How To Handle Costs When Canceling on a Group Trip at the Last Minute

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Group trips are a great way to rekindle friendships and meet new people, all while exploring a beautiful location and indulging in delicious food. As much fun as these trips can be, planning them with a large group can be stressful and challenging. Often, there are several costs being split, and one person canceling at the last minute can make the trip significantly more expensive for the other attendees.

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To help address these concerns and provide you with the tools and travel insight you need, we turn to travel experts to share the best practices for going about planning a group trip and how to bow out respectfully.

Check Your Budget Before Committing

Before sending the text in the group chat committing to the group travel plans, be sure to check your budget and ensure that you can afford the trip and want to participate. When checking your finances, consider the unfortunate situation where you might need to cancel due to illness or an unforeseen emergency and make sure you can still afford to pay your share, even if you can no longer go.

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If You Need To Cancel, Notify Everyone ASAP

As soon as you realize you can no longer go on the trip, the first thing you want to do is let the group know.

“If you have to cancel on a group trip at the last minute, the first thing you should do is notify everyone immediately,” said Kristin Lee, travel expert and owner of the travel blog Global Travel Escapades. “This is the most courteous thing to do, as it gives everyone as much notice as possible, and your decision affects everyone else.”

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Always Offer To Pay Your Portion

Despite how frustrating it might seem to pay for a trip you are no longer going on, the best etiquette in this situation is to always be ready and willing to pay your part.

“You should always offer to pay your share of the trip that has already been booked — housing, planned excursions, etc. — regardless of what the reason is that you can no longer attend,” Lee said.

Make Your Money Work for You

Fred Baker, senior travel editor for the travel blog Travelness, agrees that the polite thing to do is to pay for any expenses that have already been prebooked.

“The main thing you should be prepared to pay for is the cost of the trip itself, as well as any non-refundable deposits or fees,” he said. “You may also be responsible for paying for any additional costs incurred by the group, such as lodging or transportation. Ultimately, it is important to read over your policy and contract carefully to understand your financial responsibility in the event of a cancellation.”

Remember that on these trips, it’s your friends who suffer if you cancel; be considerate of their financial situation by offering to pay your share.

“Since you’re the person causing the rest of the group the inconvenience, you should carry the burden of paying your portion,” Lee said. “The rest of the group was counting on you and likely factored the amount you would be paying into their share of the expenses.”

Make Your Money Work for You

A couple of costs you won’t have to worry about if you cancel include paying for food, experiences and rental cars or ride-share vehicles.

Don’t Try To Avoid Paying

Always offer to pay to avoid coming across as rude. After all, you may want to be invited on future group trips. You want to make sure the trip is still within everyone else’s budget, even if you can no longer go.

“If you try to avoid paying and then make the trip more expensive for everyone else, there’s a chance that the trip becomes unaffordable for other members of the group,” Lee said. “By offering to still pay your share of what has been booked already, the group has the option of evaluating what the new expenses might be and either accepting your offer or kindly refusing.”

What If You Get COVID-19 or Have an Emergency?

You might be more hesitant to pay your share if you have to bow out due to illness or a family emergency versus if you simply no longer want to go.

“Even if you have COVID or another good reason to bail on the trip, it’s your friend, not an airline who is footing the bill, so you should still pay them back unless they said it’s OK,” said Katie Caf, travel expert and owner of Katie Caf Travel, a travel blog that creates travel guides for locations around the world.

Coming out of the pandemic, it’s likely that many airlines and lodging locations still have refunds and regulations in place to help out travelers who had a trip planned but ended up getting sick. Be sure to check out these opportunities to help lighten your load if you have to cancel. Either way, whether a family emergency happens or you get sick with COVID-19, it’s common courtesy to still offer to pay your share.

Try To Get Your Money Back

Despite the reason for canceling the trip, always try to get as much money back as you can. If you have to cancel for COVID-19 or an emergency, you might be eligible for a pretty hefty refund from major airlines and hotels as long as you inform them of the situation.

If you’re canceling for other reasons, you can save on paying back your friends by seeking out someone else interested in taking the trip who can absorb your travel fees. This is the most ideal way to bow out of travel plans at the last minute without you or your friends being burdened by financial stress.

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About the Author

Maddie Duley is a content intern for ConsumerTrack writing about finances for GOBankingRates. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in communication and design from the University of California Davis.
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