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A Genius Alternative to Tipping When You Travel

Tipping is one of the most confusing aspects of travel.

While in the US, it’s customary to tip 15 – 20 percent for most services, in Italy or Spain, it’s not customary to leave anything more than rounding up to the nearest euro. Do you tip a cab driver in Argentina, and how much? How much do you give a bellhop luggage assistance in India? And what about housekeeping… do you leave something every day, or just at the end of your trip? It’s enough to make your head spin!

However, no matter where you are in the world, there’s times where giving money just feels… weird. So how do you politely say thank you to someone who’s gone out of their way for you? Give them a souvenir from your hometown.

I learned this genius travel hack from my producer while we were filming in southeast Asia. She always traveled with a dozen I Heart NY shirts. At first I found it puzzling, but once I saw the smile spread across a tee shirt recipient’s face, I got it.

While these shirts aren’t anything special to me, they’re incredibly unique in other parts of the world. Imagine giving Swiss chocolate to someone in Switzerland (or a bottle of French wine to a Parisian) as a thank you. It feels a little lackluster, doesn’t it? A treat from halfway around the world? Now we’re cooking with gas!

Here’s why I always travel with souvenirs from home.

What are some things you always travel with? Share in the comments!


This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. In 2001 we visited England where tipping is minimal, we left the new Sacajawea dollar coins. Some people commented very favorably.

  2. Great great great idea, when you did the Japan show did you get a lot of gifts or business cards 🙂 when I was a exchange student I took bags of taffy from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk :)to Japan when I would meet one of my Host family friends I would give one to their family They loved it!!!

  3. I’ve always brought hometown souvenirs when I travel and the gesture goes such a long way! I usually bring Ghirardelli chocolate because it’s an iconic San Francisco treat. Also, I’ll bring T-shirts and/or caps from our winning Bay Area teams. I often give the chocolates to breakfast room staff (who are often overlooked, especailly when breakfast is complimentary). They are always surprised and so greatly touched that someone noticed and appreciated their good service. Brings me joy as well. Glad you brought up this topic.

  4. Very smart suggestion from you and your producer! My wife, who is from Colombia, hit on this idea when we bought Liberty Bell souvenirs from Philadelphia for two kind doctors in Bogotá who, on a previous visit, had helped relieve a painful condition in one of her thumbs (“trigger thumb”). Your article gave me the idea to plan this in advance for unexpected moments of generosity we may receive on our travels.

  5. My only concern would be for the recipient – in the US at least, many in the service industry rely on tips as replacement wages (a problem in itself!). You can’t pay the rent with a t-shirt, no matter how thoughtful.

  6. ” it’s deemed rude to leave anything more than rounding up to the nearest euro.”

    What a load of poo. I live in Italy and travel the EU regularly… if your service is great… be RUDE, they love and appreciate it!

  7. Yup, great tip! I usually backpack so I don’t have much room for souvenirs. However, I like to stock up on postcards from home, especially if I’m staying with a host family. It’s a great way to give them a little something, and also a good conversation starter.

  8. I started giving goodies instead of cash when going to a week long resort in Punta Cana.
    Housekeepers loved the crayons/books and school supplies from the dollar store!!

  9. It’s very effortless to find out any matter on web as compared to textbooks,
    as I found this post at this web site.

  10. I read somewhere bringing a treat for airline attendants is very appreciated -so when my daughter grandaughter and I took an epic trip from ft laud to LA we brought a box of candy and a note mentioning our special trip and thanking them in advance for sharing this journey!! They announced our presence on their flight and were grateful for being remembered!! Made it more special!! 🙂

  11. We visited the Czech Republic for the first time in 1993, taking along John F Kennedy half dollars that we left in many places with many who were very appreciative to have this iconic coin of a well known US president.

  12. Like a previous poster, I carry 100 US, George Washington President dollars. I don’t sub for tips, I just give to someone that us particularly nice to me. There is always interest in a shiny gold coin & it usually leads to further conversation.

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