Tipping the Attendant in Your Sleeper.
I’m constantly asked about how much to tip Sleeping Car Attendants—and no wonder, because there’s almost nothing about tipping in printed materials put out by Amtrak. But first, let’s start with a review of a sleeping car attendant’s duties.
He should greet you on the platform, check off your name on his manifest, direct you to your accommodations, and offer to help with your luggage.
Shortly after the train departs, he should stop by your room, introduce himself, and conduct a brief orientation, pointing out the light switches, the call button, the electrical outlet and the A/C vent. He’ll also tell you in which direction you’ll find the dining and lounge cars, and he will advise you about the dining car schedule.
In the morning, as you leave your room and head to the diner for breakfast, close the door to your room, but pull the curtain back so the attendant can see that you’re not in the room. When you return from breakfast, you should find the room once again configured for daytime travel.
If you prefer to take a meal in your accommodations, the attendant will take your order and bring your food to your room.
Without being obtrusive, he should look in on you once or maybe twice a day just to see if you need anything.
When the train is 15 or 20 minutes from your station, the attendant should check to be sure you’re ready to leave the train. And he should offer to help with your luggage. In my book, that’s the sign of a good car attendant.
OK, so what to tip? Well, assuming your car attendant has been conscientious throughout the trip, my recommendation is a minimum—and I stress it’s a minimum—of $5.00 per day, per person. So if two of you were on the Southwest Chief for two nights, that’s a tip of at least $20 when you get to your destination. Increase the tip substantially for really good service and a genuinely cheerful attitude and, of course, tip an additional $5.00 or so each time you elect to have a meal brought to your room.
I like rewarding a good car attendant because it’s a tough job with a lot of physical work and often very little sleep for as much as six or seven days in a row. Bottom line: if you’re uncertain, err on the side of generosity.