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How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Hobart, Australia
Level Contributor
207 posts
35 reviews
How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Hi,

I know tipping isn't unique to Alaska, but I thought I'd post on this forum because a) gee you're a friendly helpful bunch here, and b) my trip in June is to Alaska anyhow.

I'm from Australia and we simply don't understand the practicalities of tipping as it's not part of our custom.

I want to be able to tip the correct amount to the correct people - at the right time - and in the right manner - and I'm just not sure how to get it right. I'm not the only Australian with these questions, because my whole office are currently discussing it at the moment and talking about how anxious it makes us feel when we're not sure how to do it properly.

So I thought I'd explain a couple of scenarios, with the hope that someone could explain to me how much to tip, and how/when to do it please.

And yes I really have done my research but I get such conflicting responses - and I'm never sure whether the answers come from locals or tourists, and whether they're right or wrong.

1) We will be taking a 90-minute excursion to a glacier in a helicopter to go dog-sledding. The cost is approximately $500 per person

How much should we tip the helicopter pilot and the dog-musher please? (what's considered a normal amount?) If the pilot isn't the person who's acting as tour-guide too, i.e. there's someone else in the chopper pointing out the scenery and explaining things, does that mean we reduce the amount tipped to the pilot?

Is the tipped amount relative to the cost of the excursion, the level of service provided, the length of the tour - or all of these variables?

2) If I arrive at our hotel and find there are no towels in the hotel-room and I phone house-keeping and someone delivers towels to our room - do we tip the delivery person? (Yes they're providing a service but it's a service that should already have been provided) If so, how much please?

3) If we sit in a bar/pub/tavern (I'm thinking Salty Dawg in Homer for example) and want to have a few drinks each, do we tip in cash to the server after every drink? Or if the answer is to tip at the end, do we need to make a note of who the server(s) were and hand the tip to the correct people at the end?

4) If we do the Tundra Wilderness tour (the guided one), and say it costs $150 per person for 8 hours, how much should we tip the driver and how much should we tip the guide please?

5) If we have a restaurant meal and we receive the bill/check, and it has a spot to write the tip amount on it, is it OK to pay the whole amount including tip by credit card? Or should the tip be paid in cash?

6) If we take a hop-on/hop-off bus, or a trolley-ride for example, do we tip the driver? What if all they've done is drive, and not explained the tourist sites etc? Do we need to tip more/less depending on the number of passengers?

7) In the hotel room, I understand that it's correct to leave a tip for housekeeping. Is that done on a daily basis, or at the end of the stay please? Does the amount correlate to the price of the room or to the level of house-keeping that's been provided?

Sorry for all the questions, but the answers will definitely remove the stress for me and enhance my time in Alaska :)

Thanks in advance

30 replies to this topic
Anchorage, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Anchorage
Level Contributor
13,122 posts
233 reviews
1. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Tipping.....

We are very friendly here in TA-AK and for s modest 'appreciation donation' we'll be more than happy to offer several almost-free ideas........

Hobart, Australia
Level Contributor
207 posts
35 reviews
2. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

haha - can you please tell me whether you accept Vegemite-covered wombat-fur as payment?

Greater Sydney...
Level Contributor
20,907 posts
112 reviews
3. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

G'day barrydoll,

I solved the tipping conundrum early in our Canadian Rockies trip prior to Alaska by losing my wallet with all my cards and then left if up the missus to pay for everything. That worked for me. 😎

Hobart, Australia
Level Contributor
207 posts
35 reviews
4. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Great idea Frommy, if only I had a missus!

Winnipeg, Canada
Level Contributor
6,506 posts
5. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

All kidding aside--and you were kidded by 2 of the best!--there is no "right" answer. If you do a search of the forums for "tipping", you'll find as many opinions as you do posts about this topic. My own is that *I* have to feel right about it. If I feel pressured into tipping too much, I will resent the tour; OTOH I don't want to appear a cheapskate (though that's closer to the truth!) I solve the dilemma by purchasing a bunch of Thank you cards prior to my trips, and putting my tips in them near the end of the tour. No one but me knows what's in them. If the recipient isn't happy with it, too bad. I'm the one who has to be happy with it.

As to more specific amounts: for low-paying jobs such as waitresses, I pay 15 to 20% for good service, 10% for mediocre. On one occasion for horrendous service I left 2 pennies.... For the shuttles into Denali (preferable to the Tundra Wilderness Tour), if I stay with one driver for most or all of the trip, then $5 if the driver made some effort with commentary. Most people don't tip them at all. For flightseeing, $25 if the pilot gives some commentary, zero if he doesn't--he is well paid to fly that plane!

I wouldn't pay a maid anything to deliver towels that should have been there in the first place. If she were bringing extra ones, maybe $1 or $2.

I'm sure others will join in with other opinions.

Greater Sydney...
Level Contributor
20,907 posts
112 reviews
6. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Poor attempt at spam though. Bye.

Hobart, Australia
Level Contributor
207 posts
35 reviews
7. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Thanks for the helpful reply Maple-Marshmallows:)

Centerville, Ohio
Level Contributor
14,291 posts
3,291 reviews
8. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

MM provides guidelines.

We often tip 20% and round up.

We do not leave pennies - We do take time to talk with a manager for exception (+/-) service.

Charlotte, North...
Level Contributor
1,013 posts
39 reviews
9. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

Agreed, I never leave pennies. If there is a problem, discuss with the manager.

We usually tip 10-20% of the total cost. Food servers are paid almost nothing in the States (plus it’s a really crappy job), so I tip more to them. Tour guides, I usually give $20-$25. We had a kick-butt helicopter pilot in Skagway so I gave him $50, but that’s probably the most I’ve done, outside of a cruise ship.

It’s personal preference really. Unless the service is just brutal, I will still tip, but it may only be 10%. Very few times have I ever had anything so egregious that I left zero.

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Level Contributor
45,074 posts
44 reviews
10. Re: How to tip properly (for an Aussie who isn't used to it!)

I am glad this was brought up - I am good at tipping with the usual travel situation, but as far as activities and tours go, I am at a complete loss there. Would love to hear more experiences of tipping for fishing trips, tours/excursions, etc.

Do remember though - a tip is earned based on service. If you don't feel you got that service, then that is how you "tip accordingly". Generally at restaurants, I tip 20%. At hotels, I do leave $2-3 for the maid daily, and if some one helps with luggage, whether at hotel or transport service, I think $1 per bag is considered typical. Thanks for asking Aussie! :)

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