How To Travel With Friends On A Budget

They say a good friend listens to your adventures, but a best friend makes them with you.

Traveling with friends is an incredible and crazy experience. It’s like a golden ticket to building memories and having the best time of your life.

At the same time, it can bring conflicts due to different financial budgets, creating sparks (the bad kind) in your relationship.

So, to avoid ruining your friendship, here are 13 things to keep in mind while traveling with friends on a budget.

1. Discuss Your Budgets Beforehand

Communication is key when it comes to traveling with friends on different budgets.

Talking about money with friends is itself an awkward situation, but avoiding this conversation will make the situation even more complicated. So, discuss your respective budgets for things like food, accommodation, and activities before you head out on your trip.

You should be clear about how much each person can spend and then plan the activities around those budgets accordingly.

Suppose you’re planning to spend $5,000 on the trip. Don’t expect to have your dream vacation with luxury hotels and expensive activities unless everyone is on the same page. Your friends might have a budget of $1,000 or want to spend a maximum of $45 per day.

In that case, don’t force them to spend more than their desired budget.

2. Decide On Accommodations

If you’re in a large enough group, you can rent an entire villa or house on AirBnB and still pay less than a fancy hotel!

Yes, the total cost is probably more expensive compared to a similar hotel room, but the per person cost is lower because you’re splitting it with a bunch of people. It’s a great way to stay together on a budget while getting a little bit of an upgrade.

For example, on our October trip to Phoenix with three other couples (8 people), we almost booked a room at the 5-star JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa:

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott.com)

A seven-night stay for a king room came out to $3,816.23 – that’s $272.59/night per person. It’s a great hotel, but that’s pushing it if you’re on a budget.

Instead, you can rent this gigantic 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom estate on AirBnB for a total cost $7,311:

AirBnB rental in Phoenix - exterior view
(Screenshot courtesy of AirBnb.com)
AirBnB rental in Phoenix - pool view
(Screenshot courtesy of AirBnb.com)

It looks like an eye-popping price, but when you split it between 8 people, it only comes out to $130.55/night per person – a savings of $140+/night per person compared to the JW Marriott.

Savings money and living in a castle? Yes, please.

Now, if you really need to be a baller on a budget, booking hostel rooms is another option.

Those with higher budgets in the group can book a private hostel room while those on a lower budget can book beds in the dorm room.

Private rooms in hostels are as good as the hotel rooms. Hostels usually have breakfast included too, keeping more dollars in your wallet.

You may want to have a dream vacation in a five-star hotel, but it might not be the right fit for everyone. To stay together, you must adjust to the accommodations when everyone is on a different budget.

3. Travel Out Of Season

Traveling out of season means you can book your flights and hotel rooms at a lower rate. Many popular locations across the world increase their rates during high seasons due to increased demand.

Why?

Because not many people have the flexibility of traveling all year round.

Whether it’s school work, family obligations, or office life, they’re left with no choice but to travel during the high season – summer vacations and major holidays. That concentrated demand is why the price of flights and accommodation increases dramatically in that time period.

During the off-peak season, hotels have a lot of free capacity so they offer special deals (especially when you are in a group) to fill up the rooms.

Try to book your trip during the off-peak season to save money.

4. Discuss your priorities

Be clear about your priorities beforehand.

Ask yourself, why are you traveling?

Do you want to get tan on a beautiful tropical beach? Explore an interesting culture? Try new delicious food?

Make a list of the must-do activities that are on your wish list. Your trip might end up being really costly if left unplanned. People with tighter budgets will appreciate this too since they’ll have a clearer idea of the planned expenses.

5. Search For Free Activities

No matter where you are traveling, there are always free activities you can do to replace ones that costs money.

For example, instead of relying on taxis to get you to places, take a self-guided walking tour instead. Walking tours are a great way to explore a new city at your own pace. Need someone to show you around? Search for a free walking tour led by an experienced local.

If you’re staying at a rented house, consider having a picnic in the backyard a few times rather than going out to a restaurant.

Depending on your destination, other free things you can do is go hiking up trail, taking a walk at a public park, or visiting a free museum (cities like London or Berlin offer them free of charge).

Sometimes, when you can’t avoid paying for an activity, look to see if a group discount is available.

6. Use Apps To Organize Your Finances

I remember a vacation with friends where Ben paid for dinner, Jeff took care of the bar drinks, and I covered the dance club fees.

We did this to make it easier and planned to split the costs afterwards, but by the next morning we had no idea who paid what and how much we owed one another!

Does losing track of expenses sound familiar?

