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Tipping at Walt Disney World: Frequently Asked Questions

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Tipping is a fact of life in the United States. Though much controversy surrounds the practice of tipping, there are many situations in the US tourism and entertainment industries where tipping a service provider is customary, and not tipping a service provider is considered the height of rudeness. Walt Disney World is no exception. During your Disney vacation, you will likely have to tip many of the workers you encounter during your stay. But there may also be some situations where tipping feels obligatory, but might not be. So which is which?

For the benefit of Disney’s many international visitors, whose home country practices might be different than those in the US, and for American travelers who might need a refresher, here’s a roundup of all the settings in which you’ll need to tip, along with suggested gratuity amounts. We’ll also offer suggestions for ways to bypass some tipping situations and sample tip budgets for various WDW vacation situations.

Also note that while most dining tips can be added to your credit or debit card (or equivalent electronic forms of payment), there are many situations where having cash on hand, particularly a stash of five and ten-dollar bills, can facilitate the tipping transaction.

Transportation | Lodging | Dining | In the Theme Parks | Other Tipping Situations | Additional Resources

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 a minimum of $2-3 per bag, or more if the bag is extra heavy. There is a school of thought that sets $5 as the minimum tip amount regardless of the number of bags, so one or two average-size bags would be $5, with more bags adding to this total.

If you’re claiming your bags at the luggage carousel yourself and taking them to a cab, car service, rental car agency, limo service, or paid shuttle service bus on your 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. Again, the porter gets $2-3 per bag.

This is a situation where having cash on hand is helpful.

I’m taking a Mears shuttle to my hotel, do I need to tip? 

Mears is now the primary paid bus service that transports guests from Orlando International to the WDW resort hotels. You’ll see a sign at the front of the bus telling you that the 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 you store luggage under the bus, remember what we said above about tipping anyone who handles your bags.

Touring Plans occasionally surveys readers about their tipping habits. While the results are not 100% scientific (the poll was self-selecting via Instagram), they do provide some illumination on the topic. During our most recent survey in December 2023, we found that 8% of respondents reported tipping their driver 15-20% of their total ride fare. 51% of respondents reported tipping a total of $5-10 (this is roughly consistent with tipping for luggage assistance). 6% of respondents reported tipping more than $10. And 35% reported that they do not tip for this service.

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 15-20% 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 15-20% of the fare. Again, if the cabbie does something above and beyond, tip more. Most of the taxis in the WDW area have credit card readers. They typically have a button that you can push to add 15% or 20% to your fare at the end of the ride.

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 $7. If you’re paying with cash in a situation like this, it’s often easier for both you and the driver if you round up to $10. It’s considered poor form to tip the driver in coins. Always round to the next higher dollar in your tip if you’re paying with cash. If you’re paying with a credit card, choosing the 20% tip button is sufficient; you don’t have to make it a round number.

Taxis are one situation where asking for change for the tip is OK, if you are paying in cash. 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.

I’m using a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, do I need to tip the driver?

Ride-share tipping is similar to taxi tipping, except you do this on the ride-share app at the end of your trip.

What about Minnie Vans?

Minnie Van service is part of the Lyft app. Tip for Minnie Vans as you would for other ride shares.

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

Not at the airport, but maybe later.

What do you mean “maybe later?”

All the Disney resorts have self-parking which is free for guests. (Note, there are some hotels on WDW property that are not owned by Disney that do charge for overnight self-parking, notably the Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve.)  There is 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 $39 per day), you’ll need to tip the attendant each time you get your car. There is some contention about the appropriate rate for this. At Disney hotels, anywhere from $2 to $5 will work. If you’re staying at one of the more upscale non-Disney hotels in the area (the Ritz or Four Seasons, for example), err to the higher end of that range. Some guests tip the valet attendant both when they drop their car at the hotel and when they pick it up to use it. The drop-off tip seems to be more common if you have a luxury car that you feel needs extra care when being parked. If you have your basic average car, you can probably get away with just tipping at pick-up.

