In many countries, but especially in the U.S., tipping service employees is standard practice for rewarding good work. Most etiquette experts suggest a tip of 10-20% of the cost of a tour for outdoor guides like ours. A typical gratuity on a full-day tour is $20-$40 per person, and on a half-day trip, $15-$20 per guest. Exceptional service often earns more (Did they go out of their way to show you something you’re interested in? Will there be extra cleanup work for the guide because of a furry dog?) Also, guests who end up on a private tour tend to tip more because they get more one-on-one attention and there is less chance for the guide to earn gratuities. Our guides spend a lot of their free time exploring the area to make their tours better and studying up on local geology, ecology and history to enhance the experience. Show them you appreciate it.
What if I can’t tip that much?
If there’s one thing your guide wants you to know it’s this: Your day should be phenomenal. They genuinely want you to have an awesome day, they aren’t just being nice to you so you’ll tip more. If the common tipping amount seems high to you, tip what you think is best. Above all else, enjoy your tour.
However, if you don’t plan to tip at all, assure your guide you enjoyed the tour (or let them know how they can improve). Even though guides understand not everyone plans to tip, they are still inclined to wonder what they did wrong when no gratuity is offered. Guides are motivated by their passion for the outdoors and the desire to share it. Your experience is important.
How else can I be a good guest?
Tell your guide what you enjoyed most about your day. What stood out to you? Ask questions and make your interests known. Our guides will feed off your enthusiasm. Writing a TripAdvisor review also helps your guide, and lets them know you were thinking about your experience afterwards. They really care about that.
When do I tip? What if I don’t have cash?
At the end of your tour, thank your guide and hand them the money. Don’t worry if you don’t have cash. Your guide can accept a tip in the form of a credit card payment that the Dreamland office will process, or you can even call the Dreamland office to tip with a credit card. Many of our guides also use Venmo or another online payment processor. Feel free to ask them for that information at the conclusion of a tour.
What about overnight trips?
You can see how hard our guides work to schlep gear, set up tents, cook amazing meals and make piping hot coffee for our photographers and overnight adventurers before sunrise. If there was ever a chance for their talents to shine, this is it. There is a lot of prep work and cleanup too. Common tips range from $50-$80 per person per night.
What if there is more than one guide?
If you happen to be on a tour where one guide is training another, don’t worry about tipping both. You can just tip the lead guide who will be generous in sharing tips. On overnights or tours with more than one vehicle, the guides split tips evenly.
I’m not from the US; tipping in America is weird. What else do I need to know?
Thank you for wanting to be a good guest. We know American traditions regarding gratuities can feel unfamiliar and awkward for some international travelers. Know that above all else, we want you to have a great time while you’re here. These resources, Trip Advisor tipping etiquette, and Consumer Reports How Much to Tip, might help you.
Why am I expected to tip at all? Aren’t guides paid fairly?
Especially in America, tips have become a way to encourage great service, and folks who work in the industry rely on them as part of their income. The theory is, guides who provide exceptional service earn more than those who don’t. Folks who are good at serving make a decent living and are encouraged to stick with it and to give their best. Some service workers, especially restaurant servers, are paid less than the government’s required minimum wage because tips make up the difference. While tips also make up a significant portion of guide income, Dreamland does not underpay its staff. I, your writer, has been a Dreamland guide for five years and I can truly say it’s a great place to work. It is a small, locally owned business and I truly feel we’re the best around. Check this out, Dreamland just started offering subsidized health care for us, which I really don’t think is common in the industry. They also pay for our Wilderness First Responder training if we stay with the company for a year. I don’t think most local guide services encourage WFR training at all, or pay for it. Our owners strive to make Dreamland a great place to work in many ways that go beyond pay and I think that shows in the service we provide. Rest assured, when you book a tour with Dreamland you are supporting a good company and great guides who love what they do.