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Friday, December 2, 2022
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Friday, December 2, 2022
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    Talk about money before holidaying with friends, or regret it later

    THE STAR – For many, travelling with friends or family is always a fun affair because you get to spend quality time and create wonderful memories together. But before going on the trip, there is that one issue that, while important, is not always easy to bring up – money.

    Talking about budget with your group even before the trip begins is very important as it helps to ensure a smooth holiday.

    However, most of us tend to avoid talking about money as they can make some of us feel uncomfortable. This is possibly caused by the different income levels in the group and the kind of expectations that everyone may have of the trip.

    For example, some may be able to pay for a four-star accommodation, while others may prefer something in a lower price range.

    Also, some in the group may expect to do lots of activities and have a packed itinerary, while others prefer to go “with the flow” and are fine with just hanging out at the hotel pool.

    Kourtney Goh, 24, said that appointing a designated person to plan a budget is the best way to begin the dreaded “money talk”.

    But once someone gets the ball rolling, then devising a budget becomes easier.

    Lee and friends in the Mekong River Delta. PHOTOS: THE STAR
    ABOVE & BELOW: Lee at a Thai temple in Perak; and Goh and her friends in Pangkor Island

    For Goh, the most important thing to do first when planning a trip with a group of friends is to ascertain how much each person is able – and willing – to spend. After all, unexpected or additional costs could cause unnecessary stress.

    “We need to know how much the group is willing to fork out for things like transportation, accommodation and other important expenses for the trip. Not discussing these financial expectations before the trip could potentially create tension within the travelling group,” she noted.

    Goh, who works in an advertising agency, has travelled several times with friends as well as colleagues, both in large and small groups.

    She has even travelled in a group of 40 people!

    The choice of holiday destination also plays a major role in determining a suitable budget for your group. Of course, everyone needs to agree on where to go first.

    “As my friends and I have sort of just entered the working world, we have to make sure that how much money we spend on our holidays will not burden us financially for the remainder of the month,” Goh noted.

    Because of this, she and her friends tend to choose local holiday attractions, or destinations that are closer to Malaysia.

    Retiree Marie Lee, 62, said that having a good travel plan also helps give others in the group a clearer picture of what they can and cannot do on the trip.

    “We need to determine a budget. I usually propose one to give everyone an idea of the amount needed. We look at several factors first before making our decision, with services and comfort as our top priority.

    “For example, we would pay five-star prices for five-star services, but there are times when we want to cut back on travel spending so we have to figure out where to make concessions,” she explained.

    According to both Goh and Lee, some of the things that one should take into account when calculating the overall expected cost of a holiday include accommodation, food, transportation, data fees for Internet connection and entrance fees or ticket prices, if you are considering visiting ticketed places of interest like a museum, or a cultural show.

    There’s also the matter of currency exchange rates – if you’re planning to go abroad – and travel season. Peak seasons cost more while shoulder seasons usually offer better deals but you may have to compromise on things like unfavourable weather.

    As for flight tickets, some travel experts think that they are best excluded from the main budget planning, as not everyone would want to fly on the same airline for a variety of reasons (like the preference to collect frequent flyer points in an airline loyalty programme, for example).

    Travel insurance is also considered a personal expense and usually bundled with your flight ticket, so it should be left out of the overall group budget.

    For some people, food, too, can be problematic as not everyone has the same dietary preferences. A person who is vegan or vegetarian, for example, may not find it fair to have to pay the same amount of money as everyone else at a seafood buffet.

    When you come across a situation like this, just discuss with the group on the best way to split the bill. Communication is key!

    THE LEADER

    While some may think that it is easier to just sort out your own expenses while travelling in a group, Goh thinks otherwise.

    “It is ideal for one person or even two people in the group to take care of the money, and monitor expenses,” said Goh, who has a lot of experience in being the “money person” in the group.

    In today’s digital world, there are apps that you can use to track your expenditure while travelling.

    Some of these apps include Splitwise, TrabeePocket, Trail Wallet, Trip-coin, Tricount, Foreceipt, Expensify and Concur.

    Most of the apps are easy to use – just key in all your expenses each time you make a payment. At the end of the trip, the app will calculate how much each person needs to pay.

    However, you would still need to have one person key in the numbers, and be the point person who pays for things first, or the “banker”.

    Appointing a banker also removes the danger of having everyone fumble around with their cash when it is time to pay.

    When everyone in the group takes out their wallets and purses at the same time, they may just become “targetted”, either by petty thieves or scammers who prey on gullible tourists.

    Sure, the banker may also be exposed, but there are plenty of useful hacks online that teach you how to be safe with cash while travelling (like dividing your money into categories like “transport” and “food”, and keeping them in several different wallets).

    Of course, if you’re travelling to a place where cash is no longer king, try to make payments with either your card or ewallet whenever you can, as they are more convenient.

    Lee said that group members should pay an estimated amount of money to the banker before the trip begins, so as not to put so much financial strain on the person.

    If the group’s spending somehow exceeds the budget, then the banker would need to pay for the extras first, and collect after the trip ends.

    SCHEDULED AFFAIR

    We all want to make our holidays memorable and special, but some believe that a vacation without a proper travel plan in place can derail the whole experience.

    “Having an itinerary or schedule is essential for a smooth getaway. Get your group members’ input on where they want to go and what they want to see or do. From there, it is easy to craft a schedule that works for everyone.

    “Besides keeping everything in check, having a travel plan can also help you save money,” Lee shared.

    Once the itinerary is done, Lee suggested creating a shareable folder online so that anyone can easily revise the plans if they need to.

    Hiking enthusiast Sabillah Nazifa, 26, plans to explore the hills and mountains in Malaysia with her friends.

    Sabillah would often plan the itinerary and budget herself, taking care to note how much is needed for things like transportation, accommodation and food.

    Once everything is ready, she shares the plan with her friends.

    As these are usually either hiking or climbing trips, the itinerary is always similar so her friends can more or less know what to expect. However, sometimes there are additional costs to bear, like climbing permits and the hiring of guides.

    “You’re not allowed to trek the jungle without a proper guide, especially if you’re going into forest reserves. If we entered a protected area without a permit, it’s considered trespassing.

    “So, we have to look for an agent to help us with the permit and guide, or join a community hiking group,” Sabillah said.

    She added that having an expert guide join you in the trek or climb is for your own safety, as it lowers your risk of getting lost in the wilderness and getting injured.

    Sabillah would make the bookings herself and pay for the package upfront, always making sure that her travel group knows how much everything costs.

    “By doing this, it’s easier for me to make sure that everything is in order. I’d just put aside some money for food and other unplanned spending,” she revealed, adding that she would tell her friends to do the same.

    Sabillah usually collects payment from her friends after the trip, to ensure that everyone enjoys their holiday and not worry too much about carrying cash while in the jungle!

    Travelling in a group with like-minded folks is fun as you get to share experiences together. For Lee, it’s not about the destination but who you are with that counts.

    “It’s always exciting to do things together and share special moments with your family or friends, even something as simple as sharing meals.

    “You really don’t have to spend big bucks on a trip. All you need is a plan that fits your budget, whether it is a vacation for a few days or just a day or a weekend trip,” Lee concluded, adding that as long as everybody agrees on the plan and shared costs, budget discussions do not need to be awkward at all.

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