So you are arriving at a hotel and as soon as you pull up two bellhops approach your vehicle and start transferring your luggage from your vehicle to a trolley cart.
You start searching for some cash and luckily find some but you’re not sure exactly how much you should tip these people (if anything at all).
What exactly are the “rules” for tipping the bellhop and what is a good rule of thumb for a reasonable tip? In this article, we’ll take a close look at when you should tip a bellhop and how much is a reasonable tip.
Before we jump into how much you should tip the bellhop let’s take a look at what exactly a bellhop is and their duties so that you have a good idea who they are and what they do.
What is a bellhop?
A bellhop (also called a hotel porter, bellman, bellboy, or bellwoman) is a hotel staff member who helps guests with various tasks when they arrive and depart hotels.
Typically, these tasks would be moving/storing luggage, utilizing the trolleys, getting in and out the front doors, and helping you to get acquainted with the hotel or perhaps even escorted to your room.
If your room comes with technical features they may even give you a brief overview on how to utilize everything in your room (e.g., electric curtains, tablets, etc.).
Some bellhops may also assist with or assume other duties like: giving directions, basic concierge assistance (recommendations), valet, calling cabs, helping you find your ride share, doorman duties, etc.
Bellhops are usually found at full-service hotels and resorts and are less commonly found at cheaper hotels or motels.
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Where did the name bellhop come from?
Back in the day, a bellhop was usually a younger male (boy) who would be summoned by the sound of a ringing bell from the front desk. He would then “hop” to duty in order to properly serve the hotel guests. Hence the name bell-hop.
Related: Should You Tip Hotel Housekeeping?
How much should you tip the bellhop?
As a good rule of thumb, tip the bellhop $1 per bag at a standard hotel and $2 per bag at a luxury hotel or when dealing with heavy/large luggage. Try to tip at least $2 minimum in every situation as tipping $1 is sometimes not received well (it’s seen almost as an insult).
The above is just a rule of thumb, though. The exact amount you tip probably comes down to a few factors you want to consider. Let’s dive into those factors.
Level of courtesy
There is nothing worse than showing up with a lot of excitement to a hotel only to be greeted by a rude or completely indifferent staff member.
At many properties, your first contact will be with a bellhop so in many ways they are sort of the face of the property, capable of setting the tone for your stay.
Sometimes these people have to work in less than ideal conditions such as super hot afternoons or ridiculously cold nights. Other times they may be struggling to keep up with the mad rush of guests during arrival hours.
So I don’t always expect them to be the most cheerful in every circumstance. But if a bellhop is visibly rude or does not acknowledge you, that’s usually a sign that a tip should be reduced or even taken to zero.
On the other hand, sometimes you’ll have a bellhop who seems to be going over and beyond.
They greet you with a smile and make sure to do all they can to assist you with getting luggage out of your vehicle and loaded into a trolley or taken to your room. They might even be a great conversationalist with a sense of humor that makes your day or puts you at ease as you arrive in a new city.
For these type of bellhops, I’m usually prepared to give them a $5 tip once we arrive at the room or when they handover the bags. If they really went over the top and I’m feeling especially generous I might even throw them some more dough ($5 to $10+) and make it rain!
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How they handle your luggage
Perhaps the most important thing for a bellhop is that they properly handle your luggage.
This means that they get your luggage to your room in a timely manner such as when you arrive at your room or shortly after.
It also means that they do not end up delaying your luggage or have it flying off the trolley.
One snowy afternoon, we were checking into the Renaissance Hotel in London when a bellhop swiftly pushed the trolley through the lobby causing my small bag to fly off (after we had warned him about the fragile nature of the contents).
This bag had all of my electronics in it and when I checked on them afterwards I noticed that there was a broken $1,000 camera lens!
That is obviously the type of scenario that would not be ideal for a tip. (For what it’s worth the hotel helped me purchase a replacement lens at a nearby camera shop after they reviewed the footage.)
Level of work needed
If all you have is a small roller bag and a bellhop simply helps remove the small bag from a vehicle and places it in front of you, that’s not exactly a tall order.
In that case, you may not tip or simply leave a $2 tip basically to just acknowledge that they are doing their job and avoid the awkwardness of not tipping.
But if you are traveling as a family with many heavy bags and the bellhop is breaking a sweat trying to gather all of the luggage then consider that his work is a little taxing. That’s when you might fall into the $10 range for a tip.
