Group travel can be a ton of fun—inside jokes, memorable stories, and new experiences with people who will probably become buddies for life.
But it can also be complicated.
Competing personalities, budgets and expectations can make for an interesting ride, so it’s vital to plan and organise well.
Here’s how you can be prepared in order to avoid some nightmare situations.
The perks of traveling together
Travelling in general means constant spending on transport, accommodation, food and activities. One of the many perks of group travel is that you can make these expenses more affordable, by splitting costs or finding group discounts.
Apart from being cost-effective, group travel offers the opportunity to create shared experiences, gain lifelong friends, beat loneliness and travel with ‘safety in numbers’.
With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why one third of US adults have taken a holiday with friends—and among millennials, that number is even higher, at 50%. The good news is, as group travel continues to be popular, more and more apps and services are being created to help tackle some of the common challenges that can arise when traveling with friends.
Let’s check out some ways you can mind your money matters when travelling with others, and the tools you can use to make it simpler.
Plan ahead and manage expectations
The whole point of a vacation is to have fun and relax, so there’s nothing worse than having tensions rise because your expectations for the trip are not aligned with others.
Setting clear guidelines upfront is the best way to avoid potential conflicts. While it can be difficult to discuss money, communication is the key to group trip planning.
Arrange to have your travel buddies over for dinner prior to the trip to do some fun organising. Get clear on the kind of holiday you all want and how you’re going to do it – do you want to book everything in advance or wing it as you go?
Ask your travel mates what matters most to them when they are traveling—is it comfort and relaxation, trying out all the best restaurants, or seeing as many places as possible? There’ll also be a huge difference in experience and cost if you decide to stay at 5-star hotels rather than roughing it in dorm rooms, or eat at Michelin star restaurants instead of at street food stalls.
The best app for trip planning: Travefy (iOS & Android, free) is an all-in-one trip planner that is great for organisation. It collates flight and hotel info into a single, sharable itinerary. There’s also an in-built chat feature where you can ask for input or run suggestions by everyone, or even run a Twitter-style poll to settle the final decision. You can also track trip costs with friends and collect money from your group before or after the trip.
Decide on a budget
Every type of trip has a price tag that comes along with it, and it’s essential for you and your travel mates to be on the same page, budget-wise.
Ever been the one who wants to save money by walking everywhere, but one of your travel buddies is constantly splitting Ubers with you? Or are you a hardcore hostel dorm room lover but your friend wants to splurge on private hotel rooms? It’s also easy to be frustrated on the other side of this argument, when you can’t understand why your friend won’t splash out for something that seems worth it to you.
Managing conflicting budgets can be one of the biggest hurdles of group travel. Be sure to confirm what things you’re all willing to compromise on. Decide on a budget that makes everyone comfortable, with a little bit of leeway so you aren’t stressing about every outing. The next (and most difficult) step is actually adhering to the budget!
The best app for creating a budget: Wallet by BudgetBakers (iOS & Android, free) is an all-round travel app but it’s good for setting goals, saving, and preparing budgets before you even set off on your journey.
Create a group expenses fund
It’s a good idea to consider creating a shared pot of money that you can use for group expenses. At the start, have everyone contribute the same amount, either in cash or to someone’s bank account (whatever works depending on the trip style and country). Get someone to manage this stash and keep track of what has been spent. This makes shared costs much simpler, and can also help you stay on budget.
Best for group expense funds: Check out PayPal’s Money Pools, where members of a group can all chip in.
Split bills but don’t pinch pennies
Ever sat at a group dinner and mentally gone around the table adding up what everyone had so that you don’t have to split evenly? This can be a pain if you have to do it every day for every meal and activity. Luckily there are plenty of apps that can help you.
Best apps for splitting bills: Splitwise (iOS & Android, free) is a great option if you do have differences in costs – it offers “fairness calculators” that can be applied to different situations (e.g the private room for the couple versus the dorm bed for you).
Instead of collecting receipts and remembering who paid what, just log the payment into the application and it will calculate for you. You can also attach your PayPal account so the payments can be made automatically.
Tricount (iOS & Android, free) is another great app that helps you split bills and also has an option that allows you to split expenses unevenly.
More apps to manage expenses
Apart from the apps already mentioned, here are some more top picks for splitting bills:
- Splittr (iOS only, $1.99)
Splittr simplifies the process of settling the tally, especially while travelling. It works offline (= no roaming fees!) and integrates currency conversion. At the end of the trip, Splittr generates a final bill for each group members as a pdf via email. The only downside is that you need to use another app like Venmo or Paypal to transfer the money.
- CostSplit (iOS only, free)
CostSplit is like Splittr but a bit more tech-savvy. Everyone can download the app, sign in and log their own expenditure which is then synced through the cloud. You can split expenses unevenly, use the currency of your current location and generate a report at the end of the trip for who owes what.
- My Share Plus (Android, free)
For those of you on the Android bandwagon, never fear— you have options too! My Share Plus allows all members of a group easily keep track of all transactions, bills, and expenses.
Enjoy the ride
A big part of group travel is sharing the experience. If you plan ahead, follow the shared budget and download some helpful apps, you’ll make life much easier.
Now that we’ve knuckled down the basics for planning, budgeting and splitting expenses for your group trip, you’re ready to go! Pack those bags, download those apps and get ready for one of the best experiences of your life.