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

Nope. Nor do you have to tip any of the attendants at the theme park parking lots. These are no-tip situations, but a smile and a cheery “thank you” would be nice.

There is no need to tip on the Disney-owned transportation system
I’m trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping on transportation?

If you don’t want to have transportation tipping expenses, take the following steps:

  • Don’t take a taxi, ride share, or any form of car service.
  • Carry your own luggage at all times. Don’t use a porter or bellman.
  • Park your car yourself.

Drive yourself and avoid using valet parking, carry your own bags, and use Disney’s free transportation between the parks and resorts, and your transportation tip requirements will be little to none.

Lodging

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

Not surprisingly, much of the tipping at your hotel is centered around luggage assistance. Yet again, if someone touches your bag in your presence, they should be tipped a few dollars per bag. A common place for this to occur is if a bellman helps you bring your luggage from the hotel entrance to your room.

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 few dollars per bag to the bellman who helps you with luggage when you’re leaving the hotel.

Also note that resort bell services also manages stroller, wheelchair, ECV, and grocery deliveries at the hotels. Consider that delivery or handling of these items also merits tipping.

Our December 2023 reader survey found that 58% of respondents reported tipping $2-$5 per bag, 31% reported tipping $5-10 total, 5% reported tipping more than $10 total, and 5% reported not tipping.

What mechanism can I use to pay my bellman or porter? Can I pay with a credit card?

Tipping baggage handlers continues to be a primarily cash-only affair. I’ve read numerous articles that the trend toward electronic payments is negatively impacting service workers, particularly hotel staff (I’ve linked a few below). Disney does not have any mechanism to provide an electronic tip to your valet attendant, so again, keeping cash on hand is helpful.

It can be helpful to have cash on hand to tip the folks at the Bell Services desk
What’s this I hear about tipping mousekeeper housekeepers?

Yes, this is a thing, but it’s not without controversy.

According to the New York Times, nationally, about a third of US hotel guests leave a tip for their housekeeper. Some hotels (not Disney) have skirted the topic by building a housekeeping gratuity into a mandatory service charge. While there’s no hard data, from anecdotal evidence, my guess is that about half of Disney World guests tip their hotel housekeeper. It can be good manners and good karma, but unlike restaurant tipping, it’s not necessarily an imperative.

To err on the side of politeness, leave about a few dollars 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 might mean a $10-$15 tip for your housekeeper each day. You should leave the tip separately each day, in cash, rather than at the end of your stay, because there likely will be different cast cleaning your room over the course of your visit and you are likely to be absent while the mousekeeper works.

You can 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 them, 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. Other guests leave the tip on a pillow or the dresser with a brief note.

Even if you lean toward not regularly tipping your housekeeper, you should definitely step up your game if you have created an unusual amount of work for the housekeeping staff. For example, if your child has been ill and thrown up in the bed, if you’ve spilled food in the room, if you’ve walked on the carpets with sandy feet, PLEASE leave a substantial tip for your housekeeper.

Obviously, if no one is coming in to clean your room, you don’t have to tip. For example, Disney Vacation Club members staying on points may only have their room serviced every fourth day. The flip side of this is that, in the wake of the October 2017 Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas, Disney has implemented protocols where hotel staff enters every guest room, every day, ostensibly to empty trash, even if there is no full cleaning. In my opinion, this pro forma room entry does not merit a tip, but my thoughts on this are evolving.

In our reader survey, 21% of respondents reported tipping housekeepers $1 per person per day, 37% of respondents reported tipping housekeepers $2-$5 per person per day, 9% reported tipping more than $5 per person per day, and 34% reported that they do not tip housekeeping.

Tipping the housekeeper who cleans your room is a common practice
Do I have to tip all 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 few dollars.

Also note that off Disney property (in Orlando and elsewhere in the US), the fancier and more expensive the hotel, the more people will be expecting tips, and the tips they expect will be larger.

And again, having cash on hand is helpful.

What about the lobby concierge?

Every Walt Disney World hotel has a concierge desk where you can ask directions, 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 and again, the fancier the hotel the more you’re expected to tip.

