The Best Money Tools for Navigating Group Travel

Traveling with your inner circle of friends can be an epic experience. However, it can also be extremely stressful when it comes to handling schedules, responsibilities and financial constraints. Here are four group travel tips that can help you save time, money and let’s face it, your friendships:

Keep the lines of communication open but organized.

Creating a group chat using messaging apps like Whatsapp can be a good place to stay in touch while making plans and during the trip itself. But, I have found that it can easily become overwhelming to keep track of thoughts and ideas, especially in a large group. Here’s a better option: Use Google Docs to sketch out your itinerary, assign responsibilities and even include important reminders for everyone.

Having trouble deciding on a locale, things to do or places to see? Then, put it to a vote with Doodle. You could also consider using Travefy which combines all of the above features into a single app. This platform also allows you to track your group expenses which can come in very handy during and after your trip.

Figure out money matters ahead of time.

Speaking of finances, we all know how awkward it can be splitting the bill with a group of friends on a regular Friday night. You can only imagine how complicated it can be to split up vacation expenses. Yet, handling group vacation finances doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you plan correctly. Let’s break it down:

Understand that not everyone is working with the same budget. Therefore, the entire group needs to be in agreement when it comes to deciding on big ticket items and even smaller expenses like tipping. Here are some other line items to consider:

  • Transportation – more on this soon.
  • Lodging – will you be staying at an AirBnb, hostel or an all-inclusive resort?
  • Meals – don’t forget to include snacks.
  • Excursions – you might want to scale back on more pricey group tours or split into mini-groups during the trip.
  • Souvenirs – most people will want a keepsake to remember the experience.
  • Exchange rate fees for international travel – these can add up so it’s important to explore your options and plan ahead. Look for a bank account with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Incidentals – it’s always a good idea to budget a little extra for emergencies.

Consider the kitty system. A few years ago, I was in charge of buying groceries for a weekend getaway for a group of five friends. However, after the trip ended, it became a hassle to collect money from each them. The kitty system would have come in handy in this scenario. By having a kitty, each person in the group contributes an equal amount of money ahead of time to a fund. Then, after a purchase is made, any leftover money gets divvied up equally among the group.

Use an app to split the bill. An even easier way to split costs is to use Chime. Chime helps you do the math and sends a text message to your friends with a link to pay you back. If your friends are Chime members, they can use Pay Friends to instantly move funds. If your travel mates are not yet Chime members, they can always use Venmo to transfer money. Either way, these apps can help you simplify your finances so you don’t have to worry about dealing with cash or splitting checks.

Be fair in other ways. Apart from sharing costs, a Lifehacker article takes things a step further by asking the following questions: “If you’re splitting the AirBnb down the middle, who will get the bigger room? If one person has to do all the driving during your road trip, should the other one pay for a little more gas?” Make sure you take all factors into consideration so everyone feels the trip details are fair.

Navigating the skies…or the roadways.

Traveling to your final destination can be the most costly part of your trip and the hardest to plan. So, this gets its own section.

Most large airline carriers like American Airlines or Delta offer discounts and special perks if you have a group of at least 10 people. However, there are still other ways to get the best deals on your flights. For example, the travel app Hopper is an airfare price tracker app that uses data on pricing trends to estimate when fares will rise and fall.

Another option: Consider working with a travel agent (yes, these still exist) to help you score the best group deals on flights. A travel professional may also be able to find a low-priced package deal that combines flights, hotels and excursions. Of course, you’ll want to do some quick math to ensure that you’re actually saving money by choosing the all-in-one option.

If you plan on road-tripping to your getaway, you’ll have to do some advance planning as well – unless you want to spend hours in traffic and perhaps spend unnecessarily on gas. This is where Waze comes in. This navigation app offers real-time traffic and alerts based on information provided by a community of users. According to U.S. News & World Report, the app also helps you “pinpoint the most affordable gas station on your route, keeping you and your wallet content on the road.”

Remember your “why” and have fun.

Sometimes I get so caught up planning and sticking to a schedule that I forget to live in the moment and enjoy the company of good friends. I also often neglect to take photos and share them. If you’re like me, consider asking someone else in the group to capture memories and save them in an easy to access spot like Dropbox or Flickr.

As you can see, if you use these tips for navigating group travel, your next trip with friends can be, well, a true vacation. Here’s to a hassle-free next adventure!

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