If you ever vacation with friends or family, chances are that one of your journeys will eventually find you traveling with people whose financial means are different from yours. They may have more money than you (or be more willing to incur debt on vacation) or less than you. Whatever the case, vacationing with people of different financial means can be stressful.
Problems arise on both ends of the spectrum. If your traveling companions have more money than you, you may feel pressured to spend more than you’re comfortable with so that you won’t be left out of the fun. Whether it’s lavish dinners, fancy hotels, or pricey tours, you may feel that you have to spend in order to have a good time and spend time with your companions. If your companions have less than you, you may feel that you should tone down your fun so that they don’t feel left out. You may find yourself giving up things you really wanted to see and do so that you don’t leave your companions behind. Either way, a vacation with people of different means is a breeding ground for resentment and frustration.
So how do you survive a vacation if your traveling companions have more or less money than you do? Here are some suggestions.
Choose a destination with a lot to offer: This sounds like a “duh” moment, but make sure that your vacation destination offers something that everyone can afford. You don’t want to choose a city that is so pricey that only the very wealthy can afford it, or a destination that is nothing but a campground and “Bubba’s BBQ Palace.” Choose a city or destination that offers a variety of activities, lodging, and restaurants at different price points.
Compromise is the key: As with so many things in life, compromise is the key to surviving a vacation with people of differing means. Be willing to compromise on some of your wants while sticking to the things that are most important to you. Be willing to consider different types of lodging or food to compensate for the income gap. The more open you are to different activities and styles of vacationing, the more successful the trip will be. Try to find the middle ground between luxury and cheap. There is a lot of middle ground available in terms of lodging, food, and activities.
Be willing to separate: Even in groups where everyone has the same amount of money, a vacation can go wrong if the group sticks together all of the time. You will get on each other’s nerves. Everyone has different tastes and desires on vacation, so be willing to go your own ways at times. When you have a group with big money differences, this is even more important. Everyone can pursue their own activities without pressure to spend or resentment coming from the other side.
Offer to “treat” on one thing that you really want to do: If you are the one with more money, offer to treat the group to the one thing that you really don’t want to miss. If you have your heart set on a fancy restaurant or a luxury tour but you know you’re companions likely can’t afford it, offer to pay for the whole group. That way, you’ll get to do your special thing and everyone can join you. You don’t have to offer to treat at every venue, only the one that is most important to you. Your companions will probably appreciate the gesture.
Be honest: Whether you have more or less money than your companions, don’t try to hide it. You don’t have to discuss every aspect of your finances, but it is fine to say, “I don’t think we can afford that,” if you’re not comfortable paying that much. On the flip side, if there is something you really want to do and your companions can’t afford it, there is nothing wrong with saying, “We really want to do this, so we’ll catch up with you at 6:00.” Don’t feel like you have to hide and apologize for your means (whatever they are) and, conversely, don’t make your companions feel like they have to hide and apologize for theirs.
Make plans ahead of time: You can avoid a lot of squabbling at the destination if you make some plans ahead of time so that everyone knows what to expect. Sit down over lunch one day with a bunch of guidebooks and talk about what you’d like to see and do. That way, everyone in the group can get a feel for the costs and the expectations of other group members. Agree in advance on some “middle-ground” things to do together so that everyone feels included.
Save up for something really special: If you know from your advance planning that a pricey meal or tour is on the plan and you really want to join in, save up for it. With some advance notice you can up your savings goal to cover something special. That way you can join your companions at the special venue and pay your own way.
Don’t offer to pay for everything: While it is fine, if you have the means, to offer to pay for one special thing, don’t offer to pay for everything. No matter how much you may want to travel with your companions, they are likely to be offended by your offer. They will know that you feel they can’t afford it and that you are only carrying them out of pity. They might accept because they don’t want to make waves, but may also resent you in the process. Instead, try to compromise your way to a vacation that all can enjoy.
Don’t expect your companions to carry you: Conversely, if you have the reduced means in the group, don’t be a mooch. Asking or expecting your companions to pick up your tab is just plain rude. Pay your own way and if you can’t afford something, say so.
Rather than travel together, offer to meet at your vacation destination: Maybe you want to drive because it’s affordable and you can see more, but your companions want to fly (first class, to boot) and you can’t afford it. Offer to simply meet at the destination rather than traveling together. That way, everyone can travel in their preferred manner and not be angry before the vacation has even begun.
It is possible to survive a vacation with people who have more or less money than you. With a spirit of compromise and some advance planning, you can have a good time and still remain friends. The key is to remember that you have different means, but not make that the focus of the trip. If you get hung up worrying about who has more or less, you’ll only end up angry and resentful. Respect the means of your companions, but don’t make them feel badly about it. Plan some things to do together, but be willing to do your own thing, too. Put the focus of the trip on your time together and having fun and the issue of money will fade into the background.