Tipping–it’s a common part of the travel and tourism industry. In the US we’re very accustomed to tipping–we tip our servers, hairdressers, and Uber drivers. New group leaders always ask me about the best way to handle tips while on tour. Worry no more! I have compiled a list of my top suggestions for handling tipping on tour. Remember, in the end, you have to do what works best for you and your group.
The most important thing: Collect the tip money BEFORE your tour.
It is no secret that teenagers are not known for their budgeting skills. If you wait to collect money while on tour, you will come up short. You don’t want to be left covering the tips, or worse shorting your Tour Director and bus drivers.
Take the time at one of your pre-departure meetings to collect tip money from everyone in your group. This is a fail-safe way to make sure that you will have the tip covered before arriving on tour.
How much should I collect?
A good rule of thumb that I use for all my tours is $10 per traveler per day of the tour. So, if my tour is nine days, I collect $90 from each of my travelers–free spot/chaperones included.
That breaks down to:
$6 per day per traveler for the Tour Director
$3 per day per traveler for the bus driver
$1 per day per traveler to cover local guides, and possible bus transfers to the airport.
What is the best way to collect the money from my group?
I like to create envelopes for each traveler. I print out labels for each one that has the traveler’s name, the amount due, and the due date. I have a total of four pre-departure meetings–I pass out the envelopes at my first meeting and ask students to return them on or before our 3rd meeting. Why the 3rd meeting, you might ask? Well, I like to give my groups time to provide the cash, but there is always someone who forgets to turn their envelope in at the 3rd meeting. This gives me a chance to collect from the “stragglers” at our fourth meeting. I learned the hard way, not to wait until the last minute!
What currency should I collect and tip in?
I always collect the tip amount in US Dollar from my groups and ask them to provide their individual amount in cash–to make my life a little easier.
On tour, I like to tip in the local currency–this is not required, and many Group Leaders will tip in the USD. It is personal preference, as I assume that the Tour Director and bus drivers probably appreciate receiving their own currency. This means that I will exchange the currency before my tour. I realize that comes with fees, and sometimes, an unfavorable exchange rate. Again, exchanging the currency is not required, just a little something extra I like to do.
I’ve collected all the money, now what?
Now that you have all of the tip money, you have a couple of options for how you want to actually handle the cash overseas.
1. Carry all the cash with you, and lock it up in the hotel safe. This is what I do. It makes me a nervous wreck to carry so much money with me on tour so I’ve purchased one of those money waist belts, and I strap it to my body! I divvy out the money in small envelopes before I leave–one for the Tour Director, bus drivers, and local guides–and I like to keep it that way until I’m on tour. If you’re worried about carrying so much cash you can split the money up between trusted adults or even give the Tour Director 1/2 of the tip upon arrival, and pay the rest on the last day of the tour.
2. Deposit the money, and then withdraw from the ATM while on tour. While this method is safer, you will need to double check with your bank that you will have ATM availability and will be able to withdraw a large amount overseas. My daily limit at the ATM is around $250, so this method wouldn’t work for me.
What to avoid.
Stay away from gift cards and traveler’s checks. While they both seem like safe options, they make it difficult for the Tour Director to use and often come with fees upon usage. Imagine if you were given payment for your job with a gift card, that might not work internationally, and charged you every time you used it. Cash is always the best way to show appreciation!
In the end, you need to do what works best for you. Talk with your Tour Consultant if you have concerns about tipping!