Tipping at Walt Disney World: Everything You Need to Know In 2018
Tipping is a fact of life in the United States. There are many situations in 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 vacation you will likely have to tip many of the workers you encounter during your stay. 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.
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 at 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 you 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.
I’m taking Mears Connect or Sunshine Flyer to my hotel, do I need to tip?
You’ll see a sign at the front of the bus telling you that 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 your store luggage under the bus, remember what we said above about tipping anyone who handles your bags.
I’m taking a shuttle to an off-site hotel. Do I tip the driver?
If the driver helps with your bags, offer a few dollars a bag.
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?
Back in the day, tipping was not a part of ride sharing. In recent months, this has changed and tipping for shares has become akin to tipping for cabs. You can do this via the app with which you called the ride, or in cash. If you’ve had a good rapport with your driver, you could ask him or her which is their preferred method. As ride sharing is still emerging technology, understanding protocols is a moving target. If you’re an infrequent users of these services, you might want to check in with a more experienced friend to see if the prevailing wisdom has changed.
What about Minnie Vans?
The Minnie Van service is a gray area in the world of tipping. Because this is a ride-sharing service but staffed by Disney Cast Members, tipping is not required. On the other hand, for excellent service, you can certainly offer a few dollars in cash or ask if they can accept a tip through the Lyft app as a way of saying thanks.
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. 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 $25 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 $1 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 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 bus/boat/monorail driver who takes me from my Disney hotel to the theme parks?
Nope. This is a no-tip situation, but a smile and a cheery “thank you” would be nice.
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 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.
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.
What mechanism can I use to pay my bellman or porter? Can I pay with a credit card?
At this point, tipping baggage handlers is a cash-only affair. A December 2017 article in the New York Times discussed the negative impact of our increasingly cashless society on the wages of tipped workers (link at the bottom of this post). While Venmo-ing a tip to your bellman might be possible in the future, that future is not now. In the meantime, be sure you have some cash on you when you travel.
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’s 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 dollar per day, per person in your party, as a tip for the cast members that makes up your room. If you’re a family of five, this means a $5 tip for your housekeeper each day. You should leave the tip separately each day, rather than at the end of your stay, because there likely will be different cast cleaning your room over the course of your visit. 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.
Disney has been experimenting with offering guests an incentive to skip housekeeping during their stay, offering guests something like a $20-25 Disney gift card for electing not to have their room serviced. Obviously, if no one is coming in to clean your room, you don’t have to tip. And Disney Vacation Club members staying on points may only have their room serviced every fourth day. Again, no service means no need to tip. 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. For now, this has taken the form of a housekeeper emptying the trash in guest rooms, even if there is no full service happening. In my opinion, this pro forma room entry does not merit a tip, but my thoughts on this are evolving.
Do I tip 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 dollar or two.
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.
What about the concierge?
Every Walt Disney World hotel has a concierge desk where you can ask directions, pick up tickets, 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?
Yes, the Club Level rooms at the deluxe resorts have dedicated concierge staff located on the Club floor. If you’re staying in a Club Level room with special dedicated concierge service, 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.
IN THE THEME PARKS
Can I tip the cast member at Soarin’ a sawbuck to sneak me into the FastPass+ 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 some legit ways to accomplish this. For example, you could spring for a VIP tour guide. Disney is also experimenting with a program that would allow Club Level guests at some resorts to purchase additional FastPasses.
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 home town when they go to the parks. They’ll offer these to cast members who have shown them a special courtesy. Cast are allow 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. To make an official comment, pick up a comment card at the Guest Services office at the parks. If you’d rather wait until you get home, you can send comments to:
Walt Disney World Guest Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040
The e-mail address for Guest Communications is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to include the cast member’s name and hometown (both noted on their name tag), as well as a description of the cast member’s good deed and approximately where/when it happened.
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, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or Pirates League. For the Barber Shop, tip about 15% of your bill. At one point tipping at the BBB had been prohibited, but in recent years this rule seems to have been relaxed. If you feel so inclined, you may offer a 15% tip to the Fairy Godmothers in Training or the Pirate tutors.
What about tour guides? Do I tip them?
Not the Walt Disney World tour guides. They’re not allowed to take your tip. If you’re with a private tour group, a tip very well may be expected. Speak with your tour carrier for guidelines.
