7 Money management tips for travelling in a group

By Natasha Culzac
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Going travelling in a group? We've got seven tips to help you make the most of your money.

Arguing with my best mate over whether we could afford the £5 visa fee to leave Cambodia and go to Laos for a bit will forever be one of my most vivid backpacking memories. It symbolised the hilarious disparity between my attitude to money and that of my mate’s. 

Luckily, Fiona and I were a tiny group of two. And we didn’t ever let money get in the way of our friendship, despite the numerous ways it could have very well broken us. Travelling in an even larger group will pose unique challenges, but as long as you do your research and understand where difficulties might arise, you’ll be in a great position to navigate any disagreements.

Here are seven money management top tips for travelling in a group:

Communicate with each other

As the wise Terry Tibbs once said: “talk to me”. Sit your mates down and have a deep, frank conversation about the kind of budget you’re all on and how you’d like to split bills.

New research shows that the average Brit now spends 17% of their disposable income on holidays. But if half of your group is on a well-paying salary, then that’s a damn sight a lot more money than anyone scraping by on minimum wage. Discuss your expectations before you go away, to prevent any fights over whether it’ll be the 4* hotel or the backpacker hostel each night.

For anything less than a two-week holiday your accommodation would probably be paid for upfront. But if you’re doing a three-week or three-month travelling trip, where you’ll be moving from town to town, then it makes sense to establish how high you want your living standards to be. If you can, establish a rough daily budget.

Agree on how you plan to pay

If only it was as easy as ‘go on holiday with mates but only pay for what you use’. Ha! It will inevitably happen that somebody’s card get blocked by their bank, or that it’s just easier and quicker for one person to buy four train tickets in one go than wait it out as you all crawl up to the ticket desk one-by-one. The realities are that you’re going to often take it in turns paying for things, yet you want to make sure that you’re all squaring it equally.

Try to work out payment methods that work for your particular group. Here are some ideas:

Couples or friends in a group of two: Pool your entire spending money (accommodation not yet booked; domestic travel costs; meals out; shared activities). It was only four years into a relationship that my then-boyfriend and I realised that this was the most sensible and hassle-free way of going on holiday and sharing the cost. Honestly, it saves so much time so that instead of trying to work out who paid for the cabana and who paid for the Michelin-starred meal, you can get on with ordering and sinking margaritas pain-free.


Hen and stag dos: A lot of things will already be paid for beforehand, but a good way of handling trips to the bar, or lunches out, is to do a daily kitty. Each day everyone in the party throws in €30, for example, with one person entrusted to look after the whole amount, who’s also responsible for paying rounds and meals with the sum.

Groups travelling for long periods: Things become a bit complex here. A regularly updated kitty for accommodation, travel and dinner could work. Otherwise, there are a plethora of apps out there that help you split the sporadic bill with mates and send each other money.

It goes without saying that there will be numerous items, such as gifts or clothes, that you’ll need to fork out for yourself.

Save up as a group

When we save up, it’s often done solo, right? Well, it is possible to do it as a group if that’s what you wish. The benefits of doing this will be that you can see that everyone’s keeping up with their monthly savings instalments, potentially avoiding a situation further down the line where you’re at the airport and your bezzie breaks the news that they’ve actually got half the spending money they planned.

Here are a few ways you can save up as a group:

Who knew that you could get a high street bank account for more than two people! Natwest says that, realistically, the maximum number of people they’d allow on a joint account would be five - but that everyone on that account would have equal access to it and would all get bank cards. You could all do monthly payday instalments. As far as I’m aware Natwest is the only high street bank to allow more than two people on an account. Beware, however, that if you open a joint bank account with someone else, your credit score can affect them and vice versa - so if any of the party is crippled by debt or has CCJs etc then it might be best avoided. It’s also good to note that if you use the debit card associated with a high street bank account while abroad, you could incur some hefty charges such as cash withdrawal fees and transaction fees.

For people who find themselves in a pickle of organising a surprise trip away or a stag or hen party, there’s a sort of crowdfunding-for-mates website called Patchwork, which might help. It does what it says on the tin and basically gets you to tell all involved parties how they can contribute to the event, whether that’s through putting money in the booze kitty, or agreeing to compère the weekend’s games.

