Tips for Tipping at Disney

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Features, Park Wise

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Published on January 30, 2014 at 3:00 am with 56 Comments

When visiting Disney resorts, many travelers aren’t quite sure who can accept tips, how much to tip and whether or not there’s a need to tip.  Despite what some insistent internet users may proclaim, tipping truly is at your discretion, but here’s a little guide that may help you navigate through the tricky trade of tipping.

Which Disney Cast Members Get Tips

As a general rule, if you tip this role in your daily life, tip them at Disney as well.

Servers traditionally receive a 15-20% tip.  I tend to be a little more free with my money while on vacation, and Disney cast members are often a little more fun than any ol’ Joe Schmoe at our local restaurant, so I often lean toward the higher end of the spectrum.  For parties of six or more, gratuities tend to be added to the bill.  Confirm whether or not it was added when you receive your check.  We take advantage of Tables in Wonderland (a discount card for Florida locals, Passholders and DVC members) at Walt Disney World, and the tip is included no matter the party size, so, again, be sure you study your bill!

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While we’re on the subject of food, if you order room service, you are already paying a delivery charge, as well as 18% gratuity.  Bartenders, as they typically do at home, can receive an extra buck or two per drink.

Any cast members who handle your luggage, such as bell services, are accustomed to being tipped $1.00 per bag.  If you’re using a shuttle, whether Walt Disney World’s included Magical Express or have arranged your own transportation, $1.00 per bag is also acceptable if the driver aids in loading and unloading.  When you’re getting ready to head home, it’s customary to tip the airline check-in crew at your resort, as well.  Again, $1.00 per bag will work here.

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Mousekeeping tips seem to split the crowd, but they are a tippable position.  Some guests go as far as creating fancy little envelopes to tip their daily housekeeper.  A dollar or two per person tends to be de rigeur.  While you don’t have to break out the glue sticks and glitter to create envelopes to house your tips, do at least leave a note if you decide to tip mousekeeping so they know for sure the money has been left for them.  A small tip, a dollar or two, can also be left if you receive turndown service.

If you’re headed to the spa, salon or even Harmony Barber Shop, your stylist/esthetician/nail tech/barber is tippable.  A 15% gratuity is standard for personal grooming, be aware, however, that some locations include the gratuity, so be sure to review your cost for any “service charge” or “gratuity” notations before handing over the extra cash.

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Finally, if you’ve booked any recreation that requires a cast member be present such as fireworks cruises, golf pros, etc., these cast members can accept tips, too.  Again, about 15% will fit the bill.

Who Doesn’t Get a Tip

Basically, just about anyone not listed above is not able to accept tips.  No cast members in the parks except those in table service restaurants will be able to receive tips, and if they are seen accepting them and do not turn them over to management, they can receive disciplinary action.

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Disney also differs from standard hotel chains in that the concierge cast members will tend to not accept offered tips.  Again, they will eventually accept if the guest is persistent, but the tips must be turned over after acceptance.

Get Park Wise: If you happen to run across a cast member you wish you could tip because they made your trip extra magical, be sure to thank them, of course, but also stop by guest services to leave a quick note about the magic they created!  This helps your favorite cast member stand out when it comes time for extra perks, promotions and more.

Do I Have to Tip

I recently ran across an adage that said tipping is required “To Insure Proper Service.”  I have to disagree.  Tipping is at the discretion of the guest and is absolutely not required.  While it is customary, if your service is not up to par, there is no need to tip.  However, I do suggest speaking with a manager or supervisor so the issue can be remedied as opposed to having the server or other cast member assume you’re a cheapskate.  On the other hand, if you receive good (or better!) service, say thanks with the appropriate amount of green!

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One of our more fun servers who snapped a selfie after taking a group shot of our family to make sure we’d remember her.

What do you think about tipping Mousekeeping and other cast members?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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56 Comments

Comments for Tips for Tipping at Disney are now closed.

  1. I’m a big tipper in general, but especially at Disney.

    Since you don’t necessarily have the same maid every day, I tip daily. I leave $5 under my pillow every morning.

