As if planning group travel isn’t complicated enough, once everything is booked and the plane touches down, the real money spending as a group starts and you have to figure out how to deal with split expenses. 

Between hopping in cabs, buying rounds of drinks, ordering group room service, and avoiding split checks at restaurants, it can feel impossible to keep track of who paid, how much they paid, and what they paid for. Luckily, technology is our friend when it comes to keeping track of split expenses and paying each other back.

One of the most important things to remember (in all aspects of group travel) is to communicate. Make sure everyone is on the same page before the trip. Some of the most important things to be aware of when sharing costs on a group trip are: 

  • If anyone has a daily budget they don’t want to exceed- it’s important for everyone to know in order to plan group activities/meals accordingly. 
  • Confirm with all group members whether they’re happy to split restaurant checks evenly or if they would prefer to pay strictly for their own plates and drinks. 
  • Confirm if anyone has a preference on rooms (especially in rented homes) and who is willing to pay more or would rather pay less for “better”/”worse” rooms.
  • Take note if some group members are vegetarians/non alcohol-drinkers/etc. that may lessen their contribution and adjust their contribution accordingly
split expenses on group travel: a picnic table full of food and wine with hands reaching in

Keeping track of split expenses during group trips

Using Splitwise to track split expenses

There are a few different ways to keep track of who spent what on a group trip, but ultimately, apps like Splitwise are going to be your best friend. 

Splitwise not only helps you keep track of who-owes-who and how much, it also easily allows you to split expenses based on different dollar amounts or percentages, making it our favorite bill splitting app.

What is the best way to keep track of group expenses on vacation? 

Have every individual be in charge of uploading their own charges into Splitwise (or shared expenses app of your choice). If you pay, you upload it into the app. If anyone doesn’t keep up with doing it, they’re the ones who lose out. Try to collectively help each other remember at the point of transactions. This is especially important when paying cash. 

Naturally, make a point to be considerate of anyone who might have a harder time using the app. Assign a money-buddy to anyone that might need help uploading their own expenses. 

In addition, consider having one person be in charge of taking a photo of each and every receipt as a back up (especially when spending cash). This also helps when you’re not splitting dinner costs evenly because this allows you to look back and see exactly what each person owed, the total taxes, tip, etc. 

Alternatively, some people find it easier for the actual money to exchange hands at the point of transaction. If one person is paying the check at dinner, everyone uses cash or a money exchange app like Venmo to instantly pay what they owe.

Take Note of Who Isn’t Consuming

If buying groceries for a shared rental house, always make sure to be considerate cost-wise of anyone who won’t be eating significant portions of the food whether they’re gluten-free, vegetarians, vegans, non-alcohol drinkers, or have other dietary restrictions. Meat and alcohol are frequently the most expensive parts of a shopping trip and non-meat eaters or non-drinkers shouldn’t be splitting that cost with the group.

Exchanging Money

Exchanging money can be done in a variety of ways. The most common for U.S. citizens is the money exchange app, Venmo. However not everyone may be comfortable using electronic transfers. In this case, you can exchange cash. Check the exchange rate by simply using Google to search “current exchange rate from X to Y” or use apps like XE that allow you to enter your most frequently used currencies and see a constantly updated exchange rate for any dollar amount. 

If needing to exchange money with someone who doesn’t have a US bank account, Wise (formerly known as Transferwise) frequently offers the best rates over other platforms like PayPal. 

group trip enjoying dinner before dealing with split expenses

FAQ

How do you split travel expenses with friends?

Splitting travel expenses with friends on a group trip can be easily done using apps like Splitwise that allow you to easily calculate who owes whom and how much.

How do I keep track of shared expenses?

Keeping track of shared travel expenses can be done by writing down all expenditures and who paid for them and adding them up at the end of a trip. Or you can track costs by using a shared expenses app, like Splitwise.

How do you split food costs on a multi-family vacation?

Splitting food costs on a multi-family vacation is often best done by having each family individually buy anything they know they will use, and then adding up the cost of food that will be shared between families and splitting this cost.