Are American travelers at a tipping point?

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Tipping overseas is a puzzling experience for Americans. How do people plan for their trips, where they exchange money, and how they are going to tip?

The answers may be found in the results from a survey conducted by TopCashback.com, a US cashback rebates and coupon site. The survey took a cross-section of 2,345 US adults, aged 18 and over, and was conducted in August 2018.

To Tip or Not To Tip? That is the Question

Americans are notorious for over tipping in foreign countries. Should you leave your spare Euros on the table? Tack on 10-20 percent? The cashback company found 75% of Americans tip in other countries, yet 2 in 3 (66%) Americans don’t feel pressured to tip abroad. Of those who don’t give a gratuity, 43% believe tipping should be included, 36% want to avoid the risk of insulting foreigners, 14% don’t tip while traveling and 7% skip tipping entirely.

Services Where Americans Tip:

Restaurant service/sit-down meals (73%)
Taxi drivers/rides (58%)
Hotel staff (56%)
Tours/Tour guides (44%)

To combat overspending, travelers across the US are embracing smart tipping customs with 71% of participants admitting they research tipping etiquette prior to traveling and 29% tip whatever is customary in the U.S.

“Tipping extra is a surefire way to bust your travel budget,” says Chelsea Hudson, Personal Finance, and Travel Expert at TopCashack.com. “A few dollars here and there can add up quickly and take away from other expenditures. While traveling outside of the U.S., pay close attention to your check as some places of service will automatically include a service charge to your bill. By researching gratuity customs and practicing smart tipping, you’ll see your money go further.”

Avoiding Crazy Currency Exchange Fees

Prepping for international vacations begins weeks before takeoff. The survey found 64% of Americans need to exchange currency to travel abroad. The most popular places to exchange money are at foreign banks or ATMs (34%) or banks in the U.S. (27%). Americans are aware that airport kiosks have the most expensive exchange rates with only 23% of participants choosing to exchange currency there. A small number of participants (12%) only use credit cards overseas.

A fear of being overcharged for cash, the survey also found 54% of participants monitor fluctuating exchange rates and purchase currency when they can get the best value for their money. However, the most preferred payment method is a combination of cash and credit (43%).

“Paying more money just to have cash on hand is foolish and an easy way to put a damper on your budget,” says Hudson. “To ensure you don’t overspend on your next trip, here are some tips to stay financially disciplined while booking a vacation, from start to finish:”

• Choose the right time and season to travel. Don’t fall victim to the ‘travel is cheapest on Tuesday’ fable. With computer algorithms and dynamic pricing, it is difficult to establish a rule of thumb for best travel deals. Often, you will find special deals and steals on travel for off-season trips. The travel industry has jargon regarding times to travel – peak season, shoulder season and off-season. Peak seasons are usually during holiday breaks, which makes it difficult to find affordable flight and rooms. Plan your trip during the low season to give yourself cheaper options. You can also consider traveling during less-popular times such as midweek, early mornings or later in the evening to score a better deal.

• Research sales and deals. Avoid paying full price for anything while booking a vacation by utilizing sales, coupons, deals, and booking via a cashback site. The good news is, there are plenty of last-minute deals you can take advantage of that won’t bust your budget.

• Pick a hotel off the beaten path. Like real estate, location greatly impacts hotel prices. A room in the heart of a city will cost far more than a hotel a few minutes away in a less popular area. You can score an even better deal if you stay 15-20 minutes outside of the city.

• Plan your travel Itinerary. Book reservation, tours, and transportation at least a month in advance. “In advance” could be months prior or simply an hour ahead. Consider searching the ‘things to do’ tab on Expedia for fun activities near your vacation destination or the ‘local tab’ on Groupon for discounted events. Not only will you have a better idea of how much to budget for, but you won’t overspend on last-minute decisions! You can also book tours and excursions via Expedia and receive 5% cashback.

• Learn to negotiate. Whether you’re buying souvenirs or looking for a taxi ride, it is in your best interest to negotiate the price. In many parts of the world, bargaining is an essential part of everyday life. Put your haggling skills to the test at a local market or bazaar where there is room for negotiation.