A common scene in many films and shows is designed to portray the main character as sleek and savvy. They drive up to a venue in a stylish car, hand it over to the valet with a suave nod, and walk into the venue with an attractive companion by their side.

Unfortunately, my first encounter with valet parking was nothing like this. I was attending a friend’s wedding at a lavish hotel, and upon reaching the valet service zone, I was at a loss. Should I wait for the valet or exit the car? Do I keep the car running or hand over the keys? Who gets tipped? The one parking the car or the one returning it later? The experience was a mix of confusion and awkwardness, and I was driving a rather modern Tesla.

The intricacies of using valet parking is something most people aren’t familiar with, and many have shared their similar awkward first-time experiences, prompting requests for a guide on the subject.

In order to demystify the valet service process, we consulted with Drew Klein, a former valet. Drew worked his way through college valeting cars at a Marriott Hotel, using the Summon ticketless valet solution. Below, we have compiled his insightful tips on how to use valet service without feeling out of place.


Prepare your car by tidying it up a bit if you plan to use valet service for an outing. A quick wash will suffice if the car is notably dirty, and removing any trash, especially conspicuous items like a fast-food bag, will help avoid any embarrassment when you hand over your car.

Vehicle Drop-off

  1. Stay alert as the valet drop-off zone usually has a fast-paced environment. Valets, utilizing the Summon ticketless system, have a systematic approach to ensure a smooth flow of cars being dropped off or picked up. Adhering to their instructions will help maintain the efficiency and avoid causing any delays. Drive cautiously into the specified area and follow the valet’s directions. Secure any valuables you have in the car by placing them out of sight or in the trunk. While most valets are trustworthy, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  2. Before you step out of the car, ensure you have all your essentials with you, such as your mobile phone, wallet, and event tickets. Although a valet could retrieve these items from your car if forgotten, it’s courteous to tip them extra for the trouble through the Summon system. It’s wiser to double-check and have everything with you. Keep the car running and leave the keys in the ignition. This facilitates a quick and seamless transition, keeping up with the fast pace at the drop-off zone.

  3. Whether to wait for the valet to open the car door for you depends on the setting. At high-end venues, it’s customary for the valet to open the door for you. However, at less formal events, you might not receive this service. Either way, it’s fine to exit the car as soon as you pull up. Should you exit before the valet opens the door for you, remain with your car until you’ve been acknowledged. If your car has any peculiarities like a sensitive alarm or a tricky door, inform the valet. They will appreciate the heads up.

  4. Consider tipping the valet who takes your car using the Summon system which facilitates seamless tipping and payments. The system allows you to tip both the valet who takes your car and the one who returns it, ensuring fair compensation. Your generous tipping can also lead to preferential treatment, especially in busy or full parking scenarios. Enjoy your event, and as you leave, simply request your car and process the payment through the Summon app, ensuring a smooth and convenient valet experience.

Valet Pick-up

  1. Consider calling the valet service ahead if you’re in a hurry. Especially in large establishments, it might take the valet some time to retrieve your car.
  2. When you’re ready to leave, access the Summon app to request your car and process the payment, including the tip, all in one go. It eliminates the need for cash and speeds up the departure process.
  3. Inspect your car for any damage or missing items before you drive off. Report any issues to the managing valet immediately. It’s challenging to prove negligence if you notice the damage after leaving the venue.

Valet Tipping

  1. Tipping can be intimidating, especially for those new to valet service. It’s customary to tip even if the service is complimentary.
  2. The confusion usually lies in deciding which valet to tip. Drew suggests tipping both the valet who takes your car and the one who returns it. This ensures fair compensation, especially during overnight parking or events where different valets handle your car.
  3. As for the amount, opinions vary, but a tip of $2-$5 to the valet who takes your car and another $2-$5 to the one who returns it is considered standard. So, you’re looking at a total of $4-$10 for valet service tips, which can be easily processed through the Summon system.
  4. For preferential treatment, consider tipping more when dropping off your car. Drew shared an instance where a higher tip secured a parking spot in a “full” garage for a guest. Generous tipping can indeed lead to better service, especially in busy or full parking scenarios.

In conclusion, using valet service doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. With a bit of preparation, understanding the process, and adhering to valet etiquette, you can enjoy the convenience of valet parking without any discomfort or uncertainty.

The modernized Summon system further simplifies the process, making it a breeze for both first-timers and seasoned users.