‘They are Working Harder Than Ever’: How Much Should You Tip Hotel Housekeepers?

Tipping etiquette has only become more perplexing in recent years, but tipping the hotel housekeepers should be considered a must-do.
Hotel housekeeper changing sheets (Photo: bluejeanimages/Envato)
Hotel housekeeper changing sheets (Photo: bluejeanimages/Envato)

We’ve all been there—standing in our hotel room wondering how much (and how often) to tip housekeeping. For many travelers, the unspoken rules around tipping the housekeeping staff at U.S. hotels and resorts were already confusing before the pandemic. Now that COVID-19 protocols have changed housekeeping policies even further, often resulting in less frequent room cleanings, tipping etiquette has only become more perplexing.

That confusion is understandable, but tipping the hotel housekeepers should be considered a must-do on your vacation, advises Michael McCall, a Hilton Hotels Fellow at the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

“Of anybody in the hotel, housekeeping would be the first people I’d tip,” McCall says. “They’re providing the gut-level, front-line service.”

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Why You Should Always Tip Hotel Housekeeping

When you travel, you want a clean, comfortable hotel room for the length of your stay, right? Well, who makes that possible? Hotel housekeeping. Arriving to a fresh clean room sets the tone for your vacation, and being spoiled by all the services along the way makes the trip feel special.

“Housekeeping is a challenging, messy job that is sometimes invisible,” says Tiffany Ten Eyck, a spokesperson for hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE. “Housekeepers are the backbone of the ideal hotel experience, where you can relax and know that your room is clean and amenities are restocked. Tips, whether big or small, make an impact on housekeepers financially and provide a thanks for a job well done that workers truly appreciate.”

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One caveat: If you’re traveling internationally, tipping hotel housekeeping may not be the norm. “There are differences between domestic and international travel,” says Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and the founder of The Swann School of Protocol. “You will find in some instances that tipping is prohibited in some countries. I recommend that you do your research before you travel internationally to find out whether or not it is acceptable to tip service industry staff members.”

How Much to Tip Hotel Housekeeping

You can find tipping guides for housekeeping and other hotel services from organizations like the American Hotel and Lodging Association and Fair Hotel. A general rule of thumb is $3 to $5 per night for budget and mid-range hotels, and up to $10 a night for luxury hotels and resorts (or more if the service is really high end).

Families don’t automatically need to tip more than single travelers or couples. But keep in mind the kind of impact lots of little ones might have on a room, or the extras you might need from housekeeping (more clean towels and shampoo, for example). “If you’re leaving behind a field of crushed crackers in the carpets, consider a sincere thank you note and larger tip!” says Ten Eyck.

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And if the requests start adding up, so should your tip. “If you ask for extra towels or a blow dryer or more ice, you’re going to tip the housekeeper accordingly,” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the founder of The Protocol School of Texas.

When to Tip Your Hotel Room Cleaners

Some travelers like to leave one tip for hotel housekeeping at the end of their stay. But most experts say it’s better to leave a tip every day of your trip. “We recommend tipping nightly, as your room may be serviced by different people,” says Ten Eyck. Plan ahead and make sure to have plenty of cash on hand to cover the length of your stay.

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Starting off your trip on the right tipping note can pay off for you too. “Personally, I’ve found that if you tip the staff well early, you never seem to run out of towels,” says McCall.

How to Tip the Hotel Housekeeper

Make sure that your tip is clearly a tip and not just some cash you’ve left in your room. “My recommendation is to leave the tip in a very conspicuous, open space,” says Swann. “You want it to be very visible. Don’t put it underneath something, because then it might appear as though it was money left behind accidentally.”

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An envelope or short note of thanks can further help identify it as a tip for housekeeping. “You’re not required to do so, but if you do leave a note, just grab the hotel stationery and write some sort of pleasantry and leave the tip on top of that,” says Swann. “And don’t just throw a wad of bills on the desk. Open them up and lay them flat so it clearly is a tip that is meant for the hotel staff.”

What about Covid-Related Housekeeping Changes?

During the pandemic, many hotels stopped cleaning hotel rooms daily and made other changes to their housekeeping services. Some of those changes seem to have stuck around for the long haul, but that doesn’t mean that you should alter the way you tip. “Even though housekeeping staff and their duties have changed significantly, they are working harder than ever,” says Gottsman.

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New sanitation protocols have added extra work that wasn’t on housekeepers’ to-do lists before. (Think about all those sanitized and plastic-wrapped TV remotes, for example.) And less frequent room cleanings don’t make the housekeeping job easier. “Rather than giving housekeepers a break, cleaning rooms that have not been serviced for days makes the work harder,” says Ten Eyck. 

“These folks are still doing the work even with the pandemic,” says Swann. “The housekeepers are still there at your disposal providing you whatever you need. It’s a good idea to show them some sort of gratitude. I would not let the shift in terms of what’s happening with the pandemic affect your giving.”

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Beth Luberecki
Beth Luberecki is a Florida-based freelance writer who writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications and websites. She enjoys exploring destinations close to home and farther afield with her husband and teenage daughter. Visit her website at bethluberecki.com or find her on Instagram at @bethlubereckiwrites and @findingfloridafun.