I’m trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping in the parks?
Good news! Most of the theme park experience does not involve tipping. Avoid beautification experiences and you’re all set.
Is there anyone I’m supposed to tip at a counter service restaurant?
No. There’s no need for tipping at counter service venues. 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 none require additional payment to your server.
How much am I supposed to tip at table service restaurants?
I’m just going to say it: You should be tipping 18-20% at table service restaurants, possibly more if you’ve had truly exceptional service or have lingered at a signature restaurant.
Eighteen to twenty 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. 18-20% is now the tipping norm in U.S. metro areas (of which Orlando is one).
To keep everyone on the same page, Disney restaurants often place a little card about tipping in the bill presentation folder. The card says: “We are often asked about gratuities. No gratuity has been added to your bill. Quality service is customarily acknowledged by a gratuity of 18% to 20%. Thank you.”
I served on the Disney Parks Moms Panel for several years, beginning in 2008. Many of the questions the Panel receives are related to tipping. To keep myself educated on the topic I’ve been collecting articles about tipping for the past decade. I have sources ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the most recent edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette that will back me up: you really should be tipping at least 18% at table service restaurants.
In all cases, remember that you’re tipping on the bill, not the bill plus tax.
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.
There are, however, a few situations where the 18% tip is mandated. These are:
- Parties of six or more. The 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, Hoop Dee Doo Review, Spirit of Aloha Luau, and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.
- Guests using the Tables in Wonderland discount card or 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.
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.
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 any more.
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 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 night-cap. 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’ve had looong day in the parks. We’ve decided to get room service. What do I tip?
The In-Room Dining menus state, “A $3.00 delivery charge, applicable sales tax, and an 18% service charge will be added to all orders.”
It’s not obligatory, but if the server who brings your food to your room is extra nice or helpful, you could hand him $3-5 to be extra nice back.
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 feeling 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.
I’m trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping at restaurants?
Don’t eat table service meals where you’re served by waiters and don’t order room service. It’s a simple as that. There truly are 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.
OTHER TIPPING 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 is discontinuing its group childcare centers this summer. Beginning in August 2018, childcare will be 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 going parasailing at the Contemporary. Do I tip the boat driver?
Offer a tip of at least 15% for any specialty recreation. This includes boat drivers, waterski instructors, parasailing guides, tennis instructors, and the like. For golf instructors and caddies, use standard golf club etiquette on tipping.
I’m trying to economize. How do I avoid tipping at 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 and fives.
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, or child, or best friend were in a service role, how would you want them to be treated. Tip accordingly.
And at the risk of getting all soapboxy here for a sec, 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?
There is no shortage of information available related to the tipping culture in America. Here are just a few of the resources I consulted when compiling this post. Please let us know if you’ve found additional sources particularly helpful.
- Tipping in a Cashless Society, New York Times
- Tipping Your Hotel Housekeeper, New York Times
- Hotel House Keeping, Do You Tip?, CNN
- American Hotel and Lodging Association Gratuity Guide
- Waiter Rant, Thanks for the Tip: Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
- How Much to Tip, AARP
- Tipping Guide, US News & World Report
- Is 25% The New Norm for Tipping?, USA Today
- Keep the Change: The Clueless Tipper’s Quest to Become the Guru of Gratuity
- Tipping in America: How to Do It and What To Expect if You Don’t, BBC America
- How to Tip at Your Hotel, Where
- Here’s How Much You Should Be Tipping Hotel Housekeeping, Travel & Leisure
- Tipping Guide, Bankrate/CNBC
So fellow travelers, what are your thoughts on tipping? Do international guests think we Americans are crazy? Have you made any tipping gaffes that are keeping you up at night? Let us know in the comments below.
57 thoughts on “Tipping at Walt Disney World: Everything You Need to Know In 2018”
We tip turndown at Club Level.
Nailed it! Feb 2017, I went with my sister/nieces and we stayed at Pop Century. I was appalled at how cheap my sister was re: tipping Mousekeeping and suggested that she just not use that service if she wasn’t going to tip! She thought I was basically burning dollar bills for fun with my tipping, so I had to creatively go back to the room each day to leave The Unsung Hotel Heroes their just rewards! One of the most important things I do is to get about $50 in small bills for tips and even cute little treats if it’s a holiday! Thank you for posting this because people do need to be reminded that tipping shouldn’t be considered “just an option” for most service tasks!