Is this different with Club Level Concierge service?

Disney’s Deluxe resorts have a Club Level room category with access to a lounge and a generally higher level of service. These Club Level rooms have dedicated concierge staff located on the Club floor. If you’re staying in a Club Level room, you’ll want to tip according to your usage of the service, the length of your stay, and the number of people in your party. Fifty or 100 dollars, or much more, is not unheard of if you’ve made extensive use of their personal attention. We’ve also heard of club concierge staff refusing tips. But if you’re staying at this level, you can probably afford to try.

I’m trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping at my hotel?

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. Additionally, with a bit of research (hello TouringPlans.com), you can learn to accomplish on your own most of the tasks a concierge would do for you.

Dining

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

I’m just going to say it: You should be tipping 18-22% at table service restaurants, possibly more if you’ve had truly exceptional service or have lingered at a Signature restaurant.

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

Yes, really. The 15% thing is just so 1990s. Flame me all you want, but 18% is now the minimum threshold.

I super-double-plus promise you that I’m not making this up. 18-22% (or maybe even 18-25%) is now the tipping norm in U.S. metro areas (of which Orlando is one).

At the bottom of payment receipts at Disney-owned table service restaurants, you’ll see a line that says “Suggested Tip” and lists tip amounts at 18, 20, and 22%. It’s worth noting that I went through a giant stack of Disney receipts in preparation for this post. I found several receipts for meals in 2022 and 2023 that only give the 18 and 20% options. I can’t pinpoint an exact date, but the 22% choice seems to have been added in late 2023. (Note: Some restaurants at Disney World still list only 18 and 20% options, this may vary depending on the restaurant’s ownership or management.)

In all cases, remember that you’re tipping on the bill, not the bill plus tax. You should also be tipping on the pre-discount amount if you are eligible for Disney Vacation Club, Annual Passholder, or some other discount. On payment receipts at Disney-owned restaurants, the suggested tip numbers will be calculated based on the bill, not including tax, and before any Annual Passholder or other discounts have been applied. At other restaurants, the software has sometimes been set up incorrectly and will include the tax when calculating the suggested tip. If you’re unsure, it never hurts to double-check.

In our reader survey, 3% of respondents reported tipping between 1-15% for table service meals, 22% of respondents reported tipping 16-18% for table service meals, and 74% reported tipping more than 18% for table service meals. 1% reported that they do not tip.

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.

In our reader survey, 3% of respondents reported tipping between 1-15% for table service meals, 22% of respondents reported tipping 16-18% for table service meals, and 74% reported tipping more than 18% for table service meals. 1% reported that they do not tip.

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

  • Parties of six or more. An 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 and Hoop Dee Doo Review.
  • Guests using a 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.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

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.

In our reader survey, 45% of respondents reported tipping 10-15% at buffet restaurants, 33% reported tipping 18% or more at buffet restaurants, and 22% reported leaving no tip at buffet restaurants. I’m going to editorialize for a sec and say that I personally find that last number shockingly inappropriate.

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 anymore.

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. Also consider this when you’re deciding whether to purchase the Dining Plan as part of your vacation package. A plan that includes table service dining may seem “free,” but could really cost you hundreds of dollars more than if you had just eaten at counter service restaurants.

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 Disney dining experiences. The likelihood of you having a truly horrible server is minimal.

However, in the unlikely circumstance that 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.

I’m having a nightcap. What do I tip the bartender?

If you’re just having drinks, $2-3 per drink is the right amount. If you’re also getting food, go with 18-20%.

I come from a country that doesn’t have tipping. I don’t get it and don’t want to do it, can I take a pass?

No. That’s it, just no.

I think American tipping culture is convoluted and unfair. Can I choose not to participate?

Again, no. But feel free to write your Congressperson about your feelings regarding minimum wage and fair labor practices. Seriously.

I won’t be able to afford my vacation if I pay 18% to my waiter at meals. Can I skip tipping then?

