Travel Debates is a series in which our editors weigh in on the most contentious issues that arise in-transit, like whether you should ever switch seats on a plane or if you should check your work email while on vacation.
“It’ll be fun,” they say. “We’ll all be together!” Suddenly, you are lured into a group trip. But when the check comes, do you all put your cards down together?
Group trips can be very meaningful. Travelling with dear friends or family, or some combination of the two, seems like an easy “yes” on paper: transplant your beloveds to a beloved destination and enjoy the ensuing pleasures in their company. But travel is trying. Very rarely does one make it home from a trip without first dipping their toe into the pool of the lowest self (who among us has not snapped at someone after a long journey?). When money is involved – and money is always involved – a host of new challenges may be presented.
How do you split costs on a group trip? There is no right or wrong answer, for everybody’s relationship with their travel companions and with their bank accounts is different. Those inclined to generosity can quickly be taken for granted, and the most budget-conscious among us may end up feeling alienated. Here, our editors weigh in on their approach to the unavoidable, but not unavoidably awkward, task of sharing expenses such as accommodation, group dinners, and more.
Get on the same page
The most important part of a group trip is setting a budget beforehand – agree upon how much money everyone is willing to spend on core things like accommodation and activities. Once that’s out of the way, I think splitting group expenses is pretty easy with payment tracking apps like Splitwise; rather than splitting every single meal six ways (I want the points, anyway) we take turns footing the bill and tracking who owes what on the group tab via the app. At the end of the trip, we have a clear and easy way to settle up, and typically it’s not much if you divide the shared expenses the right way. Shannon McMahon, destinations editor
Ask one friend to shoulder the responsibility –and rack up rewards in the process
The least stressful group trips I’ve been on were the ones where one person generously offered to make their credit card the designated card to pay with (it will definitely rack up some points). This includes the cost of the Airbnb, group meals, and any big shared activity. It’s important to set clear expectations for the group of when everyone will pay their share, whether it be the last day of the trip or within the week following. At the end of the trip, that person divides up the trip cost by the total number of guests and it’s an easy, equal split. This eliminates the very annoying – and sometimes awkward – splitting of multiple cards at the dinner table each night. Venmo comes in handy to quickly send money or to request a specific amount from each group member. Another tip for group trips: always bring some cash for easy on the spot payments and tips. Meaghan Kenny, associate commerce editor
Don’t sweat the small stuff
There is nothing I loathe more than the dance of splitting the check, and so I tend to fling my card down immediately upon seeing the thing. Some friends will actually exclaim “hey!” upon realising that I’ve paid while they were blinking. In the case of group trips, I have wound up paying more than my fair share on several occasions on account of my own inability to let the bill sit there and this is my cross to bear. But big purchases like the hotel room and the car rental and so forth should be divided between the participating parties and paid in advance if possible. It is never fun to play the role of the debt collector after the fact. Charlie Hobbs, editorial assistant