How do you share group travel expenses? Splitting restaurant bills, contributing to grocery purchases and sharing the cost of a transportation card can be an energy-draining process. Within my groups of travel friends, we’ve found an efficient low-tech solution. We share group travel expenses with Kitty, a soft-sided community coin purse. Kitty is such an integral part of each fun-loving adventure, she even warrants her own name.
We’ve found Kitty to be dependable, fair, generous and trustworthy. She loves all forms of ground transportation from taxis to subways to car rentals. Sharing a group dinner at a restaurant is one of her favourite pastimes. Kitty loves shopping for groceries, picking up treats from local vendors, filling the rental car with petrol, or enjoying an ice cream with friends. She’s a much valued and appreciated travelling companion.
How a kitty works
A kitty is easy to organize and very convenient for making day-to-day purchases. Nothing needs to be recorded. No one needs to invest mental energy in remembering, calculating or reminding each other who owes whom what. When a group purchase needs to be made, someone makes a quick reference to Kitty and if all are in agreement, Kitty picks up the tab. It eliminates the need for several people to reach into their pockets or purses for the right change, and it makes it easier for a vendor to complete a sale.
Kitty makes her appearance early in the trip. Someone usually steps forward to take custody of Kitty, or we agree to share the responsibility for different days. Everyone contributes an equal amount. When Kitty is almost depleted, we agree on the amount of the next contribution to keep her viable. At the end of the trip, what’s left is equally dispersed.
Kitty doesn’t buy alcohol. There’s usually one person in the group who doesn’t drink, or another who consumes very little. People who enjoy a beer or wine at “happy hour” work out a separate arrangement.
We’re also mindful of inequities. For example, one person caught a cold. She elected to remain “close to home” while the rest of us went on a road trip on the second day of our car rental. We kept track of expenses, and the road trippers each made an additional contribution. In another example, three of us had flights leaving about the same time, and were able to share a taxi to the airport. Another person had an early flight, and travelled alone in a taxi. Kitty funded both trips.
We’ve never experienced any tensions associated with Kitty. For example, it’s unlikely that each person’s meal costs exactly the same unless we’ve each ordered the same thing. Everyone has different food preferences, and our grocery purchases accommodate these differences. Our attitude is such that it all balances out in the end. There’s no need to worry about different contribution rates, or keep track of who benefits more or less from having a kitty. This would drive us crazy, our relationships would suffer, and our travel adventure wouldn’t be as much fun.
Managing a kitty may not be for everyone. If you give it a try, start with smaller individual items such as metro tickets, or a group expense such as a taxi ride, or petrol for a vehicle. Move to other costs according to the comfort levels of everyone in the group.
The kitty purse displayed above was made by Couture par Carmen Maillet. Carmen makes a variety of handmade travel products.
What’s your experience in managing group travel expenses? What other methods have worked for you?