Tips on Splitting Costs on a Group Vacation

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Chances are, you’re ready to get out of town with friends or family. No doubt, you’re beyond excited for a long-overdue trip, but vacationing with those outside your household requires a lot of planning — especially when it comes to finances.

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Whether you’re renting a vacation home together — which likely means a common fridge — sharing a hotel room or making lots of reservations for group dinners out, everyone needs to be on the same page budget-wise.

Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, said having a preemptive conversation about expenses before you even choose a destination is a must.

“People’s expectations for vacations can vary widely based both on their budget and on their experiences growing up,” she said. “Some may love five-star hotels with room service, while others feel camping under the stars and cooking over a campfire is ideal.”

In addition to costs, Smith also said you should discuss expectations for duration, mode of transportation and which person will serve as the coordinator.

Make Your Money Work for You

“Before the planner books anything, an email should be sent with the estimated costs, dates (and) logistics, and everyone should agree in the affirmative,” she said. “If possible, try to have everyone pay for their own portion instead of having the planner have to play banker as well.”

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Andrea Woroch, a nationally recognized money-saving expert, writer and speaker, agreed that one person should be designated to manage the finances. However, she recommended coming to an agreement as a group on when the coordinator will be repaid.

“This way, everyone can send their share directly during or at the end of the trip — based on what works best for your group,” she said. “This often takes the stress and complications out of trying to coordinate multiple IOUs from different people in your party.”

No matter how carefully you plan out your group travel budget, it’s possible you’ll end up feeling like you’re paying more than your fair share. Smith said to call a group meeting as soon as possible, if you start to feel this way.

Make Your Money Work for You

“It is better to do this while you are all still together,” she said. “Without pointing fingers, explain the additional costs and discuss how to best handle the payment.”

She said dinners out are a common situation where this could occur.

“One person orders a soup and salad and someone else orders the most expensive thing on the menu,” she said. “If you are on a very tight budget, you should speak up.”

If you’re not sure what to say, Smith recommended remaining pleasant, but opting for a matter-of-fact statement like “I am happy to cover my meal, with tax and tip, but I am unable to underwrite your dinner.”

No matter which side of the spending equation you’re on, Woroch advised saving receipts throughout your trip.

“Even with the best travel cost-splitting plans, you may run into a few moments that don’t go the way you expected or (have) unexpected expenses (that) popped up — such as a few rounds of beach-side margaritas at happy hour,” she said. “It’s a good idea to tell everyone in your group to save any receipts from shared purchases, so that at the end of the trip you can go through them to figure out if there are any outstanding costs you may need to split.”

Make Your Money Work for You

A vacation should be a relaxing time to make memories with loved ones. The last thing you want is for your trip to be tainted because you feel like costs weren’t split equally.

If you’re comfortable enough to vacation with these people, you should also feel at ease enough to have open and honest discussions about trip budgets. Having these conversations before your vacation, and as needed during the trip, can help ensure the experience isn’t tainted by resentment over financial issues.

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About the Author

Jennifer Taylor is a West Coast-based freelance writer with more than a decade of experience writing about anything and everything. Since earning her MBA, personal finance has been her favorite topic, as she’s passionate about writing stories that educate, inform and empower. Specifically, she specializes in budgeting, debt repayment, savings and retirement.
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