Coming from the UK, we’re really not used to tipping in the same way as in America or Walt Disney World. Sure, most people tip at the end of a meal, or in a cab, and maybe the pizza delivery guy, but generally, it’s a few quid – perhaps a bit more for good service. The idea therefore of adding up to 20% extra onto the price of your meal can be really quite shocking to Brits, if they’re not expecting it. We are also less comfortable doing it, and knowing how much to tip can also be difficult, so I thought today I’d mention how we usually handle tipping when we visit Walt Disney World.
Tipping in Disney World is not mandatory – you won’t get thrown out if you choose not to tip and really you should only tip if you’re pleased with the service. However it is customary and as you tip for so many things, it can add up to a substantial amount – 14 nights of meals and housekeeping alone will be expensive. It is important you are aware of this therefore, and budget it into the price of your holiday. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you’ll need some one dollar notes – so hang on to them if you get them as change in the parks. When I’m exchanging my currency in the UK, I usually ask if I can get as many singles as possible, to take me through the first few days.
A side point to remember is that the price you see advertised will not be the price you pay – whereas we include VAT onto our ticket prices, in Florida they do not – so you’ll need to add 6% onto the price of everything. The tipping however, if it’s a percentage, should be calculated based on the pre-tax price.
In restaurants I would standardly tip about 18%. If I’d had really good service, I might increase that to 20%. If I’d had bad service (and this is where us Brits would normally not tip at all), I’d probably drop it down to 15%. I usually try and take into consideration if it was the server’s fault too – if the meal was a bit of a disaster, came late and was cold, but I felt like the server had done their best to solve our issues and it was really the kitchen messing up, I’d try and make sure their tip reflected this. If however, I thought they were rude and unhelpful, I might drop the tip a little . But I’d still tip – unlike over here, servers rely on their tips as much as their wage and not tipping really isn’t the answer. If it is bad enough to lower the tip significantly, you can also ask to speak to management as it should be something that is resolved for the future. The reason Disney is so great? They work out the tip for you – they calculate a couple of different % at the bottom of the bill and leave you to fill in the actual amount you want to pay. So no struggling to work out the amounts (lets face it when you’re also trying to convert it to £ too in your head, so you know what you’re paying, it’s too much work for when you’re on holiday!) Check that the gratuity hasn’t already been automatically added to your bill though – in Disney they do this for parties of 6 or more. If you’re on the dining plan, tips aren’t included so you’ll be given a bill which shows the value of your meal, plus the suggested tip, allowing you to pay for your meal on the dining plan and then the tip separately – either on your key to the world, or with a different form of payment. For both buffets and room service, a slightly lower tip of 10-15% is about right and you don’t need to tip in the food courts or for counter service meals.
Housekeeping, or Mousekeeping, if you’re in a Disney hotel, should also receive tips. Mousekeeping generally do an extraordinary job in getting your room back in order each day – they work hard and sometimes even go out of their way to make sure you smile when you come back through that door – if you’ve ever received a little ‘towel animal’ you’ll know what I mean. People tend to handle this in a couple of ways – either tipping a total amount at the end of your trip, or tipping each day. We personally like to tip each day – the staff can change and it only seems fair that those that do a good job get their own tips. There is no hard and fast rule about how much to tip – we usually do $1 to $2 per person per day – usually about $3. I actually think they do quite well out of us – two pretty tidy adults, they probably have much less to do than if it was room full of kids, but I guess that’s why I would vary it per person. If I thought they had gone out of their way, I might increase it for particularly good service. Mousekeeping will never just take money that is lying on the side, so you need to make sure you’ve clearly marked it for them. We usually take some envelopes with us and in the past I’ve printed out Disney mousekeeping labels to really make it clear, otherwise I’ll write a quick message on the envelope to say thanks.
This is a slightly odd one as there seems to be different conventions. For the regular Disney buses, no-one ever seems to tips the drivers – I think because the whole service is seen as being included in the price of the holiday so they’re not allowed to accept them (possibly?). If you get the Magical Express from the airport to your hotel, some people tip, some don’t – possibly for the same reason as the regular buses. However, when flying within America, many can take advantage of having their bags sent directly to their rooms – so they don’t have to pick them up and transport them to the bus themselves. We don’t get that – we have to go to baggage claim and then take them to the Magical Express. As the driver offers us the extra service of loading the bags on and off the bus, I would therefore always tip him – usually a dollar per bag perhaps a little more if they were heavy and maybe an extra dollar or so if he gave us a fun journey over. Non-Disney shuttles I’d probably tip $1-2 dollars per person and a cab, I’d usually do 15% of the total fair. We don’t use car valet services, but I think $1-2 is typical.
The Bell hops will be on hand to help you with your luggage and transport it to your room. It is customary to tip these guys too and I would usually tip $1 per bag and $2 for any bag that was particularly heavy.
Those are probably the main ones you’ll come across – although there are others, such as salon and spa staff, tour guides etc. As a rule, if its a service that comes with a bill, then 15% will usually be ok – if it’s something more specific then $1 to $2 per item seems to be the golden rule.
Last point – don’t be offended if a cast member turns down a tip – other than the standard service type tips, cast members are forbidden from accepting them – the idea is that you can’t get to the front of a queue or advance your meal by ‘bribing’ the cast member at the podium etc!
BRiTMiCK is a blog aimed at British visitors to Walt Disney World, helping you to make the most of your holiday. Follow @Britmickuk for the latest on whats going on at BRiTMiCK and other Disney sites.