Let’s be honest, hotel housekeeping is a pretty thankless job. The wages are low, the work can get pretty gross, and now in the day of coronavirus there is always an added risk of exposure.
So with those things in mind, should you tip housekeeping? And if so, how much should you tip them? In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to consider when choosing whether or not to tip your hotel housekeeping.
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Should you tip hotel housekeeping?
Tipping hotel housekeeping is usually recommend, considering their modest earnings and the demanding aspects of their job. Housekeepers, making an average of $28,000 yearly, regularly handle unpleasant tasks and potential health risks. While customary tipping might not be widespread, leaving $1 to $5 per night, influenced by factors like room size, level of service, and cleanliness, is generally considered appropriate.
Keep reading below for what I would consider to be “appropriate” times to tip housekeeping.
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How much does hotel housekeeping make?
Maids and housekeeping cleaners make on average $28,000/year. This comes out to a mean hourly wage of $13.47.
For those working in traveler accommodation, such as hotels, the wages are even lower at $27,420 or $13.18/hour.
The hourly mean wage for housekeeping can fluctuate pretty widely based on location. For example, the mean wage in California is $17.10 per hour but it’s only $11.34 in Texas.
At $11.34 per hour, and assuming 40 hours worked in a week, that would come out to about $389 per week after taxes.
To be a housekeeper, means dealing with some pretty nasty situations. Some of the tasks like vacuuming floors and making beds may not seem that challenging.
But think about the disgusting condition that some people probably leave their beds in and then there is the whole bathroom situation. Imagine walking into multiple bathrooms a day that strangers have been occupying for days and then doing deep cleaning.
And now with the outbreak of the pandemic and the variants circulating around the world, housekeeping also has to risk exposure to these on a daily basis.
Getting paid under $400 per week is pretty low pay for the things that the cleaners have to deal with in my opinion.
And yes, I realize housekeeping is not “skilled labor” and their rates are what the market has dictated as appropriate. Still, to me, it seems like a low amount of pay and it’s one of the main reasons I always consider tipping.
Is it customary to tip housekeeping?
Consider that fewer than a third of hotel guests leave any kind of tip for housekeeping. This tells me that most housekeeping workers probably do not expect you to tip. Indeed, there are tons of hotel guests out there who don’t even know that tipping housekeeping is a thing (I sure didn’t when I first started traveling).
So if you are unable to tip (or choose not to tip) I don’t think you should feel bad in the same way you would feel bad if you didn’t tip someone cutting your hair, for example.
I think tipping housekeeping is less about honoring custom and more about going out of your way to make someone else’s day and to show appreciation for the work that they have done for you or that they will do for your.
Why does tipping housekeeping seem relatively uncommon?
The reason why housekeeping does not get tips for most people is probably because of the lack of direct engagement/interaction.
Typically, we tip in the US for services where we 1) continually engage with the service provider (e.g., a waiter, a barber, Uber driver, etc.) or 2) where we have a definitive (and often face to face) “moment of exchange” for the transaction (food delivery, room service, etc.).
With housekeeping there may be zero interaction at all which is why I believe so many people probably do not tip.
How much should you tip housekeeping?
A rule of thumb is that you should tip housekeeping anywhere from $1 to $5 per night. A standard hotel would be on the lower end of that while a higher-end luxury property would be on the upper end.
Some people prefer to tip a flat amount no matter where they go and what the experience is like. For example, they may simply tip a few bucks for every stay or every night of their stay.
There is nothing wrong with that but personally I generally prefer to tip based on performance. This is true regardless of the setting (a restaurant, hotel, UberEats, etc.)
Below are the factors that I will consider when leaving a tip for housekeeping.
Is tipping customary in that country?
Before you decide to leave a tip you should consider if tipping is customary in the country you are visiting. In the United States tipping is very customary for service industries.
But in some other countries tipping is not always expected. In fact, in some countries tipping can be considered rude or even slightly taboo. So make sure you are familiar with the customs of the country before you decide to drop a tip.
Difficulty of the work
If you ever create a huge mess in your room, it is pretty disrespectful to not leave a tip, in my opinion.
A perfect example is what can happen at hotels located near the beach such as all-inclusive resorts. Guests are commonly going in and out of the rooms after hitting up a sandy beach and after a few days the floor is a sandy mess!
Before leaving a hotel room, we always make sure to straighten up everything or we leave the do not disturb door hanger on if our room is not ready to be cleaned.