When you’re traveling with friends, splitting the bill for accommodations, food, and activities become a consistent pain throughout the trip. Use these apps to keep track of your expenses and make it hassle-free:

  1. Splitwise is a mobile application that makes it easy to split bills among your friends and family. Splitting rent with roommates or paying someone back for lunch will be much easier with this app.
  2. Tricount is another similar application that helps to split expenses between roommates. It enables you to keep track of who owes whom.
  3. Venmo is another great app to split utilities, rent, or groceries.

Ninja Tip: If you’re going to eat out, try to eat a late lunch for dinner because the prices are so much better for the same food.

7. Split Up

Don’t be afraid to split up!

Just because you’re traveling together doesn’t mean you have to be at joined at the hip all the time. While doing things in a large group is great, sometimes it’s nice to have a dinner date with your significant other or dance the night away with your go-to clubbing friend.

We all have different preferences and it’s good to allow a day for friends to do whatever they want. One might want to spend the day in the mountains while the other wants to spend the day at the beach.

Similarly, if two friends in the group want to do an activity that is costly for the rest – don’t stop them. Let them go. No one should go home with any regrets!

8. Book Tickets In Advance

Airfare prices creep higher the closer it is to the departure date, so don’t wait until the last minute to book your airline tickets.

If you can plan your trip a couple of months out, you’ll get the best prices as most people book their vacations only a few weeks in advance. Airlines know this and bumps the prices accordingly.

Being flexible with your travel dates will also reduce the costs. Sometimes flying a day before or after can save you hundreds of dollars.

The best tool to look up prices is Google Flights. It has a calendar view that shows you the best times to go in terms of price. It’s perfect to play around with the flight schedule and see how much you’ll save by being flexible.

Other sites to use to find cheap rates are Skyscanner, Kiwi, and Momondo. Here you can select flights from your local airport to anywhere in the world and it’s going to list flights from the cheapest to the most expensive. It’s perfect if you don’t have a specific destination in mind.

Ninja Tip: Book your flights in incognito mode. Browser cookies track if you have looked at these prices before and will bump up the prices in some instances.

9. Earn While You Travel

Just like you, thousands of people are looking for cheap places to stay. While you’re away, consider renting your empty home (or room) on AirBNB.

It’s one way to cover part of your travel expenses. You can make money while gallivanting around with your friends. Without much effort, you can earn money passively while traveling.

10. Take Advantage Of Public Transportation

Avoid car rentals and take advantage of public transportation. Many cities in the world have local buses, subways, and other public transport systems that can get you around famous tourist spots. It will cost you very little compared to renting a car.

Renting a bicycle is also a great option for saving money. It’ll get you around the area nearby and reduce the number of trips you need to take with a taxi.

11. Use Credit Card Points

Every time you use your credit card to purchase flight tickets, you earn miles and points that you can use for your next trip. Rack up points and redeem them for future airline travel.

12. Be Flexible

Whether it’s a spring break trip with your college buddies or a vacation adventure with your inner circle of friends, you have to be flexible when you’re in a group.

Don’t stick to your own decision. Be open to everyone’s preferences.

Maybe you’re midway through your vacation and the group has spent more money than planned. You must be able to drop or switch priorities at any time if you find special offers or cheap deals coming your way in order to get the group’s finances back on track.

13. Free Time

Just because you’re traveling in a group doesn’t mean you need to feel obligated to do everything.

In order to stretch your wallet, it’s okay to miss some fun activities the group planned for if it’s too expensive. This could be the perfect time to read a book while sipping on a latte at the nearest coffee shop.

Benefits Of Traveling With Friends

Traveling with friends is cheaper than traveling alone. You can save so much by sharing the cost of activities, food, transportation, etc.

The larger your group, the more power you have in getting big discounts on accommodations and activities, especially when you’re traveling during the off season. It’s a wallet-friendly option for aspiring jetsetters.

The Bottom Line

“Friends that travel together, stay together.”

Traveling is all about making memories, seeking adventures, and getting a break from daily routines. When we’re with our best mates, time flies in the blink of an eye. It will give you tons of memories and will make you nostalgic for years to come.

There’s no such thing as monotony when traveling with friends. Even the 10-hour bus journey becomes interesting.

We all have discussed with our friends about traveling together. Why not turn your dreams into a reality?

If you have the thirst for adventure, go pack your bags and explore the world. Group trips are the best and everyone should have the opportunity to try them once in their lifetime.

About John Pham

John Pham is a personal finance expert, serial entrepreneur, and founder of The Money Ninja. He has also been fortunate enough to have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report. John has a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a Masters in Business Administration, both from the University of New Hampshire.

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