Also, if a bellhop helps you all the way to your room with multiple bags typically you would want to tip a little bit extra (closer to the $10 range).
Refusing assistance from the bellhop
You don’t have to allow the bellhops to help you with your luggage.
Usually, upon arriving, the bellhop will ask if help is needed but sometimes they are very proactive (some might even say aggressive) when approaching the vehicle and removing your luggage.
Some people might like this and others probably don’t because it could be a little bit invasive.
Feel free to let the bellhops know that you can take care of your luggage yourself.
They should not have a problem with you helping yourself but sometimes they can be very persistent to the point of practically prying the bags out of your hands so be prepared to deal with that.
If you choose to go to self-help route, there really is no need to leave a tip at all for the bellhop.
Personally, when I am departing a hotel I like to load up our Jeep ourselves because we have a specific way that everything fits well on road trips.
Nine times out of 10 when the bellhop starts loading things up we have to change it so we usually refuse the service when departing.
Requesting or utilizing the bell cart/trolley
There is a little bit of debate on whether or not you should utilize the bell cart or trolley yourself when staying at nicer hotels.
The argument against using it is that it is a standard procedure at these properties for the bellhops to manage and utilize these for guests. You are essentially “assuming” their duty and in a way denying their tips.
Personally, I don’t care too much for this argument.
As mentioned above, I’ve had valuables broken by a bellman at a very nice hotel in London and so I trust myself more than anyone to transport my bags safely. If you would like to use the trolley yourself, I say feel free to request it.
Just remember to return it as soon as you’re finished.
What can you request from the bellhop?
As mentioned above, the duties of a bellhop may extend beyond helping you unload your luggage from a vehicle and taking it to your room.
Sometimes they may also be able to help you with valet, directions, getting a taxi, finding your Uber or Lyft, etc. You can even ask them for restaurant recommendations and things like that (similar to a concierge).
For these random requests, a tip of $2 to $ 3 dollars is usually sufficient. Maybe a little bit more if they go above and beyond.
Just don’t ask them to help you out with illegal activities or things that could get them fired such as “where can I find some good drugs?”
When should you tip the bellhop?
It’s recommended to tip after you have received services from the bellhop unless you know that you have an impressive tip to offer.
If you pull out a $1 bill as a tip that’s going to kill the motivation for a bellhop and probably cause them to deliver the minimum level of service to you. In that case, it would be better to just wait until they have finished delivering your luggage to tip.
At the same time, if you’re dropping a five dollar bill or more that’s a good signal to them that you’re a solid tipper and you may want to do that at the beginning.
Other people may prefer to tip at the end regardless of the size of their tip so that they can accurately provide a tip based on (organic) performance.
Splitting up your tips
Sometimes you’ll have multiple bellhops helping you out and you may not know which one to tip.
If you were particularly observant then you might have an idea of how much work each bellhop did for you.
If it is equal work then maybe you can tip both of them equal amounts. Or if one seemed to do most of the effort then perhaps just drop your tip to that person.
A lot of times tips go into a pool and then get divided up based on the amount of hours worked so it often does not matter if you tip one person or the other.
Even if they do pool tips, I like to tip people individually because I think it just makes everyone feel better but that’s just me and it’s not always practical to do with something like a five dollar bill.
What if you forget to have cash for a tip?
Nowadays, I always go to the bank before a major trip and receive a band of 100 $1 bills. This makes tipping very easy but sometimes you may forget to pull out some cash and you don’t have anything to tip.
If you’re feeling especially motivated you can always let them know that you’ll come back down to give them their tip as soon as you get some cash. Just make sure that you actually do that because I’m sure a lot of people say they will but never do.
If you have no intention on doing that immediately or within a short amount of time then just say thanks and move on. Giving them your life story on why you don’t have cash on you just gets really old for them. Once you have proven yourself to not be a tipper you are essentially dead to them and it’s best to just move on.
There’s always debate when it comes to tipping at hotels.
Often you can refer to the prevailing rule of thumb for tips and in this case it would be one dollar per bag at a normal hotel and two dollars per bag at a high-end hotel or when you’re dealing with large and heavy bags. But it’s also worth considering the attitude of the bellhop and other factors.
It’s also worth remembering that you can always refuse help from the bellhop if you don’t need it or want it.
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.