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How to Split Travel Expenses

When you travel with friends or family, how do you determine who pays for what? Figuring out how to split travel costs with friends or family can be challenging. 

Not everyone has the same budget, and in some cases, some people may want to contribute more towards the travel expenses to help out those with a limited budget. Other people may also want to skip some activities opting for cheaper alternatives,

For example, some friends may skip dining in fancy hotels and settle for cheaper options, such as preparing homemade meals in the Airbnb with local produce to save costs.

Suppose you don’t figure out the best way to split expenses. In that case, it may cause a lot of strain as some people may feel that their budgets are not being respected or they are being forced to spend more than they are comfortable with. This strain can take away joy from the experiences of the trip. 

So which is the ideal way to split expenses to ensure everyone enjoys the trip? Here are tips on how to split travel expenses.

Decide on a budget

Whether it’s a pre-packaged group tour or you are traveling with friends or family, the first thing to do is decide on a budget. How much can you afford to spend on the trip?

The budget is the main factor determining the exact kind of trip you will have. It will help you select the destination, accommodation, and primary form of transportation, among others. Once you know the budget, narrowing down on planned activities will also be easier. A budget stops you or other possible group members from feeling pressured to spend money you don’t have.

Figure out how you are going to split travel expenses

Once you have determined the budget, you can use payment tracking apps such as Splitwise, Billr, Venmo, or Divvy to help you split the bills. For example, rather than always splitting the bill four or ten ways, you can take turns footing the bills and track who owes what via the group tab. At the trip’s end, settling up will be easier. If you divide the shared expenses correctly, the final figure to settle up might not be much. 

You can also opt to use Google documents and sheets to keep track of expenses and budget limits. The good thing about using these is that since everyone has access, they can also be used for planning time, tracking notes and confirmation numbers, activities meals. The team leader can update the sheet by responding to members’ comments and requested edits.

Divide and pay in advance for big purchases like Airbnb and hotel rooms, and car rentals. It will help prevent one person from playing the role of a debt collector at the end of the trip. 

Always choose services that make bill splitting easy

In a perfect vacation scenario, you could keep everyone’s costs separate without issues. However, there will always be costs you cannot help but share, including transportation and accommodations.

Some companies offer bill-splitting services through their platforms, so no one is stuck paying for everything upfront and waiting for their friends to reimburse them. For example, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft allow you to invite people from your contacts list to split travel costs. Airbnb allows users to split a rental with 16 other people directly from their site. Look for such service providers from the start.

Use technology to make splitting travel expenses easier

Various apps you can use to split travel costs include:

  • Splitwise: If you are taking turns covering expenses, this app will make it easier to track who paid for what and who owes what. You can then pay off what you owe at the end of the trip using Venmo or PayPal. Splitwise is a free app available for iPhone and Android.
  • Billr: This app is perfect for large groups as it allows you to split a bill to a maximum of 16 people. It calculates what everyone owes, making it easier for each person to pay their portion of the bill, including shared items, such as taxes and tips. Billr also allows you to send a copy of the split bill to everyone else via text or email.
  • Divvy: With this app, you don’t have to type anything in. You take a photo of your bill and drag each item to the appropriate person. It will automatically add what each person owes, taxes, and tips. 
  • Venmo: If you choose to go with the strategy where one person pays for everything, and you reimburse them, this app will help them remind you to pay. It’s a free app that allows you to send money requests anytime. You can also use it to repay your friends if they request you.

Always have cash

Whether it is to tip the waiter, indulge in street food or purchase local souvenirs, you will need cash at some point in your trip. You may not always be able to use your credit card, and even if you notify your bank where you’ll be, you may still have issues. Having a bit of cash will also help add a little spontaneity to your trip. 

Take turns paying for group expenses

Instead of using technology, you can have different people handle various expenses. For example, someone can pay for transportation, other food, etc. 

This method is handy, especially for people who want to redeem their credit card points or rewards. Apart from redeeming rewards, when people pay using their credit cards, they can accumulate points. 

Ask for separate checks

Use this as a last resort when all else fails. It’s probably easier for service providers and on you if one person pays the bill. However, if you are concerned about the bills being split fairly, asking for separate checks is okay. 

Splitting travel costs: the bottom line

Splitting vacation costs can quickly become a stressful part of your trip if you don’t plan. When multiple people are involved, you’ll get as many opinions on the budget, what you should splurge on, and how you’ll pay for each expense. 

Open lines of communication to prevent arguments or financial anxiety is to open the lines of communication. Talk about all the money matters during the planning stage and while on the trip. Once you have these conversations, developed a budget, and figured out how to split travel expenses, you can get to the fun part of enjoying the experiences.

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