Are You Too Cheap With Holiday Tips? An Expert Lays Out The Rules.

’Tis the season for giving. But how much? And to whom? 

According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, 60 percent of respondents gave holiday tips to one or more service providers last year. The average tip was $45 ― up $5 from the prior year ― and housekeepers received the highest gratuities.

Even so, holiday tips aren’t necessarily expected. And your budget might not allow for a ton of extra spending around Christmas time.

We spoke with Heather Wiese-Alexander, an etiquette expert and founder of luxury stationer bell’INVITO, about who should get a holiday tip and how much you should give.  

Holiday Tipping Etiquette

Wiese-Alexander said that when it comes to holiday tips, there are usually a couple of common concerns. One occurs when you have the cash available to be generous this holiday season, but you aren’t sure what tip amount is considered too little versus way too much. The other crops up when your budget is pretty tight and you need to know what the absolute musts are, as well as what you can skip.

“Be realistic about who you tip,” Wiese-Alexander said. “Who makes your life easier on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?” In other words, you don’t necessarily need to give a holiday tip to the stylist who trims your ends every six months. But your child’s nanny? Probably.

Holiday Tips Guide

Wiese-Alexander explained that as a general rule of thumb, an appropriate holiday tip is one week’s pay or one extra session, depending on the service. Gift cards can also be a solid choice, as long as they’re for a place the receiver actually frequents, such as Target or Starbucks. Below is a list of common service providers and the typical range tippers can expect to pay if they so choose:

Your doorman: If you live in a building with a doorman, you should base the tip on the value of your living space, according to Wiese-Alexander. Usually, that’s around $25-$100. “If you’re in a penthouse, go big or go home, so to speak. This person puts up with a lot more than you may realize.”

Maintenance workers: If you want to extend a tip to the maintenance workers in your building, office or home, a cash gift of $25 along with a hand-written note of appreciation goes a long way, said Wiese-Alexander. Someone like the building superintendent should get more: around $100-$200, taking into consideration the price of your home. 

Outdoor help: For those who work on your lawn, garden or pool, a tip of $25-$50 is appropriate. 

Janitorial service providers: Trash collectors and workplace janitors can receive $10-$20.

Gift wrappers, luggage porters and baggage handlers: Tip $1-$2 per person at minimum, up to $5 per person if you’re feeling generous.

Personal care providers: If you regularly visit a personal trainer, hairstylist, barber, nail technician, massage therapist or other one-on-one specialist, you should tip the value of one extra session.

Dry cleaners: “Here is where a gift card or homemade goods feels more thoughtful,” Wiese-Alexander said. Many are business owners, which are traditionally not tipped, so cash can seem impersonal.

Assistant: If you work with an assistant who’s gone above and beyond their day-to-day duties ― and they’re not already receiving a bonus ― a holiday tip of $50 minimum or up to a week’s pay is much appreciated. 

Child care providers: “A personal gratitude moment here means the world to most people caring for your little ones,” Wiese-Alexander said. A tip of $50 to $75 per person is great. An added note of appreciation is even better. 

Pet care: “Yes, they are children, too, but they usually don’t carry the same attitude or maintenance (unless they do—you know who you are),” Wiese-Alexander said. A $20 holiday tip is nice, while $50 is lovely.

Mail and package carriers: There are rules around what mail carriers can and can’t accept. Generally, they’re not allowed to accept cash tips or gifts worth more than $20. “Hand-written notes and goodies are perfect here ... think warmth: maybe a hat, gloves, scarf or something thoughtful you baked,” Wiese-Alexander said. 

Who Should Not Receive A Holiday Tip?

Before you get too generous, know that it’s inappropriate ― sometimes even illegal ― to tip certain people. Salaried professionals such as doctors, therapists, dentists and other medical care providers should not receive any cash. If you really want to show your appreciation, “edible goodies for the medical field are usually welcome. Notes are always appreciated,” Wiese-Alexander said. 

The same goes for your your boss or supervisors. You should really avoid gifts of any kind. “Appreciation in the form of a hand-written note is most appropriate,” Wiese-Alexander said. “If you know of a thoughtful small token, feel free to give, but anything more can be perceived as sucking up.”

Tips Are Appreciated, But Not Expected

Admittedly, the difficulty in these types of general guidelines is that it’s hard to adjust for different financial situations. At the end of the day, you should tip relative to where you fall on the lifestyle meter, according to Wiese-Alexander. “It may be tougher on your mind, but it’s much easier on your wallet.”

Giving tips during the holidays isn’t about the money. It’s about showing appreciation for the people who provide you invaluable services throughout the year. Tips are appreciated, of course, but if you don’t want to spend a lot on holiday tips, “the simple gesture of writing a heartfelt note with a couple of genuinely personal references is pure gold,” she said.

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Also on HuffPost

The airport game is different during the holiday travel season. The tips and tricks you usually employ over the course of the year may not work so well between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, don't be the turkey who misses his flight or holds up security. Be the pro who navigates the crowded airport with skill and grace instead. Here's how to do it.

