There is a reason etiquette books dedicate full chapters to tipping: The practice isn’t straightforward and following perfect protocol in every situation is nearly impossible. We’ve all heard our share of restaurant tipping advice, but what about other, more nuanced types of tipping, like thanking hotel housekeeping staff? Most everyone is clueless about what the appropriate amount of tip should be in these situations. “Unlike waitstaff that is always tipped between 15 to 20 percent, this is one area of tipping that is not calculated by any percentage,” says Julia Esteve Boyd, an etiquette consultant who has worked with royal families, politicians, and business executives. Check out our full guide to giving the right tip every time.
According to Boyd, the appropriate amount to tip is $3 per day for uneventful stays and $5 and up for more noteworthy ones. The higher tips go to housekeeping staff that had to clean up an extra-dirty room, turn over at a quicker pace, or deal with any other extenuating circumstance—say your dog soiled the carpet or your tinted moisturizer exploded all over the bathroom. If your hotel isn’t accommodating you, it may be a sign you picked bad lodging.
“In these exceptional circumstances, it’s also a nice thought to let the staff know that you appreciate them,” Boyd says. “A quick apology and a ‘thank you’ written on the hotel notepad is a nice touch.” There are two smart reasons to write a note that goes along with your tip. “First, so the housekeeper knows that the money you left out is intended for them,” says Sara Rathner, NerdWallet’s travel expert. “Second, a note showing your appreciation will brighten their day! Hotel housekeepers have an often thankless job, but it’s essential work that keeps a hotel running smoothly.” Another thoughtful idea? Calling the housekeeping department to apologize in advance if you know they will find your room in utter disarray. Traveling should be fun, not stressful—so make sure you avoid these common travel mistakes.