If you’ve never used valet parking before, you likely believe that it’s as easy to do as it is in movies and TV shows, which usually involves someone getting out of the car, tossing their keys to the valet, and strolling into the hotel or restaurant.
However, it’s essential to understand that valet parking is much different and can take some time to get used to, depending on where you are going and if you have ever worked with a valet before.
In fact, most Americans have not used valet parking before, so the chances are that you could feel a bit awkward when pulling up to the valet podium.
To avoid making mistakes during this process, the following guide details everything you need to know about valet parking as well as valet parking etiquette.
What Is Valet Parking & How Does It Work?
Valet parking is a premium service that’s typically available at upscale restaurants, airports, clubs, and hotels.
When you use this service, parking valets will park your vehicle when you arrive and retrieve it whenever you leave the destination.
While valet parking often costs more, it is a great way to away the hassle of finding a parking space on your own and can make for a very convenient amenity at the club or restaurant that you’re visiting.
Plus, you can save time if you are with a group of people since you won’t have to run into the rain or drop-off and pick-up anyone from the front door.
When you arrive at your destination, you’ll provide one of the parking valets with your keys, after which you will receive a claim ticket.
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Once you’re ready to leave, you must have your claim ticket on hand to retrieve your vehicle. It’s a straightforward process as long as you know what to expect.
Preparing to Park With a Valet
When you’re preparing to park with a valet, it’s highly recommended that you clean the car and tidy up somewhat.
If the vehicle is dirty, consider taking it through a quick car wash. You should also pick up any junk inside the car to save yourself from embarrassment.
Among the most important tips, valet parking is that you have some cash on hand to provide to the valet when you arrive at and leave from your destination.
This means that you should carry around twenty dollars worth of singles and five dollar bills to cover the cost of parking and tips.
The good news is that some valet parking services have apps for secure payment, but you don’t want to be in a situation where you use the valet service only to find out that you don’t have enough cash to provide them with a tip.
While many valet services allow customers to pay with a card, you should still have some cash with you to make sure that you’re always prepared!
Valet Parking Etiquette When Dropping Off Your Car
Parking valets are known to work very fast to ensure an efficient valet operation, which means that you don’t want to be the person who holds up the service by not knowing what to do when you drop off your car.
When you arrive at a drop-off zone, make sure that you’re paying attention to other cars and the valet team working in the receiving area.
When a restaurant or club is busy, the parking valets may be directing traffic, which means that you’ll need to respond quickly to their directions.
While you should react quickly, it’s also essential that you drive slowly since other cars will be entering and exiting the receiving area by the valet parking team. This area can be identified by unique parking cones, flags, or other items near the entrance.
Before you get out of your vehicle, make sure that you place any valuable possessions in your pockets or in the trunk of your car.
Don’t forget your phone, purse, and wallet when you exit your car. You should also leave your vehicle running to make sure that the attendant doesn’t have difficulty starting your vehicle.
If your car comes with a remote control fab, this should also be provided to the parking valet. Be sure to tell your valet attendee if your car has a faulty door latch or overly sensitive alarm. These types of quirks should be shared with your valet before they take your car for the evening.
It’s also essential that you keep track of your claims ticket, which is among the most critical tips valet parking that you can follow. Otherwise, it can take longer for your vehicle to be retrieved. You might also want to think about providing the parking valet with a tip.
Valet Parking Etiquette When Picking Up Your Car
While the valet parking etiquette for dropping off your vehicle is essential, it’s also imperative that you adhere to this etiquette when picking up your vehicle.
It’s highly recommended that you call ahead before you want to pick up your vehicle. If the valet lot is a significant distance away, calling ahead will allow your vehicle to be ready when you arrive. Consider calling around 10-15 minutes in advance of your departure.
Even if you’ve called ahead and your vehicle is already available, it’s essential that you wait in line and allow the customers in front of you to go first. Once your car is ready, it’s recommended that you check it for any stolen items or damage.
If you only discover these issues after you’ve left, it can be tough to prove that the valet was responsible. Even if your valet service is completely free, you should tip the parking valet who retrieves your car.
How Much Do You Tip a Valet?
If you’re wondering “how much do you tip a valet?”, the answer is that the right amount of tips valet parking depends on the location and the quality of the service. In general, you should expect to tip the valet driver around $2-$5.
If the parking rates are high, the tip you provide should also be towards the more top end of this range. The valet will expect a bigger tip if you drive a luxury car, or if you are in a high-end location.
If the valet is rude or the level of service is below your standards, you can tip around $2 without feeling obligated to provide more.
Keep in mind that you don’t exactly need to tip the valet every time your vehicle is retrieved or dropped off. If you leave your hotel several times each day, you likely only need to tip once.
However, the valet will be parking and retrieving your car multiple times, which means that you may want to go ahead and provide a higher tip regardless of common etiquette.
By following this guide and the tips valet parking contained within, you should be able to go through this process without making a mistake, which will allow you to save both time and money.