Set a buffer/emergency amount

It can be hard before visiting a place and really knowing how high or low the cost of living is to plan a rough daily budget. If you do manage to craft a budget, after doing a bit of research, then give yourself a ‘buffer’ to account for any spontaneous purchases or wild nights out you’re unable to predict.

Apps and tips for sharing costs

While travelling around Sri Lanka for a month, my boyfriend and I used a Monzo card, which is a pre-paid Mastercard you can load with money and use abroad without international fees. It’s linked to a very handy app, which alerts you to purchases you’ve just made seconds after you’ve tapped in the pin number. We used one card between us, because unfortunately Monzo doesn’t currently do joint accounts, and we both added £500 to the card before we left, using it while abroad for fee-free ATM withdrawals and purchases.

Have a look at the raft of other prepaid travel cards, as well as our travel credit cards, to see if any of these could suit. Unfortunately you can’t get joint credit cards, like you can with bank accounts, however if you take out a travel credit card, the main account holder should be able to add additional card holders so that everyone has a card and access to the money.

If you don’t want to pool your money with your travel buddy beforehand, then there are tonnes of apps that help you split and settle up individual bills.

Splitwise is being hailed as a lifesaver for many in shared homes, but it could also help for travel trips. It details each expenditure and tallies who owes who what within the group. It also gives those who owe money a little nudge via email or push notification, to remind them to cough up so you don’t have to do the chasing. A similar one is Kittysplit.

If you want to scale it down even more, but don’t want to get into the hassle of doing a bank transfer every time your mate covers the bus fare, then there are apps that let you send and receive money with just an email address or a messaging service. Circle, for example, says it’s on a mission to change the global economy and wants everyone to be able to exchange cash monies a lot more easily than the banks currently make it. It’s free to use and if everyone downloads the app you can send each other moolah as if it were a text message. Elsewhere, Skrill is rather like Paypal in that you send money using your mate’s email address (though they’d need to register with Skrill to access it). Also like Paypal, there is a charge for each transaction: a fee of 1.90% of the total sent, capped at a maximum of €20 (or the equivalent in your currency).

Finding the best deals while travelling

Group discounts are a thing. If there are some definite excursions you want to go on, it might be worth contacting the operator beforehand to see what discount, if any, they’ll give a group booking.

In the UK, if you’re travelling by train, groups of between three and nine people can save up to one third the cost of an off peak ticket - as long as you travel together there and back. It’s called GroupSave and is an ongoing promotion. Read more here to find out which train companies take part in the scheme. And don’t forget that the Network Railcard is valid for four adults travelling together, even if only person holds it.

National Express has a similar deal for groups travelling with four or more. You can save 25% on any standard UK fare including those to airports and events. You just need to book your travel at least three days in advance.

For attractions and theatre trips in London, check out Group Line, which lets you reserve tickets until you can confirm final numbers.

While you’re out the country, don’t forget there a multitude of ways to save while being in a big group. Think your massive crew is going to be turned away from a high class bar? Go to student night instead. And let the pennies go further by staying in accommodation that is slightly too small for your needs, with the unlucky person sleeping on the living room sofa.

Remember: It’s your holiday, too

Above all else, don’t let resentment or financial difficulties taint either your holiday or your friendship. If you have a list of things that you must do or see while you’re away, because it’s been a dream of yours for a decade, then make sure that your mates know that. Also, be prepared to do that thing on your own if it’s not at the forefront of your mates’ desires. Make sure you have enough money to cover the things you’re desperate to tick off, and keep in constant communication with the rest of the group about what the itinerary looks like and how all of you can compromise.

Top takeaway: Going on holiday with a bunch of people needn’t be the total mindscrew you’re worried it’ll turn out to be. Being honest with each other about your expectations and your budget, before you leave home, will help a great deal. Also make sure you do adequate research not only on group discounts, but also on the cost of living in the place you’re visiting - it’ll give you a greater idea of the kind of spending money you’ll need to save up.

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