How To Travel With Friends On Different Budgets
Traveling with friends is a great way to escape the stress of everyday life, form deep connections and make memories that will last a lifetime. But group trips can also cause conflicts, especially if the travelers have different budget considerations.
Although money may feel like the elephant in the room, there are ways to ease the tension over finances before and during your travels. We asked travel bloggers and other experts to share their tips for going on a trip with friends with different budgets. Here’s what they had to say.
Communicate about your budgets beforehand.
“When it comes to traveling with friends that have different budgets, communication is key. Prior to embarking on your trip, have a conversation about your respective budgets, goals and ideas for the trip. Having a conversation ahead of time will alleviate any potential arguments and emotional discomfort on the trip while also setting your trip up for success.” ― Collette Stohler, TV host and travel blogger at Roamaroo
“I think the biggest thing to keep in mind when traveling with friends at different budgets would be to be open about it before booking. Everyone should be open about what they’re able to afford on the trip and agree to accommodation, food, transit, tours, etc. before booking so that everyone is on the same page.” ― Amber Primdahl, travel blogger at She’s Catching Flights
“No one really loves to talk about money, but if you’re sharing priced experiences with friends, it’s going to come up, so you may as well address it up front. It’s worth discussing with friends.” ― Stephanie Be, travel blogger at TravelBreak and founder of lifestyle app BUENA
Discuss travel priorities.
“I think the key is for everyone to discuss the travel activities they would like to do beforehand. Each person shares with the group their must-do’s and their could-do’s. This means those with less budget don’t get unexpected surprises while those with more budget can perhaps suggest doing an activity separately if it’s high on their wish list.” ― Marek Bron, travel blogger at Indie Traveller
“No one really loves to talk about money, but if you’re sharing priced experiences with friends, it’s going to come up, so you may as well address it up front.”
– Stephanie Be, travel blogger
“It’s important to have a discussion about what everyone wants from the trip. Knowing which type of activities or tours are of importance to the group will ensure that everyone is on the same page from the beginning. The group should make a rough itinerary with their must-do destination experiences and their respective costs. From there, a group budget can be established and then this process can be repeated for each component of the trip, like accommodation and transportation.” ― Briona Lamback, travel blogger and founder of Buoyant travel agency
Take advantage of free activities.
“Plan some activities that are low-cost or free. For example, take a self-guided street art walking tour of a city or a donation-based walking tour. Take public transport around or walk instead of relying on taxis.” ― Audrey Scott, tourism development strategist and co-founder at Uncornered Market
Use (and share) your points.
“There’s nothing more fun than staying in the same hotel with friends, so I often offer my friends my hotel points so we can stay in the same place while still enjoying the privacy of our own space.” ― Christine Johnson, travel blogger at My Traveling Kids
“I like to use miles and points to reduce the cost of travel. Often I will use them to help budget-strapped friends reduce their cost. Miles and points are a great tool that helps anyone travel more for less.” ― Mark Ostermann, senior editor of Miles to Memories
“Perhaps you don’t have that much cash but can use points or miles to be part of a trip with friends. Perhaps you’ll have to fly a different airline or stay at a different hotel, but you [are] still able to make the trip!” ― Jessica van Dop, travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler
Don’t be afraid to separate at times.
“You might be traveling as a group for the shared experience, but remember that you don’t have to be joined at the hip. As much as you might like each other, being around the same people 24/7 is bound to put a strain on your relationship ― especially if one friend is inclined toward more expensive experiences that others can’t afford. You don’t want any bitterness to seep into the trip, so if someone really wants to do something, but it’s something the rest of you can’t afford, let them go.” ― Meg Jerrard, travel blogger at Mapping Megan
“Make it clear ahead of time that you don’t always have to do things together. It’s much less stressful when someone suggests something out of your budget if you can say ‘pass’ and go do something that does suit your budget. Besides, it’s good to explore things on your own from time to time!” ― Alex Reynolds, travel blogger at Lost With Purpose
“You might be traveling as a group for the shared experience, but remember that you don’t have to be joined at the hip.”
– Meg Jerrard, travel blogger
“A couple years ago, I was living and working in Thailand and had a couple different friends come to visit and travel with me there. It was a bit difficult because they were on the ‘American on vacation’ budget and I was on the ‘Expat pinching pennies’ budget. I made it work by clearly communicating what my budget was before they started booking Airbnbs, activities, etc. I also let them do some of the more expensive super-touristy things on their own, with the excuse of ‘I live here, I can do it some other time.’ Traveling with friends for multiple weeks can be tiring, so it was honestly a good excuse for us to have some time apart during these trips.” ― Carrie Hoffman, digital nomad and co-founder of the Bigger Life Adventures yoga and adventure retreat
Schedule free time.
