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People often ask about who should they tip at Disney Wold and what’s the right amount.
In this post we’ll go over all the circumstances when you should tip and suggest how much. We’ll share some in-depth research as part of the post and conclude with how things are different at Shades of Green.
Florida labor laws and Disney’s contracts with labor unions will play into our discussions here. Also while at Disney World, the employees that you encounter are a mix of Disney cast members and employees of companies that Disney contracts with (Operating Participants) to provide services. Where appropriate I’ll mention non-Disney employees.
In Florida as elsewhere in the US certain employees are paid as tipped workers and are paid a significantly lower hourly wage in the anticipation that they will be tipped properly.
Also, per union rules, there are situations (not all applicable here) where tipped employees receive a mandatory, set tip from Disney based on work that they perform for a guest.
A note about non-tipped Disney employees. Non-tipped Disney cast members are prohibited from accepting tips. There are some descriptions online that say they are required to refuse a tip a certain number of times (3 or 4) before they can finally accept. I’m not sure of the validity of this.
Instead of tipping what you can and should do is help them with their annual appraisal which are greatly affected by guest complements. An official compliment from you improves their chances for advancement or transfers.
To compliment a cast member:
- Pick up a comment card at Guest Relations in the theme parks (or get some as you enter so you can fill them out as you go)
- email: [email protected]
- Write to: Walt Disney World Guest Communications, PO Box 10040, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040
Include the cast member’s name and hometown (from their name tag), as well as where they were working, the date, and how they helped you.
Tip: Just ask them if you can snap a pic of their name tag for a positive guest comment. This 1. keeps you from having to try to remember the info or find something to write it on, and 2. cast members who happen to forget their name tag will wear one of the communal abandoned name tags that hang around their location, so if they know you want to give them a compliment they will offer their actual info.
Now on to the meat of the post…
I’ve broken things down into logical categories, so let’s step through them, shall we?
Disney’s Magical Express – The drivers for Disney’s Magical Express are not Disney Cast Members, they work for Mears Transportation. As with any bus type shuttle service, if the driver assists you with loading and unloading your baggage a dollar or 2 per bag (depending on size and weight) is appropriate. If you have more than carry-on this will be the case. If you’ve checked your bags through to your Disney Resort room at your departing airport the bag tip is not warranted. If the driver is exceptionally friendly or helpful in general a couple bucks would also be appropriate.
Airport Limos (Non-Disney) – Check with your limo company to see if the driver tip is included in your fare. If not, a tip of 15% – 20% is customary. More for extra stops, heavy or bountiful luggage assistance, spectacular service, etc.
Taxis – Same amounts as Limos
Disney’s Minnie Van Service – These Disney cast members are now allowed to accept tips. Every Minnie Van driver that I have encountered has been exceptionally friendly and helpful. A couple bucks is appropriate for on property. Proportionally more for the long hauls to/from Orlando International or Port Canaveral. If they have to install car seats for you or assist with loading luggage/packages/strollers etc. you should add a few dollars more. You can tip after the ride through the Lyft app (they will get it in the next week’s check) or cash is always welcome.
Uber/Lyft – If by chance you get a friendly Lyft or Uber driver a buck or 2 is probably appropriate for around property. You can tip after the ride through the Lyft app or with cash.
Valet Parking – These individuals, whether Disney cast members or others spend their days running between the Resort front entrance and the parking lot. $2 to $5 for drop off and pick up.
- Transportation Overview Page
- MDT Guide to WDW Transportation
- Disney Magical Express Review
- Military Discount on WDW Airport Limos
- Lyft Discount Code: Get a $5 Lyft credit towards your first ride when you sign up for Lyft using this link.
- Uber Discount Code: Get a free up to $15 off an Uber ride by signing up with this promo code: steveb14703ue
Luggage Service – If you turn over your bags to a Bell Services cast member in person, a tip of $1 to $2 per bag is the standard. Extra for very heavy or voluminous jobs.
For luggage service where you are not present of i.e. luggage delivery or pick up for Disney’s Magical Express, Disney Cruise Line transfers, room or resort transfers, per union contract Disney tips the cast member for you.
Airline Bag Check In – These non-Disney employees check you in for your flight (a service you do not tip for at the airport), move your bag several feet and put it in a wheeled transport rack (a service you do not tip for at the airport), then a driver takes it to the airport in a truck where it is put on the airport conveyor belt (a service you do not tip for at the airport). This is a painless process at the Disney Value and Moderate Resorts, You pay any airline bag charges, are given your receipt and boarding passes, they say have a nice day, and you walk away. But at the Deluxe Resorts, where presumably guests have more disposable income the employees of this company perform a schtick performance to encourage you to tip for the exact same service. This has always rubbed me the wrong way, you can read about it in the Airline Bag Check In Post with the link just below.
Maid Service -While technically not tipped employees, many people do tip their maid. Keep in mind that these individuals are in your room amongst your things so you want them in a good mood (enough said?). The standard is a dollar per person staying in the room per night. I tip extra on my check out morning due to the extra work involved.
You can leave the tip on the bed/pillow or nightstand so the maid will know it is for them to take or some Disney travelers pre-make decorated/labled envelopes to place the tips in each day.