    If a restaurant adds on 18%, I make up the difference for the 20-22% that I would normally leave.

    When dropping off and picking up my car at valet (I only valet when necessary) I tip $5. And if it’s one of those crazy hot days or pouring down rain, I’ll tip the valet $10 for their extreme service.

    • I usually valet when I go to business lunches or nice dinners with my wife. So, that brings up a question! On a short parking session like this, where your receiving valet may be the same person as your retrieving valet, do you tip both? I tend to only tip when the car is returned to me.

      In a situation like a stay on DVC property, where my vehicle is potentially going to be parked for days, I am thinking I may need to tip on both ends, because the receiving and retrieving staffer may be different people?

    • Where’s the “Like” button?

      I’m with you, Dusty! We get such unparalleled service at Disney that they should be rewarded.

    • I think housekeeper is a better term to use than “maid” (despite remaining door knob signs either requesting “maid service” or “do not disturb”). Indeed, the individuals who clean and straighten the rooms knock on the door saying “Housekeeping.” And maids are usually uniformed women who work in homes, typically live in, and have duties such as answering doors, welcoming visitors, bringing food, etc., in addition to any cleaning work.

    • How could I have forgotten valet?! A great service (that happens to be complimentary with Tables in Wonderland!) that we take advantage of often. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. What is the feeling about Tables in Wonderland tipping? We noticed that servers would take our TiW ticket, along with the check, and then bring it back with the 20% discount figured-in.

    What we discovered a bit later was that they were adding an 18% gratuity to our party of five bills! I haven’t read the fine print, but I was under the impression that the gratuity was added only on larger parties – six or eight? A mandatory gratuity isn’t the server’s fault, but I tend to leave it at 18% when one is “forced” on me, regardless of whether the server did an excellent job.

    I tend to tip good service at 20%, so the mandatory 18% isn’t a reason for me to not renew my TiW, however, I feel like the policy discourages better tips from people who might feel that the mouse is trying to get one over on them.

    On Mousekeeping, we tip once at the end of our stay.

    • I definitely add to the mandatory tips. I don’t think it’s a detractor from great service or for offering an additional expression of gratitude for a job well done. But it does protect the CM from the ridiculousness that can sometimes rear itself at tip time.

    • While gratuity is added for larger parties (6+), it is also added automatically for Tables in Wonderland regardless of size, as I mentioned in the article. While it shrinks the 20% discount for those who don’t tip, it still saves us a little bit, which is always nice.
      As others have mentioned, you can always leave a little extra if you feel someone deserves it. On the other hand, if you had a horrible server, the “mandatory” tip inclusion can be discussed with the manager.

    • The reason they do this is because many people don’t understand that you should be tipping on the bill before discounts are applied. Servers tend to get stiffed by people using those programs otherwise.

  3. I fall solidly in the camp that if you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the service/experience. So poor service earns a meager 15% tip. At Disney I’ve been known to go as far as double-tip in restaurants for outstanding service. You’re right on mousekeeping tips being a contentious issue. I tip pretty much the same as anywhere else. A standard room with few amenities priced around $100 – I’ll usually leave $5/night. But if I’m ballin’ and staying in a suite or at a deluxe resort, I wouldn’t consider less than $20/night.

    As for tips as a gateway to great service, I don’t know that it’s applicable so much at Disney. That said, there have been times where we were at a busy bar, and “greasing the wheel” with generous tips up front helped keep us from ever having an empty glass. But I digress… :-P

    • I don’t think it’s an issue of being able to afford a tip in most cases where a guest decides against it. I imagine it’s the quality of service received when figuring out whether one has something to be grateful for and to add gratuity.

    • There was a blurb that circulated a while back about a little boy who had exactly enough money for a sundae, but chose a single scoop of ice cream instead so that he would have enough for a tip at the end. Doesn’t the value of a tip extend beyond the monetary?

    • I love this article. It has a lot to think about. I grew up really, really poor with my father mostly unemployed my whole childhood and my family having to skip meals and eat only every other day just to get by. I doubt I ate in restaurants more than five or six times before I was 18 and on my own. It was a very, very special treat to eat out. When we’d do it, we had to save up for months and my dad was very generous with the tip, because it was a special night and the waitress got to be treated too as part of out night out. I don’t know what my dad would have done if we had bad service on one of those nights, because that never happened.

