable guide to who/how much to tip at all inclusive resorts:
» Tipping at All Inclusive Resorts
AND REMEMBER you do not have to tip – there is never any requirement to do so, and you never need to apologize for not tipping, but if you’re going to do so, then be judicious and surreptitious, use your heart as a guide.