The Ambidextrous Travel Writer

The Ambidextrous Travel Writer:

The Ambidextrous Travel Writer is a monthly advice column for travel writers & bloggers, written by author Susan Farewell.

Going Someplace? Bring Money.

travel writers, don't forget to tip!
5 September 2011 Post Author:
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About a year ago, I was on a press trip with three other journalists.

Our driver did a yeoman’s job of taking us places to get great stories and really amazing photographs.

He personally went out of his way many times for us, taking group pictures, working very long days, even lugging one writer’s camera equipment over muddy terrain.

When it came time to discuss a tip, two of the three other writers simply refused to contribute.

Don’t assume every single expense will be picked up by the host.

When I asked them why, they both dismissed it by saying they never tip on press trips.

Our stories are the tips,” one said. “Really?” I asked. “For the spa treatments too? And what about the housekeeping staff?” One assured me that she always leaves change for the person who cleans her room.

But then the real reason came out.

I don’t have any euros.” one said. The other admitted she didn’t even have dollars in her wallet. It astonished me to learn that they were both traveling with no cash they could use in the country we were visiting.

Before this, I had never heard of a travel writer traveling with no cash, assuming every single expense would be picked up by the host. These two were extreme.

But their cheapness raises a question.

Yes, as travel writers we often benefit from the hospitality of the countries we are visiting. But does that exempt us from even considering tipping the individuals that help us along the way? And what about the other expenses of travel that pop up? Do travel writers expect every single cup of coffee to be paid for? And what happens if you get separated from the group? Who will pay for you then?

If you cannot spend a couple hundred dollars for a week or two of a press trip, maybe it’s time to consider whether you should be going at all.

To be hosted is one thing. To be completely taken care of like a child is another.

~ Susan

How do you handle incidental expenses on a press trip? Share your advice!


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7 Responses to “Going Someplace? Bring Money.”

  1. I’ve actually run into a few other travel writers who honestly think that a hosted trip means they don’t have to pay for anything…..they don’t bother to consider that a lot of the folks taking caring of them rely on tips that aren’t being covered if they don’t…..I find that sad and offensive.

    But interestingly I’ve also found that there are a number of travelers who don’t think about bringing small bills – even in US Dollars if they can’t be bothered to get some of the local currency in a foreign country – and they don’t bother tipping at all….perhaps they just don’t realize that tipping is a global custom, not solely an American one….or maybe they’re just plain cheap……whatever the reason, it’s no wonder that many other cultures consider Americans in general to be cheap. Maybe that’s why I generally always tip well – I feel a need to overcompensate.

  2. Michelle
    Twitter:
    says:

    I always have to tip – I’ve worked too many service-orientated jobs not to. Many service jobs people work for less than minimum wage, because it’s expected they’ll make up the difference in tips. Even if you’re hosted, don’t shortchange the workers by not tipping. That’s just rude. I always figure $20 a day minimum to carry when on a press trip.

    I was on a trip years ago where one woman not only didn’t tip the waitress, but proceeded to write a long note detailing all the things the server “did wrong” as an explanation of why she didn’t tip. I was mortified and told that woman so. I then refused to sit at the same table with her the rest of the press trip.

    • Excellent point! I think a LOT of folks don’t realize that service people often are paid far less than minimum wage, and taxed on “expected” tips to boot! I also worked as a waitress many years ago and know firsthand how tough of a job it can be, another reason I overcompensate for the poor tippers.

      But OMG, someone who actually wrote the server a note detailing what she thought that server did wrong? That is, in my opinion, an example of extremely bad manners. I hope that someday she gets slapped with a list of her own shortcomings, which I can only imagine must be a long list.

  3. JoAnna
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is an incredibly important conversation to have. I am constantly blown away by how many travel writers do not tip! I’m tempted to believe that most people just assume the tips are being picked up by the hosts, but I *always* ask, and when I don’t know, I leave a tip. Perhaps it would help if PR folks specifically stated outright pre-trip that tips are not covered and journalists should be prepared to tip. Then it’s explicitly stated.

    • That’s a good suggestion……and I know it’s spelled out in the guidelines for press trips organized by the IFWTWA, but it would be nice if more PR folks and trip hosts would make that clear to writers. But I do think that writers should ask, if it isn’t clear, and assume that it’s up to them to be prepared to tip otherwise.

  4. Jody
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am completely baffled that people wouldn’t tip on a press trip- it never crossed my mind not to. In fact, I usually leave a bit more because I am hosted.

    While it would certainly be helpful to know if tips are expected I also know that many workers go out of their way for hosted guests- and I want to thank them for the service.

  5. A lot of it depends on the country you are visiting too. In some of the Asians they think tipping is very rude. They think that you are telling them they are poor and need the extra money. If only that were the case in North America :p

    However, that is still not an excuse not to have cash of the local currency with you. For practical purposes you are correct, always have at least 100 Euro or $ worth of their local currency with you at all times.

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