How to travel on a budget with friends (and not fight)

Budgets are hard enough to manage on your own, so imagine the nightmare if you have to do it with friends who each have their own spending habits.

Certainly, some friends make things easier. In fact, there are friends who are generous enough to foot the bill that we become too comfortable to the point that we may already be enjoying it.

But there are those who make it a real challenge. Friends who don’t offer to pay their share, or who make many promises to pay but don’t, or who just assume someone will cover their bill.

To manage those awkward financial situations while traveling with your close friends, heed these tips so you can all have a great time, especially when planning a trip this summer as many destinations begin to open up to tourists.

#1 Pick a Money App Everyone Can Use

Thanks to mobile wallets, you can now get your money back in seconds. Before your trip, make sure everyone has access to a mobile wallet or online payment method that will make it easier to split bills as you go. If you have someone in your party who doesn’t have a mobile or online payment method, offer to “manage” it for them. They can give you money and you will track their expenses on the trip. I would suggest requesting money up front rather than later, so your own budget doesn’t suffer. It’s always more difficult to recover at the end of the trip, so it’s better to start on the right foot.

#2 Offer “group” help when needed

The key word in this advice is “group”. One or two friends may not have enough money to pay for the trip, so it’s up to your party to decide how to handle this. Maybe other members can take turns sponsoring meals per day? Or do you offer to share a room and share the cost with all other members? It is important for your wallet that you do not carry this burden, unless your income is 2x or 3x compared to everyone else in the group. But even then, it’s good to give others the opportunity to help as well. It will also make it easier for that friend to accept help, coming from the whole group instead of being beholden to just one or two people.

#3 Agree on what the “group” expenses will be

Just because you’re traveling together doesn’t mean everyone has to share every bill. Before you leave, appoint one or two fund managers in the group who will take care of the plans, including where you will stay, what activities you will do together and where to eat your meals. Group meals prepared where you will be staying will help reduce your total expenses. It should be acceptable to include food or groceries as group expenses and split them. The same goes for housing. But when it comes to activities, let members have their say on what they like to do. It’s not fair that everyone pays for bungee jumping while some are afraid of heights and would prefer not to.

#4 Encourage members to pay for their own guilty pleasures

Some like to snack so they can pack chips and bring them to enjoy and share. Some have special diets, so they may need to prepare their own meals. Some like to drink so they can bring their own bottle or two or more and not split that bill with all the members, especially if you have friends who don’t drink or are happy with just a drink or two. Remember, you travel together to enjoy each other’s company, so the less stress on your wallets and the less you have to worry about who should pay what, the better it is for everyone to have fun.

#5 Scout for group discounts

Family or group discounts can save you up to 70% if you know where to look. Plan your trip as early as possible and ask everyone to search for bargains. There are online deals and even offline deals from travel agents who want to do business while COVID-19 cases are under control. If you have a credit card that will earn you points as well as cash back and an exclusive discount on a travel package, tell your friends and share the savings too. This will make it easier for others on a budget to participate.

The bottom line

Planning a vacation with friends is no easy task, but it can be much easier when you deal with tricky financial situations before the trip. There’s a common thread running through all the advice – and that’s being open about each other’s situation and expectations. When that’s settled, you can all be ready to have some fun on your getaway.

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Warning: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ABS-CBN Corp.

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