Traveling abroad with your best friends can be the most fun experience there is. However, it can also become nightmarish if not done right. Getting on the same page with the finances from the get-go is key to avoiding uncomfortable situations.
Luckily, there are some strategies and tools you can use to minimize these headaches and also keep your wallet happy. Here are some of the best ways that you can split costs and save money while group traveling.
1. Plan beforehand
One of the worst things you can do to your wallet is to begin your vacation without a plan. Instead, grab your travel buddies and begin to craft a game plan in order to budget accordingly and minimize costs. This is where you and your friends can explore the cheapest options when it comes to transport, activities, and accommodation before they are all too expensive - or worse - fully booked on the day.
This also gives your group the chance to be transparent about everyone’s budget which leads us to the next point and arguably one of the most important factors: managing expectations.
2. Be transparent & manage expectations
It’s important to let everyone know your budget and what things you expect from the trip. Not everyone will have the same budget, and some may want to spend more or less than you during your travels.
Because of this, you’ll need to either get on the same page, or accept that you won’t all do the exact same things. Not everyone has the same salary, personalities, or interests, and not everyone wants to eat the same food, do every activity, or party until dawn. While it sounds paradoxical, having structure can also let you embrace the flexibility of your vacation. Structure should be used to help you, not tie you down!
During this phase, everyone needs to be honest and open about how much they are willing to spend. If there is a big discrepancy between two people within the same group, you can group friends into budget tiers so they can split off and plan things more suited to their finances.
An example of this in action is going on a tour of a historic site. Some may want to pay for a standard entry ticket, whereas others may be more willing to spend more to upgrade to a guide and other add-ons. In the end, everyone is in the same place together but each person gets to see what they want while not compromising their budget.
3. Embrace “to each to their own”
Embrace the fact that you may not do absolutely everything together. Doing different things means that not everyone will be spending the same amount of money, and that’s okay. Just because you’re all going on holiday together doesn’t mean that you’re stuck together with glue.
One person may want to hop on a zipline, go scuba diving, or take part in a cooking course, whereas another may simply want to lie on the beach and read their book. Even though you’ve traveled to your destination as a group, you don’t need to be tyrannical about what everyone does. Although planning major outings is important, flexibility in between is needed to give everyone space to breathe.
4. Establish a rule to split costs
It’s imperative for the survival of your friendship that you’re consistent with the cost-splitting method! This may sound like an exaggeration, but if there’s no consistent system in place, arguments will definitely arise.
It’s best to establish a rule before you go rather than mid-way through your holiday when you’ve already lost track of who has spent how much on what. This is when the headaches come in: where one friend has completely forgotten that they didn’t pay for something and temperatures rise among the group because they think one is purposely swindling the other.
Some ways you can manage payments include:
- Divide everything evenly: split bills in even portions the whole way through. This is only helpful if the group has similar budgets and plans to spend around the same amount.
- Pay for yourself separately: This can be the most direct way of approaching payments on your holiday. It’s clear and simple - everyone pays for their own meals, travel, accommodation, and activities. Separate checks for all!
- Have everyone foot the bill for a major ticket item of similar value: If it works out that things like the travel, accommodation, and meals are estimated to be about the same overall price, everyone can pick a category and pay all the associated costs. Keep the receipts so you can compare notes at the end to ensure everything is fair.
- Have one person to pay upfront: Designate one group member to pay for the accommodation or meals, for example, while the others send money to that person, whether through mobile banking or in cash.
5. Use expense tracking or budgeting apps
You are likely to be spending money frequently on your holiday, and it’s unlikely that it will be the same person paying for everything. By having a money tracking app, you will be able to keep tabs on your group’s expenditure from the first day to the last.
Apps such as Splitwise can be a lifesaver when it comes to tracking who has spent what, and who owes who money. On the app, you can create groups featuring multiple people for a designated subject or event, i.e. this holiday!
Along the journey, you may realize that you owe your friend $50, so you decide to buy their next two meals, for example.
6. Find and negotiate group discounts
One of the benefits of being in a bigger group is that you may be able to pay less per person through group discounts. A tour guide may want a minimum of $50 to complete a tour, for example, and if you’ve got 5 people in your group, you can reach the minimum with each person paying less. If you’ve opted for an Airbnb which has 8 beds, then the more people you have, the cheaper your accommodation will be.
Aside from the benefits of splitting costs between more people, the price of many group activities such as tours can be negotiated, especially when you have a group of people paying per head. These workers who are catering to tourists are flexible when it comes to negotiating, and of course, they will try to maximize their profits.
However, haggling culture varies from one place to another. Be sure to research haggling in your destination, because while travelers may encourage others to haggle for around 40% off on products, another culture may not be so flexible when it comes to negotiation.
Additionally, you should explore deals online to split costs and save money. Booking.com will offer group rates, for example. Certain airlines, such as Vietnam Airlines and Thai Airways, for example, offer a discount for groups who are traveling together as long as they meet the minimum threshold.
Read more: Strategies for Booking Cheap Flights
7. Get creative with transportation
If you are unable to find group discounts for your transportation abroad, don’t feel the need to take the same method of transportation to your destination if you find cheaper alternatives. If you’re willing to take the slightly longer route in order to save more money, be sure to do so if that’s your priority.
Airlines, accommodations, and booking sites will sometimes offer you airport pickup for a certain fee. While this can make things easier and eliminate the search for a taxi and your hotel, you may find it cheaper to book an Uber yourself or take a bus once you arrive in-country. While it may take a bit more effort and preparation, it can save a significant amount of money.
When visiting sites, landmarks, or traveling to a different part of the country, an effective way to save money is to take a bus or train. Not only is this a great way to save money, it’s a great way to embrace the landscape. While some people can find bus or train journeys tedious, others are able to make the most of them by fully absorbing everything they see en route!
Lastly, depending on the itinerary, a group traveling together can rent a car or a van. If someone in your group is willing to drive during the holiday, they can get an international driving permit (which is inexpensive) and make the most of having the freedom of a car that can take you anywhere!
8. Book group accommodation
Sometimes, it can be cheaper to book a whole Airbnb or holiday house and split the costs rather than getting individual hotel rooms. This gives the group access to amenities such as the kitchen which can cater to everyone’s dietary needs.
If you don’t want or need all the bells and whistles of a private house or apartment, it’s possible to book a hostel room and request that each of you be placed in the same dormitory. That way, you may even have an entire dorm to yourselves while still paying some of the cheapest rates for accommodation.
9. Shop together and cook group meals
Whether you book an Airbnb or hostel, you can make the most of your on-site kitchen by shopping together and cooking group meals.
A big part of traveling is indulging in the culinary culture, however, it can be very expensive to dine out not only every night but for every meal. Having a kitchen means that you can opt for a cheaper breakfast or cater to individual dietary requirements.
In some countries, it can be difficult to figure out what is or isn’t gluten-free on a menu that is in a different language. Additionally, someone who is vegan may find that their options at a restaurant are more expensive than those who eat meat. While you don’t need to cook for every meal, cooking and eating group meals can give your wallet some respite during your travels. It’s also a fun way to bond!
Travel with your friends on a budget!
Traveling with your friends can be amazing and frustrating, but there are many ways for you to tip the scale towards the former, especially when it comes to finances. By splitting costs and following money-saving hacks, you will make the most of your group travel budget. So grab your friends for dinner or drinks and start planning the next big adventure!