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Who Should You Tip on Your Next Trip?

The trip you have been anticipating for months is only a few days away. You’ve started buying and packing items for the trip. But there’s a question lingering in your mind: Who will you need to tip on your trip? 

We are all guilty of glossing over details of our predeparture documents, but there is a lot of important information in those booklets. And more often than not, those documents have sections about tipping. 

It’s important to remember that many people you will encounter during your trip rely on tips as a part of their income. So here’s a good, though not exhaustive, list of people you should be prepared to tip on a group tour. Share them with your travelers in advance of a trip so that nobody has to guess about tipping etiquette.

Tour Directors

Tour directors or program directors should be at the top of your tipping list. Tour and program directors are responsible for keeping the tour on time, ensuring everything goes smoothly, fixing problems that arise and keeping the guests smiling. They work ahead by contacting your next stop and communicating with everyone you encounter on your trip. When you retire to your room at the end of the day, your tour directors still have to prepare for tomorrow. 

Tour directors get very little sleep and often work on several issues behind the scenes. In my experience, the average traveler encounters two problems on any given trip. These problems could be big or small, but they do occur. Now take that average and multiply it by the number of people traveling with you. Tour directors work constantly on solving your problems, even when you can’t see them. They’re fixing issues behind the scenes so you can have an enjoyable trip. 

With a job that big, your tour directors deserve a lot of grace. They also deserve a lot of tips.


Remember the drivers! Good motorcoach drivers are essential. Drivers don’t just hop on the coach and drive. They take extra care in your safety and the route they choose each day. Drivers maintain their coaches, help with our baggage and assist with entering and exiting the vehicle. They chart and keep notes of the miles and hours, communicate with the office and are always the last to the table at dinner. They’re also the last to their hotel rooms at the end of the day.

Your drivers encounter many parking limitations and other restrictions that may keep them from enjoying your group’s activities. So keep in mind those long traveling days, and think about how often you see bus drivers eat. When you arrive at a hotel, drivers wait until all the luggage is unloaded, fuel and clean the bus, make necessary notes and possibly contact the office before going to their rooms to eat. Drivers deserve their tips and then some.

Step-On Guides

Many cities or national parks have step-on guides. These are knowledgeable locals that will join you on your coach to give an in-depth tour of the place you’re visiting, and they make the trip easier for your driver and tour director. Step-on guides often earn minimal daily fees and rely heavily on guests’ tips for their income. 

Not all step-on guides will be your favorite personality type. They sometimes have a dry sense of humor or are very factual. They have spent years developing their expertise, so don’t forget to tip them.

Other Service Workers

I often get the question: Do I need to tip anyone at the hotel or the airport? A rule to remember is that anyone who touches your luggage gets tipped. Tip anyone assisting with your luggage. If you use valet parking and are meeting the group at the hotel, you should tip the valet. Housekeeping staff and cabin stewards should also be kept in mind. 

Do I tip my waitstaff when traveling in a group? Many meals and tips are often included in the tour cost. But you will need to tip if you are dining on your own or paying for your meal. If it’s unclear whether you should tip, ask your tour director.

Though there are many people to tip when you travel, keep in mind that group tours often include tipping in the cost of your trip. Remember to read your travel information and to pay close attention to the tipping section. If you’re still not sure what to do, ask your group travel company before departure so you can provide clear instructions for your group.

Ashley Runyon

Ashley Taylor is a longtime bank and travel club planner. She lives in Ashland, Kentucky, with her family of six.