How to take group vacations (without losing friends)

Dating and debt: When to talk money
Dating and debt: When to talk money

Does your upcoming vacation fill you with dread and anxiety? There's a good chance you're traveling with friends.

Everyone enjoys spending time with pals, but when it comes to going on vacation, even the best of friends often end up butting heads.

There are a number of problems that can lead to clashes. The best way to make sure everyone has a good time is to anticipate a problem, and try to deal with it before it becomes an issue.

Problem #1: You can't agree on where to stay

While some people prefer to blow their budget on a luxury resort, others might want to save money on a cheap hostel or bed and breakfast. Location can also be a sticking point if friends want to be closer to certain attractions, or have beach front views, for example.

Solution: Split up.

Sometimes the easiest way to release the tension is to just split up and stay in separate accommodations that suit your own needs, and meet up later.

When Tom Balcom, a Florida-based financial adviser, went on vacation with friends, he stayed in a local Marriott with his family, while some of his other travel companions stayed at a resort.

"While we did not all stay together, we were close enough to get together whenever we chose," he says. Having a crucial conversation beforehand about money helped him and his friends avoid any strife or stigma surrounding price. "The key to avoiding conflict is understanding what is affordable for each party and planning accordingly," he says.

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Problem #2: Everyone has different budgets

Maybe some people want to go on expensive outings or dine in fancy restaurants. But other friends might be stressing about their share of the cost.

Solution: Keep a fund going.

A joint fund where everyone can pool their money together for activities and meals allows each person to contribute what they can afford to spend on the trip, says Ellen Siegel, a financial adviser based in Florida. It gives some of the wealthier members the flexibility to be as open with their wallets as they choose, but doesn't obligate anyone to spend more than they can afford.

"Use the lowest common denominator account," she says. "Anything that costs more gets funded by the folks who prefer and can afford to live a little better."

Another solution is to assign a bookkeeper. If you have a friend who likes to "count the beans" at home, they may make a good bookkeeper or debt settler at the end of your trip, Siegel says. This person is in charge of keeping track of the spending, dividing up the trip and calculating who owes what.

Problem #3: You argue over activities

Every time you travel with friends, most of the decisions about what to do on your trip get decided at the last minute. This might cause some to spend more than they had anticipated or budgeted for.

Solution: Have a pre-travel party.

Before head outing, having a get-together with your friends where you hash out the details of the trip can help mitigate issues off the bat, says Leon LaBrecque, a Michigan-based financial adviser. At his own parties, his family and friends discuss money, maps and attractions over dinner and drinks.

"We think it's a great idea to have a range of activities of different money ranges," LeBrecque says. "Sometimes we even 'theme' the party.

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