Great article. I was actually just thinking about this, and you have provided good answers and solid research. Thanks!!!
You can also deliver a #CastCompliment by tweeting to @WDWToday.
Bonus points if you include a photo of the cast member you’re complimenting.
Occasionally, you’ll get a response with a photo of your honored cast member holding a certificate with your tweet printed on it.
This is a great point! Thank you for mentioning it.
This is an important aspect of vacations that impact the people who work in the parks. One thing that isn’t seemingly listed are the beverage carts and draft beer from quick service locations. These are non-tip receiving positions. So if you buy a beer at ABC Commissary, you don’t have to tip. If you buy a beer from the cart at Fantasmic, no tips there either.
Thank you for your comment. Yes, if you want to buy an adult beverage and don’t want to tip, there are many quick service restaurants and carts where you can do this. There’s also no need to tip for food or alcohol at the pop-up booths at the Epcot festivals.
With the exception of the Magic Kingdom, in the theme parks, there are plenty of places to buy alcohol without needing to tip. At the MK, alcohol is only served at table service venues, but you’d have to tip there anyway.
We had a good chat with the bartenders at Territory Lounge one evening about tipping. We asked if they disliked the standard 18% tip which is automatically added to Tables in Wonderland checks. That amount seems low to habitual 20% tippers like us.
The bartenders told us they love the 18% TiW gratuity because so many WDW guests either tip low or not at all.
We’re Tables in Wonderland members. It automatically tacks on an 18% tip for all checks. We typically add up to $5 on top of that as a tip if the service is decent.
You are a solid citizen!
Excellent article. Confirmed I am doing it right!! I have had Mousekeeping leave me little thank yous for my tips. They are in my room, keeping it clean. Always want to keep them happy. 🙂
Thank you for this article. I just wanted to add that restaurant servers only make a couple bucks an hour in wages because the rest is supposed to be made up in tips. In addition, most servers only get a few tables at a time. Sometimes if you are a large party, you are the only table that server will have until you leave the restaurant. Which means, if you don’t tip or under tip a server while using a table in their section, you just made them take a pay cut. Tipping isn’t extra to the server; it is likely a crucial part of their income that may be helping them to pay for rent, tuition, or groceries. As a former server, I try to always be generous, especially when I have my toddler in tow
Thank you for this very informative article! It confirmed that I have been doing it right on our travels to the U.S., but as a resident of a country with a completely different tipping culture I appreciate the information. I certainly want to be courtatious and respectful to all the hard working cast members who are such an important part of our trip!
* I meant courteous… English is not my mother tongue…
Yes, you have to tip appropriately. Especially restaurant staff. 18% is the min, and I usually go 20% for easy math. Of course there is the usual argument, do you tip on tax or not. Some of my family members lose their minds when I do that.
As for bad service, in 15 years of usually twice a year trips, we have only had service so terrible that I decided to talk to the manager once. Even then, a polite conversation, clearly explaining what happened and they sorted it out, problem solved. No need to paint everyone with the same stroke of the brush.
The toilet in our room clogged and overflowed (no obvious reason). I had to call maintenance to have it fixed. Later I had to call again to have the bathroom floor dried . Do these people get tips?
Ah, it’s time to play Stump The Blogger. 🙂
I have never encountered discussion of situations like this in my research on tipping. My educated guess is that since these engineers (at least the toilet unclogger was from the engineering dept) are not in generally guest-facing roles, their compensation is not gratuity dependent as a waiter or bellman’s is. If you wanted to be super nice, you could tip them, but I wouldn’t think it was mandatory. Also, there is an obvious factor that you didn’t want these people as part of your vacation experience. The guest/cast interaction was due do a Disney problem, not at your request, which, in my opinion, also leans the equation into the no-tip zone.
Also, unrelated to the tipping issue … I have had this EXACT same problem happen to me at Disney World twice in the past three years, once at a Bay Lake Tower studio and once at a Wilderness Lodge Boulder Brook two-bedroom villa. This makes me wonder if WDW is having plumbing issues in general.
We have had a few relatively minor, but irritating maintenance issues during several stays at BLT: e.g.: faulty sink plug, A/C problem, tumble dryer problem, light(s) stop working.
