Tips & Gratuities

Thank you for joining us on a photographic tour. As part of our tours, we have  truly top-notch instructional teams. The team is there to serve you and will do anything they can to make your tour the most incredible experience it can be. Please never hesitate to ask any questions or for any help!

Clients always ask about tipping guidelines and suggestions. With that in mind, we have placed this guideline for you to use. This is totally at your discretion and a suggested amount. You are of course welcome to do more if you desire and know that these guys truly appreciate it and will do all they can to help you with anything on this tour!

For a tour of 5-7 days, we find the average person as a photographer , tends to give $50-$75 per photographer to each instructor  not including David and Ally.  For longer tours and International tours, usually $75-$100. These are good suggested amounts.  Please do not feel any pressure if you are unable to do so. But if you are and find that you appreciate these guys and all the extras they will do, they will greatly appreciate the generosity. Please do not give David and Ally any tips. They would prefer anything to go directly to the team.

As a reminder, on tours, it is also customary to tip guides, drivers and those that are there to help. Amounts are entirely at the discretion of each guest however, suggestions will be made based on suggested amounts we are given by our partner tour operators in various locations. 

More Info on why our tipping policies are the way they are and a few other thoughts!
We receive a LOT of thoughts and feedback on tipping from clients. It seems that the amount of opinions on it are as varied as the weather! Here is a well thought out question that came our way and a response to those questions to help people understand our policies. We understand the thoughts on tipping can be very sensitive and for us it is as well. There is a lot that goes into why our policies are the way they are. If you are interested, this will help clarify in a very honest approach to why we have the polices we have in place. Personally, we as a company also work to be generous in our own tipping to vendors and those we work with as well.

Thoughts and Questions from a client in regards to tipping.

This was well thought out in asking and we felt it would be helpful to share this information and our response for people to better understand our policies.

Q. I’ve been thinking about a couple of things and wanted to share them with you and get your thoughts/perspective on them. When I look at the cost of the trips, the flight(s) and tipping, drivers and instructors, it gets expensive.

A. Yes, it does and I understand. Yet travel in small groups with professional instructors is more cost for sure as well. Well sometimes. As an example, our Iceland tour would be VERY difficult to do on your own for less. This is the same with a number of our tours actually for what you get. Hotels in Iceland run $700-$800 a night as an example where we stay and dinner
can run well over $75 for one dinner at a hotel.

Q. Tipping: I think the tipping of the drivers should be part of the cost of the trip. Among other things, it means having the right amount of money every day we travel. I’ve been on trips with National Geographic, BackRoads, Road Scholars and Overseas Adventure Travel. Tipping was included in the cost. Overseas used to, but enough participants complained so Overseas took care of it.

Regarding tipping the photography staff (minus you and Ally) can be sensitive, not for not wanting to show appreciation. Sometimes it’s a matter of money, based on the number of people to tip. Neither National Geographic or BackRoads recommended tipping. Overseas suggests that at the end of the trip, participants might want to collectively purchase something nice, but it doesn’t have to be expensive, for the staff, as a token of appreciation and remembrance of the trip. Of course, all gratuities are welcome and usually split between the staff.

A. We have tried many varieties of all of this and no matter what we do, people complain or disagree. We tried tipping added in and people thought “well we want to tip what we want”…mostly more, but some people didn’t. Tipping as you said is VERY VERY sensitive and VERY HARD for us to handle sometimes. Keep in mind that larger companies such as Overseas ( I know personally who started that company) would do this, but the reality was the tipping was not very generous. That is not good.

In our view, those attending a tour or being a part of any service business, should expect tipping to be part of the equation when they are planning whether they can afford to go or not.

It’s just not an easy situation no matter how you slice it and believe me, we have tried it all sorts of ways. But I think the biggest thing in all this is to understand we are not a Nat Geo or RoadScholar type company in many ways and nor do we want to be that big or operate on that scale.

We like our business to be very personal as you can tell. We are VERY involved with each and every client on a different level than just business. For MPA, having people just choose on their own has worked the best. If someone doesn’t want to tip, that is also their prerogative. When all is said and done, our goal is to work as hard as we can to give our clients the best photography tour and instruction there is. We love our team and they always go out of their way for everyone. You will find that for sure.

We DO ask our clients to be generous especially with our guides as they work so very hard for people and their living wages are not much. As far as our instructors, these guys are subcontractors and a lot comes into play here as well. MOST Photography tour companies, if they employ an instructor, have to adhere to the 8-hour rule, breaks, overtime laws, etc. Trust me as I have had to do this in the past including overtime when an instructor is simply flying on a plane! Our tour price would go up substantially if we had to keep doing that and we had to pay per hour and all that goes with this.

We have amazing instructors, total pros that run their own businesses as well, are eager to please everyone, will work and give you all they can many days well over 8 hours, and so yes, we feel they should be tipped. Honestly, it is the only way we can make it work.

So for MPA, we had to make decisions and have tried MANY options. No matter what we do, some people feel one way and others another.

We have found that when we include the tip in the advertised tour price, the price of the tour obviously goes up, then many people say this is too expensive as they do not consider that as part of the cost.  A current example, last year I priced the Winter Yellowstone up just $300 to include tipping our guides and our instructors, people thought it was too expensive. I dropped the price back
down and it sold out in a day. YET, they still spent the same and maybe even a bit more when all was said and done!

For Tanzania, in the past, we offered to have people pre-pay tips as an option in their price…..only about 15% of the people wanted to and then most people actually tipped far above what the pre tip price we gave them was.

International Issues:
Other issues we have as a smaller company is we would have far too much cash on us which is not smart and we are only allowed to carry so much with us BY LAW.

Keep in mind as we are a small private company unlike the companies you mentioned above, (which are very large) it is far different for us with legalities and lots of reasons most consumers are not aware of. Most people do not realize that. This is because so many tour operators have abused those funds and pocketed portions for themselves unfortunately.  Plus, we have to declare
certain amounts of cash when we enter a country. Every dollar that comes in as a tour dollar has to be accounted for by law, INCLUDING tips. Believe me when I say that also creates more issues, bookkeeping, time etc. Even keeping track of where each dollar went to each guide etc!

The way we are doing it actually keeps your overall cost of a tour down when all is said and done, although you may not see that when you are handing out tips. But again if incorporated into the tour price, you would easily be paying the same and actually a bit more.

I think there is a lot of ways to look at it. But to be honest, we keep our prices very reasonable for what we do and also for the fact we bring instructors with such a great client ratio. So many photography tour companies do 12-15 guests and 1 instructor. We feel that people would much rather spend the same on a tour but get far better photography instruction but have found the only way to do that and see our team get taken care of, is to have people tip. As I have mentioned, trying to include that, within the price, presents and has presented A LOT of obstacles for us in the past.

Q. Thoughts?

A. Hopefully, this helps clarify why we do it the way we do. I have tried to be very detailed and take time as much as I could so there is an understanding. I think the realities are that no matter what we do, someone has varying opinions on it, so we have done what we feel is the best option and we have seen work the best as a whole. – David