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Balancing Different Spending Styles While Vacationing With A Friend

Brittany VanDerBill  |  June 25, 2022

An old friend and I visited Las Vegas together, though our spending styles are quite different. Here’s what happened, and what we learned.

Taking a vacation is supposed to be fun. Getting away from it all for a few days is sometimes just what we need to relax and reset. And 70% of people intend to drop more dollars on traveling this year than we did in the past five years. Considering prices for hotel rooms are up by as much as 27.6%, that probably makes sense.

However, splurging makes things interesting, especially when two old friends vacation together for the first time. It gets even more interesting when those two friends have different spending styles before and during the trip. I recently learned this during a long weekend in Las Vegas with a college friend. Here’s a look at our two different vacation spending styles and some takeaways from the experience. 

LAS VEGAS GETAWAY

As with most tourist destinations, Las Vegas offers an array of hotel options to choose from. My friend and I stayed at The Venetian, which is an all-suite hotel with plenty of restaurants, bars and various forms of entertainment to enjoy. While not the most expensive hotel on the famous Las Vegas Strip, it’s not one of the cheapest options. 

We chose The Venetian since it is a bit more upscale. We also knew we wouldn’t have to leave the hotel if we didn’t want to because they have so much to do and see there. The room cost was a bit higher than I was hoping, but the timing of our vacation seemed to hit right when flights and hotels throughout the U.S. were higher than usual. The hotel was beautiful and clean, so the cost of the room was worth it to me.

BUDGETING ON VACATION

When it comes to vacationing, I don’t set a budget beyond what I pay per night on a hotel room. After that, my thinking is that the getaway is booked, and I will inevitably spend money on food, drinks and entertainment so I can enjoy my time away. 

However, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to go all out. It’s more that I’m willing to pay $20 for a good glass of wine to enjoy with dinner, even though I know I could buy that same bottle of wine at the liquor store for about the same price. 

PRE-TRIP PLANNING STYLES

We booked a Thursday evening to Monday morning stay. When planning our trip, I learned that my college friend had a much different approach to vacationing. She wanted to enjoy a spa day while in Las Vegas and had no hesitation about spending $349 (before tip) on a massage and exfoliation wrap treatment. Meanwhile, I looked at the spa’s menu and chose the cheapest thing I could find. They offer a full-body massage with no extras that cost $279, before tip. 

I definitely hesitated before booking my spa treatment! In fact, I calculated how many massages I could enjoy here at home at that rate—with a massage therapist I trust and who does excellent work. However, as I said, I want to enjoy my getaways when I take them, so I went ahead with the massage. 

In another pre-trip planning conversation, my friend casually mentioned she was considering booking a private cabana at one of the many pools. (The Venetian alone has 7 pools, and its other two towers have even more to choose from.) I haven’t booked a private cabana before, so I looked at the website for some information. 

Turns out, a private cabana at The Venetian costs around $1,000 per day. Granted, it includes amenities such as a private bathroom, lounge space, air conditioning, bar, personal attendant and more. But I told my friend in no uncertain terms that I was not going to consider splitting this with her. 

My reasoning is that I’d rather put that $1,000 (or $500, if we were splitting it) toward another trip in the future. Her spending style, at least before we took the trip, seemed to be quite the opposite. 

SPENDING STYLES DURING THE TRIP

Interestingly enough, my friend’s spending styles changed once we arrived. Our first two days were splurge days, partly because of our spa day. We enjoyed dinner and drinks Thursday, then splurged on cocktails with brunch followed by massages and more cocktails during and after dinner on Friday. 

However, on Saturday, my friend told me she didn’t really want to spend any more money on cocktails. I completely understood, considering each drink cost around $20. In that respect, we were both finally on the same page with spending styles on the trip.

Our choice of restaurants also differed significantly. In general, I’m willing to spend a little more on a really good meal. I also enjoy having one dinner out where I really splurge on a great steak or other entrée I can’t find at home. To that end, I suggested Smith & Wollensky steakhouse. My friend, however, had zero desire to splurge on a meal. We ultimately skipped it. It’s one of those things I would have enjoyed but my friend wouldn’t have.

THE LOGISTICS OF SPLITTING OUR BILLS

The bars and restaurants tended to just give us one combined bill. At first, we simply took turns paying. By Friday afternoon, we decided we’d ask to have our bills split up going forward. With such different spending styles, it just made more sense to track our own expenses separately. Otherwise, it’s confusing sorting which person owes the other. 

My friend also doesn’t have an app like Venmo, so we would have had to trade checks or cash back and forth. It simply wasn’t worth the hassle for us.

THE TAKEAWAY

Because we’d talked about room budgets and my hard stop on renting a private cabana, we had a decent feel for some of each other’s vacation spending habits ahead of time. Once we were on the trip, my friend’s spending habits shifted to be more conservative, which suited me just fine. We differed a bit when it came to splurging on food, but it wasn’t a big deal as we had plenty of restaurants to choose from. In retrospect, it probably would have been beneficial to talk through more of these details ahead of time.

Discussing any budget constraints before taking a trip with a friend is definitely key to ensuring you don’t spend more (or less) than you’d like on a vacation. Asking restaurants to provide separate bills is another way to stay on track if your friend spends differently than you. Keeping these takeaways in mind can help you be more prepared for vacationing with friends on your next trip.

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