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How to Share Expenses on Vacation

Savvy Q+A: When Should We Divide Costs on a Group Trip?

When hanging out locally, I generally subscribe to a "What's a few bucks among pals?" mentality. My close, core group of friends share rounds of drinks or split the check pretty simply among us. However, those happy times can head south when it comes to bigger purchases like a vacation. Since hotel employees aren't splitting room costs over multiple cards, and the tanks of gas rarely come out to an equal number, it's common to find splitting oversights . . . and slights.

Then I spotted this question in the Savvy Q + A group:

I'm planning a road trip with four pals — how should we divide costs for gas, hotels, food, etc. fairly? Before, during, or after?

How do you prefer to split the costs? Offer your opinions in the comments below and then share your own money questions in this forum, too.

Image Source: Thinkstock
runswimmerrun runswimmerrun 6 years
I love noodedancer's idea! I would say otherwise, keep receipts and afterwards. If everyone takes turns, it may only be $20 here and $30 there when you finish!
sharonbabie472 sharonbabie472 6 years
I agree with n00dledancer... great idea! I just recently went on a ski trip where we had booked a lodge about 6 months ago. Problem with skiing is that you have to book waaaay advanced in time, otherwise people will fill those spots up. Anyways, the week before the trip, we lost 3-4 people and then everyone was stuck with the costs. Now we are stuck with a very pricey trip. Next year, I'll probably consider the pre-paid credit card method just to make things easier. Oh, a recent cool site I found is This definitely helped us for splitting our group travel expenses on this trip! Wish I found out about it sooner. It allows you to pitch in certain categories for the extreme large group travels.
Lenay Lenay 7 years
Hotels should be divided evenly, of course. Gas fill-ups you can just take turns with. But I think the fairest way to deal with meals and other personal expenses is for each person to pay for their own.----Separate tickets.
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 7 years
noodledancer and komler, both great ideas! A friend of mine and I go on a road trip to California every summer. We have a designated place to stash all of the gas receipts and we put every charge on one card. We split the total and reimburse both in California and when we get home. Back when we would stop at hotels (we now make a straight shot both ways and room-surf with family members when we get there) whoever wasn't putting gas on their card would put hotel costs on theirs, which would be split up at the end of the trip. Everything else, we pay for separately. If there is a need to actually go grocery shopping, like we did in Hawaii, we'd just split the basket. For example, when we went to Hawaii, we bought some sandwich bread, meats and cheeses. We split the cost of those up between us until we were close to even, then resumed shopping for things for ourselves. This might be a bit more difficult when you're in a larger group, but I think the biggest and most important thing is to keep receipts for *everything,* and don't have any one person pay for a group when it's possible to get the total split up. Sometimes asking that waitress to split the bill six ways when she's already brought the check can feel like a hassle, but it'll be worth it in the end.
komler komler 7 years
I've just come home from a long road trip with three friends. What we opted for was dividing hotel reservations between us, and paying for gas/dinner/toll etc. at different times. One of us recorded everything we spent, and who paid for what. Later we summed up the total cost each person paid, divided it amongst four, and saw who owed the other persons what, if that makes sense. It was a fairly cumbersome way of doing it, but less than everyone having to pay a fourth of everything when it happens.
leilani-s leilani-s 7 years
That's a great idea!
itsallabouttheg itsallabouttheg 7 years
an idea for the shared costs (gas, hotels, food if you choose) is to pick up a pre-paid credit card that everyone contributes an equal amount to. at the end of the trip, one person can give everyone their share of the balance in cash (or save it for a girls' night).
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