Usually, we will have a stack of dirty towels/rags in the bathroom, counters cleared off, and a trash/grocery bag or two full of our food containers, water bottles, etc. if we are not able to easily dispose of those bags.
That way the room is in pretty good condition when housekeeping comes in and their work is limited to things like cleaning the bathroom, bedding, etc. Tidying up is also a great way to prevent yourself from forgetting items laying around or in the hotel safe.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’re traveling with a pet.
When traveling with our corgi who sometimes can shed like crazy, we make an extra effort to tip a little bit extra when his fur is left all over the place. If your dog left paw prints or stained up the carpet it might also be a good idea to leave a little bit extra.
The level of service
How good of a job did housekeeping do?
If they have left stains in the bathroom or have not done a good job tidying up the room, then I think it makes sense to reduce the tip based on performance.
On the other hand, if they have gone above and beyond such as folding little origami-like towels, smiled at me or greeted me in the hallways, I’m going to think about giving a tip on the higher side.
How big is your room?
If you are staying in a large suite with multiple rooms and attention is required in those different rooms then I think it makes sense to increase your tip based on all of the work required.
If you have had multiple guests in your room demanding extra amenities, attention to the bathroom, rollaway beds, etc., that may be another factor in your decision to tip.
In the age of the pandemic, tipping housekeeping has probably changed dramatically. Most hotels only offer cleaning services when you request them.
And in some cases you cannot even request cleaning services until you have stayed there for a couple of nights. This means that housekeeping is doing fewer cleaning sessions on average.
They still have to come in at the end of your stay and clean up the room but a lot of travelers are not getting the daily service they once received. For that reason, I think a lot of people are probably tipping less which is totally understandable.
But consider two things.
Housekeeping is probably not working less by choice but because they have no other option. If they could continue their daily cleanings and optimize their chances for tips, you would think most would be willing to do so.
Also, due to heightened cleaning standards they actually are required to do more when they clean your room. Not only that but they are entering a space that could present a risk of exposure every time they enter a room.
Tips for tipping housekeeping
Set reminders to get cash
Always try to set a reminder that will go off the day before your travels so that you remember to pull out some cash from your bank. (Try to avoid tipping with coins because coins are just messier.)
If you have large bills, a hotel will be happy to break up those bills assuming that they can.
But remember that your tipping experience may begin as soon as you arrive at the hotel and get help with your luggage so it is best to have cash on hand before you ever arrive at the hotel.
Tip from the start
A lot of travelers like to wait to tip until the very end of their stay. But this is a mistake if you are confident that you will be leaving a tip for housekeeping.
The reason is that if you tip after your first night, this may incentivize housekeeping to tidy up your place a little bit better and to serve your needs better. If you are staying multiple nights in an extended stay hotel this can make a pretty big difference over the span of your stay.
Also, if you wait to tip until the very end it’s possible that the worker cleaning your room up the most during your stay will not receive it.
Leave a note
Just leaving a couple of bucks on your hotel desk may not always be send a clear enough message that the money is meant to be a tip for housekeeping.
Some people might carry around envelopes that they insert the cash tip inside of and then they may write some type of message on the envelope like “housekeeping tip.”
The envelope route is a little bit of overkill to me and I always just write my message out on a sticky note/ piece of paper and say something like “thank you very much for your hard work [smiley face]” and then attach the sticky note to the cash.
If I am in a foreign country that speaks a different language I like to use Google Translate to leave a message in their own language. Sure it is probably a bit imperfect grammar but I think it just adds a nice touch of appreciation.
Once you have gathered your cash and note be sure to place the tip somewhere where it will be easily seen. I usually leave it in the middle of the bed so long as the bed is made and the wad of cash/note cannot be missed.
Tipping the right currency
It’s really important to tip in the right currency.
In some destinations such as Cancun, Mexico it is acceptable to tip in US dollars or in local pesos. In other locations, you’ll want to make sure to only tip in the local currency.
If you were planning on tipping coins, then you really want to make sure you are tipping in the right currency because coins are not always easy to exchange and you could leave housekeeping with no practical way to exchange their tip for usable currency.
The majority of hotel guests do not tip housekeeping despite the fact that wages are very low and the nature of the work can be tankless and downright disgusting. Since housekeeping is offering a service I generally choose to tip but I do so based on performance and other factors mentioned above.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.