You may have experience tipping at a standard hotel but what about at an all-inclusive resort? Should you shell out cash for bartenders and restaurant servers when you’ve essentially already paid your bill via your room rate?
Tipping at an all-inclusive resort involves additional considerations from a standard hotel.
In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about tipping at all-inclusive resorts. I’ll cover the different times you will want to consider tipping and also give you some specific tip amounts for each scenario.
Should you tip at all-inclusive resorts?
While every all-inclusive resort is a little bit different, generally there are certain times where tips will be expected or at least welcomed by hotel staff. These include when ordering drinks, eating at restaurants, and receiving room service. Keep reading below to find out more details and to get some recommendations for a specific tip amounts.
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Who would you tip at an all-inclusive resort?
While at an all-inclusive resort, you have a lot of the standard tipping opportunities you have at a standard hotel which include:
- Room service
- Servers in pool area
- Massage therapist
For a lot of these services like valet service, when visiting an all-inclusive resort your tipping strategy should remain the same as it would at a standard hotel.
The big difference with tipping is usually when it comes to: room service, housekeeping, bartenders, restaurants, and servers in the pool area.
And that is largely due to the nature of all-inclusive resorts. I’ll break down why things are a little bit different below and how you should handle those differences.
Typically, at an all-inclusive resort room service orders are also included in your room rate. This means you can essentially order endless trays of food and drinks and get them sent to your room with no charge.
At a standard hotel, the room service receipt might display a “service fee” which is essentially the gratuity and in those cases you may not actually need to tip at all.
But at an all-inclusive resort, since everything is already covered, there likely will not be any service fee found on the receipt.
This is one main reason why you would want to tip.
In general, it’s nice to leave a couple of bucks for room service for a standard sized order. If they are bringing up a lot of different trays and drinks you may want to bump that up to $5 or more.
Tip: The quality of room service food at an all-inclusive resort is usually not the greatest. Sometimes you may be able to order the same type of food available in the restaurants but other times the food delivered to you via room service is not the greatest.
I tend to think that tipping housekeeping at an all-inclusive resort is needed more often because of a few reasons.
At an all-inclusive resort, you often spending time on the beach and that tends to get your room dirty faster. You may be dealing with sand that gets tracked in, extra dirty towels, etc. And if you are traveling with a lot of kids that is probably even more so the case.
You also might be more inclined to order room service which means more dirty dishes and cups sitting around the room, overflowing trash cans, etc.
And finally, a lot of all-inclusive resorts have large suites with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and balconies. So there are just more spaces that need to be cleaned on average.
Ultimately, there is just more work for the housekeeping crew to do an all-inclusive resort.
For that reason, I would recommend tipping a few bucks every night. Shoot for $3 to $5 but if you leave a disaster behind that should be upped to around $10.
One of the most popular reasons why people visit all-inclusive resorts is because they can get served up endless alcoholic beverages.
But with all of those drinks, come a lot of interactions with bartenders. And with a lot of interactions with bartenders, come opportunities to give tips.
Some might feel like it defeats the purpose of going to an all-inclusive resort if you are having to shell out money for tips every two seconds.
However, tipping your bartender at an all-inclusive resort is a welcomed and somewhat expected practice at many resorts. This has certainly been my experience at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico at locations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cabo.
Here are my recommendations for tipping bartenders at all-inclusive resorts:
- If you plan on heading to the bar multiple times within a short timeframe, you can simply leave a decent sized tip after the first drink order. This could help you get better service and stronger drinks with your subsequent orders (some all-inclusive resorts are known to have really weak drinks).
- If you are requesting special drinks that require a lot of steps to make I think it is good practice to leave a dollar for every drink order like this.
In some cases, if you are returning to the same bar area you will likely encounter the same bartender multiple times throughout your stay. In that case you could give one big tip at the beginning of each day and there is a high chance that bartender will take extra care of you each day of your stay.
Since you will not have a bill at most dining establishments, you won’t have the ability to provide a tip based on a percentage of your bill. (Some all-inclusive resorts will have prices on their menu and there may be some specialty items that you have to pay out-of-pocket for.)
So generally you will just have to pick a specific amount to tip. Personally, I would recommend basing that amount on the type of restaurant you are eating at.
A lot of times all-inclusive resorts have many different restaurants that you can choose from. For example, there may be:
- Buffet restaurants where a server simply helps you with the drink orders
- Snack bars with purely self-serve options
- Cafés and coffee bars with basic service (like a Starbucks)
- Pop-up food carts where a server makes your food on the spot
- Casual restaurants where you receive standard service for food orders and drinks
- Fancy restaurants that require reservations and a nicer dress code
Here are my suggestions for tipping at these locations:
|Buffet restaurant||$1 tip if service is on point; more if server goes above and beyond|
|Snack bar||No tip since the service is usually minimal or nonexistent|
|Cafés||$1 per order|
|Pop-up food carts||$1 dollar per order|
|Casual restaurants||$3 per order; more if server goes above and beyond|
|Fancy restaurant||$5 per order; more if server goes above and beyond|
Servers in the pool area
If you are spending time at an all-inclusive resort in places like Costa Rica, Punta Cana, there’s a good chance that you will be spending a lot of time by the pool. Every resort is different but you may have servers that will come tend to you as you lounge poolside. This should definitely be the case if you rent a cabana or palapa.
When you have a dedicated server, the best way to tip is to give them a sizable tip right from the beginning. For example, we have rented palapas and given our server a $20 tip to start the day. This will often make the server be a bit more attentive with things like drink orders, water bottle deliveries, towels, etc.
Related: Is Cabo, Mexico Safe?
The terms of your stay
To give yourself some clarity and perhaps even peace of mind you should always check the terms of your stay to see if gratuity/tipping is included in your booking price.
If it is not, then there may be a higher standard in terms of expectations for tips. If gratuity is included in some form, there will likely be a lower expectation for tips but many people still choose to tip in that case.
I think it’s also worth pointing out that staff at all-inclusive resorts will likely be expecting lower tips than a normal restaurant or bar because they know that you have already paid for so many of your amenities.
So if you don’t have cash on you and aren’t able to tip a server, it’s not the end of the world.
Tipping in US dollars or local currency?
Many all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and other places in the Caribbean are located in very touristy areas that accept US dollars.
Therefore, it is often not a problem to tip in US dollars. I would try to avoid tipping with US coins because it is harder for them to exchange those a lot of times.
Ethical tipping concerns
In some places where you can find a lot of all-inclusive resorts there are ethical concerns about over tipping. These concerns are caused by various issues but one major issue is the mistreatment of locals.
Essentially, if a server is expecting large tips from foreign tourists they may provide them with great service and basically neglect the locals who may not have the means to tip as much.
I’ve touched on this in my article tipping in Mexico so you can look more into that. But this is just something to consider if you are thinking about going crazy with tips.
I think tipping at an all-inclusive resort is generally welcomed and in some cases even expected.
It can feel a little frustrating as a traveler to have to tip at such a resort considering that you have already paid for everything upfront.
But you also have an incentive to tip because it can improve your overall experience by allowing you to receive better service throughout your stay.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.