Usually found the problems when just about to go out…. Have always found maintenance, prompt, efficient, clean and tidy and appreciative of the tip we have left.
…even now on first term names with BOB at BLT: you can guarantee he’ll sort anything out!
Ours happened at Coronado Springs. Part of what bothered me was having to make a second call for the cleanup. Meanwhile we used a bunch of our towels on the floor. We had other problems in that housekeeping only made up the room once during a six night stay. Admittedly we are not morning people and had the Do Not Disturb sign out until we left at 10:30 or so. We didn’t care about the beds so much but I had to take out the trash myself.
We stayed club level at Boardwalk about 2 years ago. I had a server/concierge who was exceptional in every way. When I left him a cash tip, he tracked me down and said he couldn’t except tips. Not only was this odd, but a little embarrassing for me because I felt like I had done something wrong. If there’s some ‘kitty’ he could have put it in, he should have done that instead of returning it.
I understand what you’re saying, but please understand, some positions are not-tipped. You weren’t wrong for trying to tip the person, you were being wonderfully appreciative! Unfortunately, though, some positions if they are seen as having received a tip and not returned it, they could be fired from Disney completely. They don’t allow the employee to put in the some kind of “kitty”, because they could be accused of pocketing some of the tips and putting the others in the “kitty” to help hide it (put $2 in the kitten, keep the $20 yourself).
You were trying to do the right thing, but please understand, the employee was also doing the right thing. After all, you felt that he was terrific and deserved recognition… you wouldn’t want to be the reason that he got fired BECAUSE he was doing such a great job, right?
Just realised we didn’t tip DME driver who helped with luggage either way. In my defence I wasn’t sure if we should (being English tippping is still foreign to us except in restaurants) so I looked at those around me and didn’t see anyone else do it so I assumed it was a no. Oops.
Thanks for this really informative blog. Like Clare said in the UK tipping is only something we would do in a restaurant, and then not to the same %. I had never thought of tipping DME drivers or Mousekeeping, but I’ll be stocking up on small bills ahead of my trip in July. We will be a party of six so that’ll make it easier for table service tipping having the service charge as a minimum.
What if you take a back stage tour etc. Do you tip then?
No need to tip backstage tour guides. Those are Disney Cast Members in non-gratuity positions.
The comments here are a breath of fresh air! I think this a great breakdown of the dos and don’ts of tipping at Disney World (or when traveling in general), and I fully expected a chorus of, “I’m not going to tip someone for doing their JOB” comments. Touring Plans readers are clearly a group of class acts!
I braced for that too! But y’all have made me take a hard look at my cynicism. Great article, great comments, great community.
Great post, but I have a question. Why do you say not to tip at airport for car rental? We have always tipped the person who walks us to our car initially, when we are selecting a vehicle. We have done this on every vacation with a rental car, not just at MCO. Is this a faux pas?
Extra tipping is certainly not a faux pas and I’m sure that the rental agents were grateful for your generosity, but honestly, I’ve never heard of this before. I’m sure I’ve read in excess of 100 articles and books chapters about tipping over the years and not a single one has mentioned tipping a rental car agent. If you like to tip, then keeping tipping, but this is one where, in my opinion, it’s not compulsory.
Yeah, the Emily Post site and a USA Today article says 15-20% and 10% for buffet service. I think 20% is steep, maybe if you’re Uncle Scrooge and have a money bin next to your house it’s cool, but when a dinner for two is $50-80, it gets pricey. Someone paying 18-20% isn’t going to cancel out low tipping. The solution is a hospitality-included system.
We were just at WDW as a party of six. Every table service automatically added the 18% gratuity (we were prepared for this) but the amount they added was 18% based on meal + tax, not cost before tax. I thought it was odd that they tipped on the sales tax so I thought I would share that information with others.
Wow. I just can’t get over the 18-20% notion. We do leave tips for exceptional service, as both my husband and I work in service industries. (Oh, he can tell you some storues about 2am calls for clogged toiets.)But even God only asks for 10%! It infuriates me that our society has come to accept mediocre service and expect “participation trophies”. Most WDW service is exceptional, and I frequently take the time to email WDW details including names about our experiences. Cast Members remember your words long after a $10 Bill is spent. AND as the article says, it helps them to love up, which in turn affords them a pay raise. I believe this is better than the instant gratification of a few extra dollars, even if those dollars add up over the course of a day.
