How to split travel expenses with friends and family

Figuring out how to split travel expenses while on vacation with friends or family can be a daunting exercise. Case in point: I had just returned from a girlfriend’s vacation, where I quickly realized that my friends had more money to spend on restaurants and ride-hailing services than I did. I don’t want to be the killer who insists on skipping our French favorites for pasta cooking on our Airbnb, but I’m really worried about what my final travel bill will look like. .

Group trips can not only create stress about how much the weekend or week will be, but they can also raise many questions about who will actually pay for each meal, trip, or accommodation. stay and how others will pay them back. No one wants to overpay — even if they’re getting bonus points with their purchases.

Your desire to see family and friends, especially after being shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, can be at odds with skyrocketing travel and food costs, outpacing salary increases. your annual.

How do you agree and share travel expenses with family and friends so that everyone really enjoys their vacation and comes home and still talks to each other? Here are seven tips for handling finances on a group trip.

Discuss shared trip costs before you book

Is this a $500/person trip or a $5,000/couple trip? To prepare for success, capture the pulse of the group to determine how much they can spend on this adventure.

That is not an easy question. “We know that money topics are generally taboo,” said Sarah Foster, an analyst and economic reporter at Bankrate (a sister site of TPG). “A lot of the challenges people face when committing to traveling or going out with their friends can be solved with the general idea of ​​being comfortable talking about money.”

This is especially important if you’re planning a trip and then inviting others (such as a bachelorette party or bachelorette party). Your friends may come from very different financial situations. Provide the group with an estimate of the cost of flights, accommodation, transportation, food, and activities, and then give invited participants the opportunity to withdraw or withdraw.

And please don’t shame anyone for choosing to go debt-free for a vacation they can’t afford. The fear of missing out if they choose to stay home is painful enough; you don’t want to make your friends feel like they have to choose between financial security and their relationship with you.

Consider the room rate difference when booking


Unless you’re booking identical hotel rooms in which everyone has their own bed (or shares a bed), agree with your team on how to allocate and pay for the room fairly.

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“I am absolutely disgusted that anyone booking accommodation gets a smaller one assuming that if you’re single, you don’t need your own space or your own bed. “If everyone pays the same, everyone gets the same space/bedroom,” says Madison Blancaflor, a senior editor at TPG. She recommends scaling nightly stays unevenly, so people can pay more for a larger room or less for a smaller or shared room.

However, you should never assume that anyone can sleep on a pull-out sofa or share a bed with someone they are not married to without first asking. Even if they agree, don’t charge them the same amount as the couple in the master bedroom…unless everyone says they’re fine with the arrangement.

Also, look for vacation destinations where you can offer your group a variety of accommodations and prices while keeping everyone close together. For example, on a cruise or at a resort, a matriarch or family patriarch might book a large suite of rooms, perhaps with extra space for gatherings, while the grandchildren stay in the interior cabin or hotel rooms are smaller facing the garden instead of the ocean.

Don’t assume everyone wants to spend their vacation budget the same way

Some people travel to try the best restaurants in a destination, regardless of cost. Others prefer to dine on the cheap and spend money on experiences, such as tours or entrance fees to attractions. Your friends may want to spend the night ordering craft cocktails at various bars, while you might want to take part in a concert or theatrical performance. Or, your parents may want to pre-book every tour and every museum, while your budget allows for free or low-cost activities.

Differences in which holiday activities are valuable to you compared to your fellow travelers can lead to disagreements and hurt feelings when planning the day’s activities. It can also make some travel companions uncomfortable when they end up spending more on activities than they intended.

To avoid any awkward situations from arising, create an essential conversation about how to spend your money on vacation before your trip so you can find a compromise. Perhaps team members take turns choosing activities for the day or evening, or maybe you agree to split up at times depending on preference and budget. Sometimes a wealthier grandparent or couple is willing to subsidize a more expensive meal or activity the group wants to do so that more budget travelers don’t have to worry about the cost. You won’t know until you talk about it.

Remember good financial details

Your team may agree to split the restaurant bill, but that doesn’t mean you’ve settled on all the important details. Would you leave a 15% or 25% tip? And how do you account for bad exchange rates on withdrawals or credit card fees when making purchases abroad? No one wants to scrutinize, but it may be necessary to relieve stress on budget travelers.

Before you agree to share costs, check with your travel companions to determine how sensitive they are to price. Is the extra $5 here or there a deal breaker or are they okay with going over budget a little from time to time? Be clear about what costs will be shared and which will be borne by the individual. The only correct answer is the one that you all agree on.

Use technology to split costs more easily

“Everybody with a travel rewards credit card or accumulating rewards knows how important it is to be the first to swipe your credit card on the bill and pay the whole group. But what is often overlooked is the repayment process,” says Foster.

Splitting expenses can become a nightmare when it comes time to deal with them. Your sister lost your receipt, your boyfriend’s best friend wants you to cover his excessive beer costs, and there’s always someone you have to hunt down for months to actually pay you back.

Plus, who owes what? You don’t want to split the bill equally if everyone’s meals are priced very differently.

“It’s important to know how you split the bills on a trip and make sure no one overpays,” says Foster. If someone has a few drinks at dinner and someone else doesn’t drink at all, it’s not fair to force that person to subsidize his friend’s cocktails. “Nothing makes supposedly fun trips more awkward than the fear of someone at the table paying more than they technically spent, and then being afraid to tell. “

This is a problem, however, that technology can solve. Choose any expense breakdown app or calculator, such as Splitwise, to track expenses and find out who owes whom what. You can import expenses instantly—some let you send photos of your receipts yourself—and even define who’s responsible for splitting individual payments if it’s not the entire group at a time. The app does the math and will streamline payments so you don’t have to throw money at each other all at once.

Take turns paying for group expenses


Low-tech solutions to break down travel costs are also effective. Perhaps one person pays for all dinners and another pays for all transportation with a ride-hailing service, so it’s more obvious who needs to be paid and receipts are less likely. lost. If a traveler really wants to benefit from all those credit card rewards and doesn’t mind paying a lot of money up front, designate that person to pay all of the group’s travel expenses. That way, the remaining people only have to pay one person at the end of the trip.

Alternatively, each person can take turns paying for everything in the hope that everyone spends the same amount. Even if it’s not accurate, you won’t have to pay such large or complicated sums at the end of the trip. And everyone has a chance to earn points or miles on their credit card.

When all else fails, request a separate test

It’s easier to let one person pay the entire restaurant bill or train fare, but if you’re worried about dividing travel costs fairly, sometimes it’s better for everyone to pay for themselves. . Request separate checkouts at restaurants and have each traveler purchase their own admission ticket with cash or credit as they see fit.

Look for travel apps and providers that have the option to allow multiple people to pay in the first place. Both Uber and Airbnb allow costs to be split from the start, so everyone pays as they go instead of paying at the end.

bottom line

Breaking up vacation expenses can quickly become a stressful part of your trip if you don’t plan ahead. When more people are involved, you’ll get a lot of ideas on what budgets to have, what you should spend, and how you’ll pay for each. The single most important thing you can do to prevent arguments or financial anxiety is to open the lines of communication and talk about all money matters during the planning phase and while you’re working on it. trip.

It may feel awkward to talk about finances, but remember who you’re talking to. “Your family, your friends, they all care about you and they wouldn’t want you to go into credit card debt,” Foster said. “Everybody on the team wants the best for you. It’s just a matter of building the courage to approach the conversation.”

Once you’ve agreed on how to split the cost of your vacation, you can get to the things that matter most — enjoying the trip and spending time together as a group.


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