Tips would not be required for days you leave the Room Occupied sign on the door. or if you’ve opted for the no service in return for a gift card deal (except on check out morning).
Note: after the Las Vegas terror shooting incident, Disney switched from Do Not Disturb signs to Room Occupied signs. The implication of the switch being that a Disney cast member will enter every guest room daily (to look for anything untoward) the DND prevented this. Maids will still knock and announce themselves prior to entry and will empty the trash while making sure everything is OK.
Spa Services – 15% to 20% is appropriate for these services, just like at home.
When doing some prep reading for this post I ran across several instances of authors emphasizing that a 15% tip for table service dining was no longer appropriate, that 18% – 20% was the new standard. This shocked me as I’ve thought for my entire adult life that the standard was 18% – 20%. I don’t think it has been 15% since back in the 70’s.
Several times over the years I’ve had service so phenomenal at Disney that I’ve tipped well over 20%.
Table Service Meals – Tip 18% – 20% of the full bill before any discounts are deducted for good to very good service. Exceptional service should be tipped more.
Disney Dining Plan – Tips are not included in the Disney Dining Plan. At table service locations you’ll need to tip as mentioned just above. The regular full meal cost will be provided for reference on your receipt.
Buffet Meals – I used to fall into the group of people who thought that since your server at a buffet is only serving your drink, that the tip percentage should be lower. But I’ve been persuaded otherwise. Keep in mind all of the extra plate clearing that your served has to do, what with your multiple trips to the buffet. 18% – 20% of the full bill before any discounts are deducted is appropriate.
Automatically Added Tips – Disney World will automatically add an 18% tip to your full bill under the following circumstances:
- Parties of 6 or more (including all children), even if you split the check or are seated at separate tables (unless the tables do separate checks)
- Prepaid restaurants and dinner shows including: Cinderella’s Royal Table, Hoop Dee Doo Review, Spirit of Aloha Luau, and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
- Those using the Tables in Wonderland Discount
- Private Dining (room service) plus a $3 delivery fee
- Pizza Delivery
- Mobile Golf Cart sales on the course
Be sure not to double tip in these instances. But if exceptional service is received something extra is appropriate on top of the 18%.
Bars and Lounges – Tip $1 to $3 per drink depending on complexity, or 18% to 20 % if food service is involved.
- Disney Drink Blog – Our Sister Site
There are a wide variety of recreation activities at Disney World.
Offer a tip of at least 15% to these non Disney employees: golf instructors caddies, ski boat drivers, water ski instructors, parasailing guides, tennis instructors, fishing guides.
For Fireworks/Illuminations Cruises tip as you would for a limo driver, 15% – 20%.
Carriage rides as well 15% – 20%.
The only cast members to tip in the theme parks are those providing spa-like personal services i.e. the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Makeovers, Pirate’s League, and Harmony Barber Shop. Tip 15% – 20%.
Tipping at Shades of Green
Shades of Green is the U.S. Military owned and operated Armed Forces Recreation Center at Walt Disney World.
The employee compensation at Shades of Green is unlike what you are used to in the civil sector.
All Shades of Green employees are Non Appropriated Fund (NAF) employees and are paid on the NAF pay scale, just like the workers in your Commissary (except baggers). There are no employees at Shades of Green that are paid at the lower tipped employee rate.
Wait staff, bar staff, bell staff, cashiers, front desk, ticket office, custodial workers, grounds workers, and the like are all paid roughly the same amount (within about 50 cents, most within 10 cents).
Now, this is not up to the living wage you always hear about in the news, but wait staff, bar staff, and bell staff are not paid significantly less than others working there as they are elsewhere.
Let your conscience be your guide for tipping here, as the type of employees you would normally tip elsewhere are making the same at Shades as those you would not normally tip elsewhere. Take into account the amount and quality of personal service offered.
If you do receive exceptional service at Shades then add a small tip. But the 18 – 20 % you would leave for a tipped employee elsewhere is probably not warranted. Up to you.
Maids should probably be tipped as elsewhere, for the reason mentioned above (in WDW Maids).
And I do tip the Shady Shuttle as that can, 1 be viewed as an extra duty for them, and 2 it sure saves your feet, a big bonus at the end of a long park day!
Note: Magnolia Spa employees are not Shades of Green Employees and should be tipped for services at the 15-20% rate mentioned above.
I hope that you find this guide useful. I’ve tried to include all that’s needed.
Please share your thoughts on tipping at Disney World in the comments section below!Planning a Disney Trip? Want to get the best military discounts that are available? Feeling a little confused? See our:
- Disney Veteran & Military Discount Eligibility GuideThe Military Family’s Walt Disney World Comprehensive Vacation Planning and Preparation Guide
- Military Disney Tips Disney Packing Checklist
- Disney Military Tickets – Your Start to Finish Guide
- Resorts/Hotel Overview Page
- Dining Overview Page
- Transportation Overview Page
- Technology Overview Page
- Shades of Green, WDW’s Military Only Resort
Military Disney Tips' Recommended Disney Travel Agent
Ears of Experience Disney Only Travel Agency. Military family owned and operated! They know all the ins and outs of Disney military discounts!