Ground Rules for Vacationing with Friends

splitting cost on vacation image credit: Good Search

Taking a vacation with friends can be fun—or not. Time together is all fun and games until squabbles over costs come into the vacation and memories. It’t hard for some people to talk about money, but it’s often harder to repair friendship over money issues that arise while traveling.

Before you go:

Discuss where you’ll go, who is going, and when. If you want to go to Italy in the Summer, and they want to go to  Ireland in the Fall, make sure no one feels “You always get your way.” If there’s a since of that from the start, suggest another trip, another time, but let it be known you’re going to Italy in the Summer—and you’re going to have a wonderful time!

If everyone decides to move forward from there, begin to put your plans in writing. Everyone going on the trip can get together and share ideas of what their ideal vacation looks like. Are you a four-star hotel type? Or do you like hosteling? If you earn points from hotel stays, and your friend earns them with a different hotel, what do you do? What if you have different frequent flyer airlines? These are the things that need to come up early in the planning stage. Maybe you’re both okay with not earning miles, and grabbing the least expensive flight, but if one of the two of you has enough miles for a trip on an expensive airline, you may not be traveling together.

What’s your vacation budget? Know it before you leave home and stick to it. Talk this stuff through with your friend. If you’re with someone who wants to experience high end restaurants but you plan to buy food from the local grocery shop, eat from food stands, or patronize the local mom and pop restaurant— You’ll want to have that discussion before the trip. Maybe you agree to one expensive night on the town. Get an idea of that means. I had an experience in Lapland, Sweden. A puny scoop of ice cream, a tiny piece of brie cheese, and a small vodka came to $75.00. Are you both on the same budget? Even if you are, it may not impact you the same. Maybe you say to your friend, “If you want to go to that restaurant, are you willing to without me, even if that means going alone?” Or have some days and evenings where you each do your own thing.

Once you have an idea of what the trip looks like, put it in writing. Include (researched) estimates of costs, timelines and budgets. If you can, either each pay for your airfare separately, and each send in half of the accommodations on your own—or try to have only a few bills and split all of them in half. (I don’t like to do this at restaurants, because my bill is usually much lower than others’.) If you’re eating meals at the beach house rental, equally pitch in for food, or totally do it separately. If they drink wine and you don’t, that’s not on your bill. If you insist on drinking soy milk and they can get by with less expensive cow’s milk, it sounds like a menu review may be needed before you get too far.

It’s really important to know your travel partner is saving for the vacation. If you save money and book your trip, and they don’t save, and decide they have to back out, you may find yourself in hot water (and I don’t mean at a spa in Hawaii.) I’ve had this happen to me twice. Once, there was a double occupancy requirement. My friend who hadn’t saved and backed out did pay the difference for me to go alone. Nothing was going to stop me from my trip.

Traveling together is a lesson in budgeting, communication, compromise and friendship. Go! Have fun!

with whom do we spend time?

We tend to mimic behaviors of people with whom we spend time. Did your parents ever reminded you, “You’re known by the company you keep”? I have a friend who recently shared with me his dad would always send him off with, “Remember who you are and what you stand for.” I love that. If you’re hanging out with people who spontaneously spend, or try to keep up with the Joneses, it’s likely that you’ll spend more money. Hang out with people who are frugal, or plan (have a budget) for their big expense. By doing this, you’ll most likely fit into that behavior, at least when you’re around them. 101-ways-to-build-wealth

A study at University of Southern California found along the same lines, the more inward-looking a neighborhood, the higher the likely hood a resident will buy the same car as their neighbor, or outshine the neighbor’s car purchase.

Re-think the attitude, “One more drink on the Titanic.” (The ship’s going  down, so what’s one more expense?) Consider spending time with, perhaps volunteering for those less fortunate. A study at University of New South Wales, Australia found for every extra dollar earned by the people around you, you’ll put .09 cents less into savings. It’s not about dumping the richer friends, it’s about being conscious, and as William Shakespeare put it, “To thy own self be true.”

Another study, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, showed that happier employees earn more money. The happier employees aren’t working 24/7. They’re spending time with family and friends. If you’re not fitting into this family/friend love fest, ask yourself if you like your neighbors? Can you meet new friends? It’s about having a supportive network, not necessarily similar genes.