Tipping is confusing to most of us at home. Travel to a place that has different currency and different customs and things can get out of hand very quickly. No one wants to appear cheap. Many of us have spent at least a few years waiting tables or otherwise working for tips. Still, neither do we want to tip more than is expected (or earned.)  Below are a few guidelines for frugal tipping when you travel:

1. Do your homework. Amid all of the pre-vacation preparations, the last thing you need is homework. However, this step can save you money. Learn the tipping customs of the country you’ll be visiting. For instance, in Europe (except for the most exclusive restaurants), a service charge is automatically added to your tab. You’re not expected to leave any additional money, although many leave coins (less than $1 equivalent) if the service is good. Check with the US tourist office of the country you’ll be visiting or consult a good guidebook, like Frommers or Fodors, at the library.  On cruises, some lines expect you to tip the room steward, dining room waiter, and busboy at the end of the cruise; others, like Holland America Line, include tips in the price of the cruise and have a “no tipping” policy. Check with your travel agent or the cruise line before you sail.

2. Know whom to tip. Just because you see someone with his (or her) hand out, doesn’t mean you have to tip them. Most frequent travelers have witnessed the rush of multiple bellmen asking for a tip while they travel from the car to the front desk. You don’t have to tip them all. Consumer Reports offers a good guide on who to tip on vacation and how much to tip them.

3. Have the right money available. If you don’t have the right change, it’s easy to spend too much on tipping. In the US, make sure you take a good supply of one-dollar bills with you when you travel. Get these ahead of time, so you’ll have money to tip the taxi driver and the bellman. If you’re traveling to an area that uses another currency, even Canada, get a small amount of that currency before you arrive. Banks in US major cities have foreign exchange desks or you can get money changed at the airport when you arrive.

Don’t be intimidated by tipping when you travel. Just give it a little thought before you depart and you won’t be caught unaware and unprepared.

How do you save on tipping when you travel?