Travel friends are your best friends.
No, they don’t have to be your best friends in the life-sense (sometimes they are), but when it comes to cheap trips, traveling with friends = cheap vacations!
So if you find yourself talking to someone that has a common interest like backpacking, or scuba diving, or downing a six pack of beer at the beach with half-naked girls while playing corn hole, or even sipping a steaming cup of coffee over a nice book with a view off the coast of Greece – keep them close because they are your secret weapon to cheap trips!
You can scrounge the internet for last minute vacation deals or save up your airlines miles from credit cards to cash them in, but if you really want to save money on vacations: splitting the cost of vacations wins every time.
Imagine you’re taking a trip coming up soon.
What are your biggest costs when it comes to travel?
There are many things that come to mind when calculating a travel budget like food, travel expenses, and souvenirs, but there are some general big-ticket items that come to mind.
The usual suspects include:
- Hotel rooms
- Vacation rentals (such as AirBnB or VRBO)
- Car rentals
- Taxis or Uber
- Restaurants & food
- Alcohol & drinks (wine, beer, spirits, coffee, & tea can add up quick)
Save Money on Hotel Rooms
Hotel rooms can be one of the biggest line-items in the budget. If you’re traveling with friends, do you really need separate bathrooms? Hotel rooms (for us) are a stop along the way to our actual destination, so is having a separate bedroom really worth the extra cost or can you “rough it” for one night? Wouldn’t you rather put that money towards skydiving over the coast, riding a horse through the saltwater on the beach, or drinking a pitcher of sangria at sunset?
If you’re like us the choice is obvious, but that’s up to you.
I’m not saying that sharing hotel rooms with friends isn’t challenging (especially if they snore), but you have to choose your financial battles & sacrifice in the short-term for your long-term travel gains. Money is finite so make it work as efficiently for you as you can, even while on vacation.
Splitting the Cost on Vacation Rentals
Now that you’ve made it to your destination, whether you went direct or had to “rough it” sharing a hotel room with your travel friends, now is the time for spending money on extra rooms.
The two places I love most when finding an amazing vacation rental is AirBnB (Air Bed & Breakfast) and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). With those two amazing tools, we’ve found some of the best places located at the perfect spots near where we wanted to be. Recently, we used AirBnb three times for some the best places we could have imagined; one cute place in San Francisco, one near the cliffs in Monterey, CA, and one right near the castle on our trip to Quebec City, Canada.
You can find cheaper places, but when you split the cost between 2 or 3 couples, you’re force multiplying your travel dollars to get much more amazing places for as much as a hotel would cost and sometimes MUCH cheaper!
Flights & Friends
Okay, there’s no cost-savings with flights that you can split, but flying with friends can at least be fun! If you have a long layover at the airport or a red-eye, you can take shifts watching each others belongings while you sleep, not to mention breaking some of the boredom that comes with layovers with camaraderie.
To cut expenses here, you’ll have to look more for travel deals or getting frequent flier miles from credit cards.
Saving Money on Car Rentals
Get ready for another big win. This is the other heavy hitter when it comes to saving money while taking trips with friends. When you rent a car alone or even with another person, you’re paying good money for the privilege to transport air! Yay!
Would you buy tickets for four seats on an airline and then only use one?
That’s exactly what a rental car is. Instead of giving your hard earned-dollars to the rental car company to buy four seats (or more) while using only one or two of those seats, this is where vacations with friends reaps serious benefits.
Not only are you splitting the cost of the actual rental, you also get a great deal by splitting the gas bill!
Splitting the Cost of Taxis & Uber
Just the same with a rental car – if you pay for a taxi or even smarter – using Uber, you might also be picking up the tab for those non-existent people sitting next to you.
Just recently in Quebec City, three of us used Uber for a 15 minute ride out of town to visit grandma and what was the price between riding solo and three passengers? You got it, the same.
So if your travel involves a lot of paying for people-moving services like taxis & Uber to get around, do yourself a favor and maximize the entire space you’re paying for. Better yet, if public transportation is available and even cheaper, then use that!
Dining With Friends Can Save you Money
It’s fun going out to eat, but $30 here and $40 there adds up to big money that we can spend extending our vacations! While restaurants are fun, we try to keep dining out as a rare treat or at least keep it for special occasions.
But there’s something we enjoy doing instead that we love even more – making unique dishes ourselves with local produce & artisan items like bread. Researching your local food options is an absolute must if you like to cook!
Is there a farmer’s market or a local grocery store available with fresh, local produce, baked bread, or interesting deli items? After years of dining out, that’s exactly what we found in Quebec City right near where we were staying and never knew it was there.
This little marché or “market” had everything you could ever want within walking distance! Not only that, it was every day!
We felt like we were on another continent as we perused aisles displaying fresh produce ranging from colorful ripe tomatoes, large beautiful leeks, bright purple potatoes, interesting fruits like ground cherries, strawberries, raspberries, fresh-baked bread, cheeses of all kinds, meats, sauces, packaged goods like pasta, rice, and beans, herbs & spices, beer, wine, coffee, tea – basically, if you needed something to make any type of meal, you could get it here.
What’s more is that not only are you getting some of the best-tasting, local, nutrient-dense food around, since you’re buying it at cost, you can make large meals suited for several people to split the budget! Most of the time, the grocery for the entire week might cost as little as dining out together one time!
That leaves you a lot of options of where you could spend that extra money.
Alcohol & Drinks Can Cut into the Travel Budget
There’s nothing that gets us to “arrive” faster on vacation than a nice relaxing glass of wine, beer, or a mixed drink. And if there’s one thing that brings friends together, it’s the clinking of glasses to celebrate good friendship and the happiness of exploring places most people only dream about.
But, buying drinks out (especially mixed drinks at $14 a glass and $5 coffees) is really, really stupid.
If your happiness in life is to be entertained by your bartender with fancy twirls & pours or ordering a sophisticated café au lait triple macchiato doubleshot from a delightful barista, then by all means be my guest. It’s your money, but markup on drinks at trendy places is absolutely crazy! I’ve heard stories of dropping several hundreds of dollars on a single night of partying that could’ve gotten you an entire extra week (or two) in paradise instead.
Now, there’s very valid reasons to buy a drink at a nice place – to listen to live music, to watch the game, to experience a unique environment or a natural event like a sunset, to sample beer or wine brewed right there at the brewery, to work on your blog with Wi-Fi, or even to peruse the local scene for a date, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
If you just want to get in the spirit of vacation like we do with a spicy, slippery beverage, just visit the local spirits shop. I love to buy wine and beer made locally in the region so I can experience what the locals might be drinking and producing, but they’ll also have all the normal types of hard liquor as well for your harder drinks. Since most alcohol comes in larger bottles, like wine or rum, if you and your travel buddies share, you can sample a bit of several styles without committing yourself to just one type of taste. You’re also less likely to waste it, not being able to finish it.
See how that works?
The same goes for coffee & tea. Most of the time you won’t find locally made coffee or tea since those only grow in certain climates of the world like Columbia, Costa Rica, Hawaii and the like. But what I do is go to the grocery store or a specialty shop and fresh-grind enough coffee to last for the entire trip so that I can always have an exquisite, strong-tasting brew of steamy Joe to make me happy in the morning.
So travel friends don’t always mean cheap trips, but it will usually equal cheaper trips. There are items in the budget that can easily be cut in half, thirds, or even fourths! It’s not always easy to take vacations with friends, but it sure can make a difference on the wallet. Finding personalities and people whose goals align with yours is key. No matter what though, when you share experiences like traveling together, it’s sure to solidify long-lasting memories.