      My husband is from a more middle class family and he grew up going out all the time and he enjoys doing that now too. To me, eating out is an only at vacations and special birthdays thing, just because of how I grew up. But my husband always tips 20% if the service is great and he gives 15% if it’s acceptable but nothing fantastic. For many years, we never encountered a situation where we had bad service, but that happened last year.

      The waitress was an airhead with a bad attitude. She barely said two words to us. And then she disappeared. We had the menus, but she never took a drink order. We were looking around for her, but could never spot her. Finally the hostess saw us searching and came over and got our drinks…and then another waitress took out order, because I think the manager sent her over. She was never seen again either. A food runner brought our stuff out to us. No one ever refilled our drinks. No one asked if we wanted anything else. It was the strangest experience…and the manager (this was a Buffalo Wild Wings) was about 15 years old and couldn’t care less. “Sorry” he said.

      So, we left no tip that day. But it was hard for me to break the habit. I don’t think anyone deserved a tip for that experience.

      I really do think that tipping should be based on what they do for you and what kind of attitude the waitstaff has. Tipping should not be based on the food, though, unless there was a problem and the waitress didn’t fix it. She should not be punished because you did not like the spicy pasta…but if you asked her if it was spicy and told her to tell them to not make it too hot and she didn’t listen, then that would be her fault.

      Sometimes I wish we as a culture would do away with tipping. I have gotten in the habit of going to places like Panera and getting my food and taking it to the table. No waiters. No tipping. I like that. I guess counter service places is where I should stay.

  4. I gave a $5 tip to the cast member piloting the Jungle Cruise ride. I didn’t get the impression it was against policy to accept it since he happily did.

    • After guest safety, one of the primary responsibilities is to keep the guest happy, so I imagine he would accept it with a smile before passing it into the hands of a supervisor.

  5. What’s the consensus on tipping wait staff at buffets? You get the food yourself, but they bring drinks and keep things in order. Both at Disney and in the real world, I’m never quite sure how much to give

    • I find that a buffet server is actually doing a little more work despite the fact that the guests are serving themselves. They’re clearing multiple sets of plates, as trips to the buffet are often unlimited, so you may see a buffet server more often than a typical restaurant server. Hence, we stick with the standard tipping amount.

  6. Don’t forget that one of the best tips you can give any employee at Disney is a rave review. A nice tip gives them a little extra walking around money, but a string of people going out of their way to make it known about the quality of service they received from that cast member can lead to raises, promotions, or other long term benefits.

  7. I try to keep it at 0% by exclusively eating my own food and at non-table service places and staying at a cheap motel across the street from the parks. Due to the massive amount of rides at DL I rarely have time for a drawn out table service meal anyways.

    • That’s definitely one way to do it!

  8. Meals at WDW are generally priced a bit higher than their “real world” counterparts, so I would argue that a standard 15-18% tip is more than adequate.

    • It’s definitely a personal choice for each guest, so I wouldn’t argue against your suggestion. ;)

    • That’s crazy talk. Comments like this make me grateful I don’t work for tips.

  9. I have food allergies, and the cast members, especially the chefs, are awesome about this. When they make a special effort, I always go to City Hall and fill out a card about them. I say “thank you,” but the card is my way of saying that I really mean it. I have had chefs at a seriously crowded counter service place come out and find me just in case I have any questions about what I’m eating. Fabulous. Just be sure you catch the nametag! :-) You can also email compliments after you get home. I have done it that way too. And if you don’t have the name, remember the time & place and Disney will figure it out.

    • Disney is typically fantastic at handling food allergies! Love that about this particular destination, especially since a lot of my kiddos who travel to Disney face food issues.

  10. I have been firmly committed to over-tipping whenever possible ever since I spent three days working as a late-shift waitress in a coffee shop over forty years ago.