More from SmarterTravel: How to Survive the Middle Seat Pro Tips for Flying in Comfort The 15 Items You Need to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

(Photo: Warsaw Frederic Chopin terminal via Shutterstock)

Allow Extra Time for Traffic and Security

It almost goes without saying, but it seems like every year it needs to be said again: Get to the airport early during the holidays. The rule of thumb is two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours for an international departure.

What might have been enough time to have you sitting pretty at 35,000 feet on a random weekday in March isn’t going to cut it during the holidays. Traffic, and especially traffic to the airport, will be heavy and slow. According to AAA, Thanksgiving traffic is at its hairiest on the Wednesday before and the Sunday after the holiday.

And, of course, the security lines don't exactly get shorter during the holiday season. Check the TSA's website for up-to-the-minute line wait times at your departure terminal. RELATED: 11 Must-Haves for Your Carry-on Bag

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Pack Sensory-Blocking Amenities

Nothing's more conducive to fighting off the stressors of holiday travel than some shuteye. Unfortunately, sleeping on the plane is easier said than done. That's where sensory-deprivation therapy comes in. Stock up on earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, an eye mask, and a neck pillow to ease yourself into a restful state.

Two of our favorite sensory-blocking products available today are the all-in-one BauBax jacket, which comes with loads of built-in travel amenities like a neck pillow, eye mask, and even a pen; and the 1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask. (We can't quite bring ourselves to recommend the Ostrich Pillow, but it sure looks like it would be effective, too.)

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Skip the Security Line

The TSA's expedited security program, PreCheck, costs just $85 for a five-year membership and grants you an exponentially shorter screening time—something that's especially appealing during the holidays. What's more, you can even leave your shoes, belt, and light coats on, and keep your laptop and 3-1-1-compliant liquids in their bags.

If you'll be traveling internationally over the holidays, consider joining the Global Entry program. There's a one-time $100 application fee, but once you're enrolled you will have access to both the TSA PreCheck lines and a smaller line at customs when you return to the U.S. from another country. Before enrolling, verify that your airport and airline use the programs, and find out if any of your credit cards will reimburse you for the programs' enrollment fees.

RELATED: The REAL ID Act: Is Your License About to Become Useless for Air Travel?

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Check in 24 Hours Before Your Flight

There's the obvious reason for checking in online before you arrive at the airport—namely, that you can walk right by the check-in counter and boarding-pass kiosks and head straight for the security line. But during the holidays, checking in 24 hours before your flight reduces the risk that you'll be involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight. (A very real scenario during peak holiday travel.)

And if you're flying Southwest, checking in 24 hours before your scheduled departure takes on added importance.

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Download Your Boarding Pass

Checking in for your flight is useless if you can't show your boarding pass. Verify that your ticket displays on your phone or tablet even when you're offline.

To be extra safe, place your boarding pass into an itinerary-tracking app like TripIt or TripCase, iPhone's Passbook, or simply take a picture of it—just don't post the picture on social media.

RELATED: The One Thing You Should Never Do With Your Boarding Pass

(Photo: Mobile boarding pass via Shutterstock)

Don't Check a Bag

Avoid checking your bags at costs, and not just because every airline except Southwest charges for them. In past years, airlines mishandled bags at nearly double the normal rate over the holidays due to an increase in travelers. Don't expect this year to be any different.

Avoid a potential headache (and save a few bucks) by traveling with just one carry-on bag and a personal item like a purse or small backpack. Order any gifts you may be handing out this year online and have them shipped to your holiday destination rather than bringing them on your flight.

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Know Which Airports to Avoid

The busiest and most delay-prone U.S. airports over the holidays are Los Angeles, Chicago (O'Hare), San Francisco, Denver, Boston, New York (JFK), Orlando, Newark, Dallas, and Atlanta. Sometimes it's impossible to avoid these airports, but whenever you have a choice, opt for the alternative.

RELATED: 8 Worst Airports for Holiday Flights

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Pack an Extra Charger

Few things induce more panic than standing in an interminable security line for a soon-to-depart flight while your phone's battery life slowly depletes (especially if your boarding pass is saved on your phone). Do yourself a favor and pack a fully charged portable phone charger.

(Photo: Recharging smartphone via Shutterstock)

Download GateGuru

If your itinerary includes a layover, download an airport-map app like airport GateGuru to help you pass the time wisely. Not only does GateGuru show you the gate locations around the airport, it also displays the locations of important terminal amenities like restaurants, restrooms, and shops.

RELATED: Best Apps to Prevent Travel Disasters

(Photo: GateGuru)

Book Airport Parking

It's fine for an hour or two, but long-term parking at the airport costs a pretty penny. If driving to the airport is the best way for you to arrive, consider checking prices from an off-airport parking provider like Park 'N Fly or

You can also get "free" parking at airport-area accommodations ("park, sleep, fly" packages), such as those available from, ParkSleepFly, and All of these services shuttle customers between their cars and the airport—an especially helpful feature during high-traffic times like the holidays.

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Read the original story: How to Navigate the Airport Like a Pro During the Holiday by Patricia Magaña, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.