“When planning the itinerary, leave some room for free and easy time so everyone can do their own separate things, whether it be lounging by the pool, shopping, or winding down at happy hour. On that note, also don’t pack your itinerary too much ― it causes unnecessary stress to everyone to try and meet the timings and your whole trip will end up being rushed instead of it being an inspiring, relaxing getaway.” ― Isabel Leong, travel blogger at Bel Around The World
“Schedule flex time when you are on a trip with friends where people can go off and do their own thing with their own budget. This is actually a good idea for all group travel even when budget is not an issue.” ― Ostermann
Organize your spending.
“Use Splitwise or a similar app to divide costs. The app easily lets you enter amounts and see who paid for what, creating a running total in real time. Later, you can divide the bills equally or percentage-wise depending on what everyone decides is fair.” ― La Carmina, travel blogger and TV host
“WeTravel is a great platform for planning a group trip. The tool is helpful for group-wide communication and establishing payment plans. The interface is easy to use and has been very helpful for group trips that I’ve planned.” ― Lamback
“If everyone in the group is willing, assign costs or roles to one person, and then work out the breakdown at the end of the trip. For example, when I was in Thailand with three friends, one paid for a WiFi card on her phone and used it to call and pay for all our Grab taxis. At the end of the trip, she calculated how much she spent, and we divided the fee. This helped us save costs overall, since only one person had to buy a SIM card, and it was easy to calculate the costs at the end since she had paid for everything. Similarly, in Laos, my local friend had a credit card without fees, so she paid for all the cafe meals we shared. Later, I paid her back in the equivalent of Thai baht, since she was living in Bangkok and could easily use the currency.” ― La Carmina
Mix splurging and saving.
“Choose one or two excursions that you will splurge on and talk about where you will save money. Bring your own cocktails to the pool, head to the local farmers market instead of going to an expensive dinner, and use an app for a self-guided tour of the city. Knowing you’re going to save money throughout the trip will allow for one guilt-free experience.” ― Johnson
Be strategic about meals.
“One thing I find really helps is agreeing to not eat together. Food and drink can really take a chunk out of your budget, so if you need to save money, then you can go shopping and cook while your friends who have more money to spend can eat out. It’s a great way of compromising and you can always agree to have a meal or two out together so you don’t feel so left out.” ― Claire Summers, travel blogger at Claire’s Itchy Feet
“Don’t be afraid to try street food or stay at an apartment-style hotel or Airbnb where you can cook your own food. I love trying street food when I travel because it’s oftentimes the most delicious, authentic and cheap food you can find. I’ve also tried cooking while traveling to really expensive countries like the Nordics and have been able to save a ton of money that way while having delicious home-cooked meals on the road. It’s a win-win.” ― Diana Chen, travel blogger at MVMT Blog
Don’t automatically split the bill evenly.
“If you are traveling with a group where everyone has a different budget, don’t be afraid to NOT split the bill evenly. For example, if one person wants to get a salad and one person wants to get an expensive lobster meal, this should not be split 50/50. To keep things simple, have each person pick up their own tab. If you are going on a road trip or grocery shopping for your trip, let everyone pick up the groceries that they can afford. This keeps things fair and even. If someone is on a budget, this allows them to spend as little or as much as they are comfortable with. This ensures everyone is in control of their own finances and helps prevent arguments surrounding money.” ― Victoria Yore, travel blogger at Follow Me Away
Be open to different accommodations.
“Stay in hostels. People ― especially people on higher budgets ― tend to get turned off by the word ‘hostel,’ but hostels are actually a great way for friends on different budgets to travel together. If you have a large enough group of friends, you can rent out a hostel room entirely for yourselves. It’s really cheap, and no one has to stay in a room with strangers and feel like you’re back in fifth-grade summer camp. If you don’t have just the right number of friends to book out an entire room, then those on a larger budget can book a private room at the hostel while those on a lower budget can book a bed in a dorm room in a hostel. Private rooms in hostels can be just as nice as 3-star hotel rooms, and you’ll still get to stay in the same place as your friends on a lower budget ― but with all the amenities you would normally want and look for.” ― Chen
“One good way to get really nice accommodation for a group is to rent a villa, or house. Although the overall rental price might be high, you can usually get a well-furnished place for a low rate when split by person. It also allows everyone to stay together.” ― Jessica Norah, travel blogger at Independent Travel Cats
“Be open to separate or alternate travel arrangements or accommodations. Friends don’t have to take the same form of transportation to arrive at the same destination.” ― La Carmina
Think of your long-term friendship.
“Don’t be cheap. When I lived in Asia, I wanted one of my best friends to join me on a trip to Thailand. She lived in San Francisco. I knew she would be the perfect person to experience this trip with, but she didn’t have the budget. I offered to cover our hotel if she could find a way to Thailand. She cashed in her miles, and we had a blast. She returned the favor a few years later when she was making more money than me.” ― van Dop
Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.