    Since I am planning to retire to Disneyland I will have to think of little gifts, like stickers, to give CMs I see being especially helpful. As loyal Mouseketeers it is important for all of us to be morale boosters for CMs who have to deal with Grumpy People.

    • You’re definitely always in good with the servers, then!

  11. How do you extend tipping to both the tippee and the tipper? By having the young ones in your group issue a tip as well! Teaching children what tips mean and why they are given will go a great distance toward teaching them to be respectful as future customers. If you are tipping for a service, say $5, maybe you can give $3 and your child can give $2. Not only will the Cast Member find the gesture adorable from a child, they will likey extend a brighter thank-you to the child than they would have to you. It shows the child the gesture was appreciated, meaningful, and respectful. And it shows the CM that tips may be commonplace, but they are still optional, and gratitude is a big part of the process.

    • My little guy loves to tip our drivers! He’s had the “hidden tip” handshake down since he was three. Haha!!

  12. We didn’t realize that Harmony barber shop couldn’t include gratuity with credit cards at their shop terminal, so I sent my son (covered in Pirate dust, of course) back in with a tip. It was equal to the cost of the haircut he’d just gotten – far more than I would have left had the 18% been forced onto the ticket.

    I’m not going to bicker with a manager over 18% if I receive poor service, and something tells me they know that the majority of patrons won’t bother, especially if they are on a happy family vacation.

    In Disney’s case, they deliver consistently great service with a remarkably good attitude. Knowing how little of my vacation money makes it into a cast member’s pocket, I like to tip well when the service is elevated from simply keeping our drinks topped-off to making some sort of a personal moment happen.

    • I’ve yet to see this happen at Disney (arguing re: included gratuity), and I think it’s because most of the servers are great at their jobs and are always putting on “good show.” I know we’ve never had issue with servers. Other cast members, occasionally, but our servers are always fab!

  13. I’m a cheap tipper. I usually give out 10% and a maximum of 15% if the service is good. I don’t think tipping is my obligation. I currently work in a job that gives no bonuses. My customers don’t tip me. I get nothing but a paycheck. Thus, I don’t want to hand out my money to a server who might not have some common decency. Their welfare is not my problem. I’m focused on my food and my time at the restaurant. That’s all that I expect.

    • You should do what I do and look for a Panera or Subway or McDonalds wherever possible to avoid having to tip. I make this choice because I don’t like the tipping habit here. But, if I am in a sit down restaurant where the waiters make $3 an hour and tipping is expected, I don’t ever go lower than the 15%. But, the only time I would be in a restaurant like that is a very special occasion or when a friend insisted we go there. But, I don’t know if I would ever tip 10%. It would be 20% for an absolute fantastic time, 15% for normal, and 0% if the service was bad (we would leave one penny so the server knew we intended to do that).

    • You should stick with McDonalds since you can’t afford to eat at a table service restaurant. Shame on you.

      • they are entitled to go wherever they please. What are you, their parent? Shame on YOU for trying to belittle this person.

    • Stay home. You’re not standing on principle, you’re depriving someone of their earned wages. In some places, state and local laws allow an employer to pay a base hourly as low as $2 because they are expected to make enough in tips to bring them to minimum wage. You think it’s okay to be waited on for free? That’s shameful.

      • I think it’s shameful you tell this person to stay home instead. Why mock them?

    • But minimum wage for waiters/waitresses is often lower than minimum wage for others because tips are expected to make up the difference, shame on you!

    • Thank you. Something realistic finally.

  14. It’s not true about any position not listed above not being able to accept tips. As a former Hotel Guest Service Cast Member, we had to refuse the tip 3 times before we were allowed to accept the tip. Any tip over a certain dollar amount has to be reported to management. Hotel staff work hard making sure you are comfortable in your room or planning your dining or day plans that they should be tipped a small amount.

    • Interesting, I’ll have to double check with my sources about that specific point.

  15. I have been given a tour more than once. While I realize that we have paid for the service for the day, I believe a tip is due. Is 20% still the expectation here?

    • It would definitely depend on whether it was an official Disney tour or not. I know local companies often offer tour guides who absolutely expect a tip, while Disney CMs must still decline or turn over gratuity.