With the pre-paid meals (like Hoop-Dee-Doo), the gratuity there is definitely included, but I’ve never seen an itemized receipt when paying online months in advance. All I know is what I paid in total. Although I hear Hoop Dee Doo servers do well, I have no idea what portion of that is the gratuity is or what it’s based on. However, having it built-in makes things easy for guests (and prepayment lets Disney turn the tables quicker).
I’ll also add that I’ve seen very few people tip Magical Express drivers, even though there’s a clear sign on the bus stating that drivers welcome tips (and not just from those whose luggage they have touched). In addition, I’ve never seen anyone tip the Resort Airline Check-in workers. That certainly does not suggest that it’s wrong to tip these folks, but be warned that the “ask/watch other guests” approach may lead to different answers.
The guidance in this blog post is solid, but one of the reasons that tipping is so confusing in the US is that different folks (even folks living in the same US city) can have very different tipping practices and feel strongly that their approach is the “right” way. I’m glad that Disney publishes restaurant gratuity guidance (in multiple languages) to try to establish a norm, at least for WDW table service. I’m also glad that we have articles like this one, but not every guest at Disney World reads our blog (at least not yet!).
Dinner shows already include tax and gratuity. No need to leave more.
I’m an international visitor and these tipping guidelines are the epitome of ridiculous. Pay your employees adequately and reward them for good customer service with employer incentives. Fund health insurance and living wages. Adding 20% for someone who touches luggage but not other service providers? How is that justified? We travel world wide and only in the US have we encountered an attitude of entitlement that made us NOT want to tip.
It may be ridiculous and make no sense, but (for better or worse) it’s part of how the US functions at present. Gratuities are confusing and literally foreign to many folks; that’s why Erin put together this guide.
It may be customary, but it’s not in any way the law.
When I first visited the US from the UK, and was prepared for it to a point (expecting $1 per drink or bag as an example). I was truly shocked when I did my research so see the values discussed above.
In Europe, generally servers and bellman would expect a tip 12% and £1 per bag respectively.) Most other roles don’t tend to give off the entitlement feeling that DeeDee mentioned. I’ve not had someone linger around me, or get huffy if I am not able to tip as much as they expect.
In the States an example was a Vegas taxi driver taking us from the Airport to Car Rental. I knew which way he should have taken, to be shortest and quickest. He want the long way around, then gave me grief when I only tipped a couple of extra dollars.
As a citizen, tipping irritates me as well. I always tip well in restaurants even when i should not, but it is ridiculous that we subsidize employers and reward people for doing their job. I tip $5 daily for house service – but we refuse it most days anyway – reuse your towels!
5 bucks to take our bags off the bus? I resent that the most. Likewise tipping gor a beer or
It’s not entitlement, it’s simply people trying to make a living. If it bothers you to the point that you don’t tip when you visit the U.S., then congratulations on being a terrible person.
I’m from the UK and I have a similar reaction to the ever present tipping requirements. The only way to react is to see tips as a “service charge” which are stripped out of the bill. If the restaurants paid their staff properly your meal would cost more. You can object to the system but it isn’t fair to penalise the lowly paid service staff – they didn’t design the system !
I get much more frustrated by the addition of sales tax to the sticker price so I have no actual idea how much something will cost until it is rung up at the till !
I agree with Sussex bantam (from Sussex to by the way!) we disagree with the system but that’s not the fault of the workers. I hope such a system never sets in here but we knew about the US system before we went and chose the holiday knowing that- nobody made us go.
Yes we also found not including sales tax on the labelled price really frustrating!
You don’t have to like the system. I’m American and I hate the system.
You should however abide by the system or choose not to come to the US. It would be the same if I were to come to the UK and decide to do something outside your cultural norms. It would be rude!
Don’t call someone from the UK rude – that’s the ultimate insult !
We will fume silently at you and maybe tut loudly…
I’m typically a high tipper because I enjoy people. But, the tipping system is actually a symptom of an entitlement mentally. Raising the minimum wage, and providing “a living wage” is not the solution. The mature solution to the problem is working at a job where you feel you are receiving the wages your work is worth. But be realistic. Most people can carry bags, and some might be willing to do that job for less than you. I suggest changing your skill set to something in higher demand, that fewer people have the capability to perform. This is the only real solution to the silly tipping environment. In the end, this will mean that it will just cost more to go out to eat, because in order to get competent servers restaurants will be forced to pay more. Restaurants that pay lower, will have less competent workers, and sales will suffer. The economy works if you let it do it’s thing.