And still, no. Disney World vacations can be expensive, that is very true. But tipping servers at table service restaurants is a non-negotiable part of the vacation cost.

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

No, with a caveat. At Disney-owned venues, there is no need to tip for counter service meals. If you don’t want to tip, or can’t afford to tip, my number one suggestion is to eat counter service meals rather than table service meals. Many have outstanding food and do not require additional payment to your server.

The caveat is that you might encounter a non-Disney-owned counter service venue (Starbucks at Disney Springs, for example) that has an option to tip on their register payment screen. The choice to tip is up to you.

I’m trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping at restaurants?

Don’t eat table service meals where you’re served by waiters. It’s as simple as that. There truly are dozens upon dozens of counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World where you can get delicious meals without any obligation to tip. If you don’t want to, or can’t, tip, then eat there.

In the Theme Parks

Can I tip the cast member at Soarin’ a sawbuck to sneak me into the Lightning Lane 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.

If you feel like you absolutely must find a way to skip those pesky lines there are legit ways to accomplish this. For example, you could buy Individual Lightning Lane passes, the Genie+ service, or spring for a VIP tour guide.

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 hometown when they go to the parks. They’ll offer these to cast members who have shown them a special courtesy. Cast are allowed 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.

The easiest way to do this is now through the My Disney Experience app. Open the app and click on the three-bar “hamburger” menu on the bottom right side of the home screen. From there, scroll all the way down to the “Help & Feedback” section and then click on “Cast Compliments.” This brings up a quick form where you can acknowledge a cast member’s positive impact on your vacation.

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 or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. For both the Barber Shop and the BBB, tip about 15-20% of your bill. At one point tipping at the BBB had been prohibited, but in recent years this rule has been relaxed.

In our reader survey, 75% of respondents reported tipping 15-20% on their BBB bill. 11% reported tipping more than 20% and 14% reported that they did not tip at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

What about tour guides? Do I tip them?

Plan to tip your Disney VIP tour guide at least 10% or closer to 20% if you’ve have an exceptional experience. If you can pay for a VIP tour, you can afford to tip.

For standard backstage tours (Behind the Seeds, Caring for Giants, Dolphins in Depth, Keys to the Kingdom, etc.) tips are not required.

Other Situations

Outside of the parks, there are plenty of relaxation and recreation opportunities at Disney World. These activities are often outsourced to contractors. Contractors generally are allowed to accept tips.

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

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%. If you get a massage and buy a beauty product at the salon, only tip on the massage portion of the bill.

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

Disney does not offer group childcare any longer. Childcare is now done by Disney’s in-room sitting subcontractors such as Kids Nite Out. As with most subcontractors, tips are allowed, though the rates are not as firmly codified as they are with dining and grooming. A sitter’s tip 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 trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping on entertainment?

Avoid situations like salons and guided recreation where someone is providing you with personal service. Stick with movies and things like swimming at your hotel pool, and you won’t have occasion to tip.

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, fives, and ten-dollar bills.

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, child, or best friend were in a service role, think about how you would want them to be treated. Tip accordingly.

And at the risk of getting all soapboxy here for a second, 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?

Additional Resources

I’ve been writing about Disney trip planning for more than 15 years and I have found no issue that evokes more strong opinions and divisive language than tipping. The above FAQ is based on personal experience and research, as well as on extensive reading. Here are just a few of the resources I consulted when compiling this post. (Note: some articles may be behind a paywall, sorry.)

Please let us know if you’ve found additional sources that are particularly helpful.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

3 thoughts on “Tipping at Walt Disney World: Frequently Asked Questions

  • If I’m in a group of 6 or more people, and gratuity is already added, am I expected to pay more than the 18% automatically added on, or is that sufficient? Thanks

    Reply
    • The 18% autogratuity for large groups is there so that a server doesn’t get completely stiffed on a major order. You’re welcome to add an additional tip (say 2-5%) if you’ve had great service, but you shouldn’t be tipping 18 or 20% on top of the 18% that has already been added. (Unless you’re a super generous person, of course.)

      Reply
      • Thank you!

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