…That is the question.

During the vacation preparation process, as you choose your outfits, double check your passport’s expiration date and throw your sunscreen into a suitcase, you may also wonder whether a trip to the ATM is necessary. The answer is almost always YES!!!, Please have cash on hand when you travel!

But just how much to withdraw? Well, my answer to that question has a few determining factors: where you are going, what type of travel you’ve booked, and your usual spending habits/budget (which is totally your call, I’m not here to judge you).

image: http://www.giphy.com

To help with this dilemma, I thought I’d start by offering a quick and dirty tipping guide for my particular travel specialties, which may help you get a running start on your vacation spending budget!

Vacation Type: All-Inclusive Resort (International)


Most all-inclusive resort vacations will state that “taxes, fees and gratuities” are included in the price of your package. This covers all of your bases in terms of the staff that takes care of you once you’re actually at the resort. However, discretionary tipping is still allowed at most all-inclusive resort properties. (Sandals and Beaches Resorts are the exception here; you can only tip spa staff and Butlers at these resorts. Tha’s it). Depending on the resort, your monetary relationship with the wait staff you see regularly (ahem….bartender at the swim-up bar….ahem) may impact the speed and quality of service. Not always right, but it’s true nonetheless. So having a few loose bills dedicated to bartenders, wait staff, and bellboys/gals is advisable. If you’re feeling a little more generous, set aside some cash for your housekeeper, who cleans up your mess and restocks the minibar on a daily basis. They deserve.

I advise ALL clients to bring some cash for airport baggage handlers and your driver to/from the airport. In most cases, these drivers do not work for the resort and are employed with a transfer/destination management company. If they get you to your resort without causing a near-death experience, throw them a few bucks. US Dollars are accepted everywhere I’ve been in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Vacation Type: Cruises


The tipping process on your typical mainstream Caribbean cruise (think Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian) is pretty similar across the board. Gratuities will be charged to the credit/debit card linked to your onboard account, per person, per day (pppd). These gratuities take care of your room steward – who cleans your cabin twice a day (the REAL MVP), and wait staff in the dining rooms. As of October 2018, the daily gratuities for the major cruise lines are as follows:

Royal Caribbean = $14.50 pppd for standard accommodations, $17.50 pppd for suites

Carnival = $12.95 pppd for standard accommodations, $13.95 pppd for suites

Norwegian = $14.50 pppd for standard accommodations, $17.50 pppd for suites. For their “all-inclusive” sailings (Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun), you’re looking at $19.99 pppd for standard accommodations and $22.99 pppd for suites.

The other cruise lines have similar gratuity guidelines; we’d be here all day if I listed them all. Adjustment or elimination of gratuities (the latter I do not advise unless you have a miserable time) can be done at the Guest Services desk on the ship DURING the cruise. You can also prepay gratuities prior to your cruise in order to get them out of the way.

Additionally, any onboard food or beverage purchases will have an automatic gratuity tacked on (usually 18%-20%). So no cash needed here either. You can use your onboard account to also tip spa staff should you purchase a treatment.

In essence, on a cruise you’ll only need liquid cash on hand for your luggage porters/handlers at the port ($1-$2 per bag is reasonable) and the time spent in ports of call. If you purchase any excursions, you’ll want cash to tip the drivers and tour guides at your discretion.

There may be other scenarios where you feel led to tip additionally; for example, if you’re having a destination wedding or event in your destination. In those cases, there are just MORE people to tip, including the event coordinator.

I hope this quick guide is helpful in your vacation planning process; you can always contact me or leave a comment if you have a specific question.