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, but worry 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 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 economy, much more than the thousands of dollars spent on a resort vacation that goes to a big 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. Unless you’re a member of the Rockefeller, Getty, or Trump family, you really don’t need to throw around Benjamins…..or Jackson, 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), 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 — 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 taking. 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.