Wow, just wow. Where do begin to respond to your completely ignorant post?
There are more college graduates than ever, and there aren’t even enough jobs for people who have skills. There are jobs (like washing dishes, waiting tables, working bell services) that need to be done, and there are people willing to do them. People who are willing to work full time should make a living wage.
Simply saying that people should “change their skills to something higher in demand” isn’t rooted in any kind of reality. Someone who is waiting tables could be doing so BECAUSE they can’t find work in their field – how would you know? So the restaurant pays them $2 an hour and in order to make up the difference and pay their bills, they need tips. Someone on their feet working at a restaurant or cleaning rooms all day long is likely working much harder than you.
You are also using “it’s” incorrectly. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is”, it is not possessive. So you are letting the economy do “its thing.” For someone claiming that earning more is simply a matter of learning new skills, you should at least have some basic grasp of grammar yourself.
Obviously a great, and thought-provoking, article. To those in the non-U.S. frame of mind, I will simply say, “When in Rome …”. You don’t have to like it but that’s just the way things are done in the U.S.
Our 4 year old son had an “accident” one night during our last stay and we let Mousekeeping know as soon as we found out. We had someone come to our room (at OKW) around 3:00 AM that morning to bring new bedding, complete with a new mattress topper for sanitary reasons. We knew Disney was special, but to see them be so prompt and cheerful (at 3:00 AM) made the tough situation fade away. We tipped the woman $10-$12 if I remember correctly. It was definitely one of those “above and beyond” times.
We are Fort Wilderness people and we take a carriage ride every year when we visit. Should we tip the driver?
At POR we used the carriage ride this last trip. We paid with Magic Band, and I think there was a tip add button on the machine. So we tipped- maybe 15%
Tip the horse!
Actually, really funny you should say that. First of all, I know I used it’s incorrectly. I used Swype, so I didn’t cross check. Secondly, I’ve been a server who didn’t like the line of work I was in, so I acquired new skills. It’s really not rocket science. The internet is full of fantastic info on how to choose a new career. I was a single mom. I’ve really been there. So don’t try to act like us poor women/low income people have no way out. That’s just absurd. I’m living proof it can be done.
I’m glad you were able to change your situation. However, it is a classic anecdotal fallacy to assume that because you were able to do this, anyone can do the same as long as they put in the same effort. Your personal experience is neither sound argument or compelling evidence of the universal truth you are claiming.
More to the point, even if everyone COULD “change their skill set,” we live in a society where there is demand for service positions. Unless you are proposing that literally no one should wait tables, clean, cook food in restaurants, or work in countless other service positions (and I suspect that isn’t what you are suggesting, considering that would mean that Walt Disney World itself would cease to exist), somebody has to do these jobs. If we are willing to use these services we should also be willing to pay a fair wage for them. Anyone who works full time should be able to earn enough to cover the cost of things they need to live. Anything less is exploitation and a betrayal of our country’s promise of a right to life.
Thanks for a great article – very informative for international visitors! We are Aussies who are planning our 2nd trip to WDW (we’ve also been to Disneyland 3 times). I’m considering club level for our next trip, but am finding conflicting information about tipping – should WDW or Universal Studios club level staff be tipped and how much? Thanks!
Thanks for writing this article! I wish we paid people a living wage in this country but until we do tipping is non-optional. I’ve always said that if you can’t afford to tip waitstaff then you can’t afford to eat out. Definitely true for Disney vacations too!
If you choose not to have Mousekeeping, should you leave a tip on your last day? After all, someone will have to come in to change it over for the next guest. Should you leave an amount that is relative to your length of stay, or is what you would leave for 1 night enough?
Many Disney employees are struggling and barely making it. Tips are a huge part of their income. Even the (ME) Disney’s Magical Express Driver – Yes, regardless of whether they handle your luggage. Base tip of $3-5 per party, plus $1-2 per bag. (Note that Disney’s Magical Express drivers are not Cast Members. They’re Mears–same as the taxis around property.
The absolute best possible answers:
“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 feeling 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.”