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How Friends Can Travel Together Cheap — Without Killing Each Other

Whatever happens in Vegas needs to be buried there.

You snuck three questions in here for the price of one: How tight is the group now? How tight is your budget? And how friendly do you still want to be at the end of the trip?. That’s OK. You have complete control over the first part of the equation, so start there. If you have a history of stress with anyone, leave her off the list. Add names one by one, and as you build your posse, give them similar veto power over everyone who follows. If they suggest someone new, great — but the “sponsor” has responsibility for keeping her in line.

Test your limits gradually. In general, a long weekend getaway is more than enough time for someone to get on your nerves. At the planning stage, ask yourself if you’d invite this person into your home for the amount of time the trip will take. If it makes you nervous, maybe she’s not a good fit.

(Sidebar: decide now whether to invite all the significant others or none of them. That way, they can pass if they want to, but there are’s no hard feelings. And if there’s a husband you hate, suddenly it’s a girl-only event so he’s not even an issue. You have maximum power at the planning stage. Use it or be a doormat.)

“Cheap” is a tradeoff with luxury on one side and friction on the other. Sorority sisters only need to squeeze into a car, chip in for snacks and find low-cost crash space at the end of the road. Split the gas equally and you may move for pennies a mile — but unless you still love that life, I’d trade up to the cheapest flight you can book together. Contact an actual travel agent for group discounts that don’t show up on one-on-one travel sites, but make sure everybody gets a share of the package perks.

And avoid “too good to be true” deals with strings attached. A pal thought she’d save us a few bucks once in Germany by hitchhiking on the Autobahn. I like motorcycles, but the rough ride she picked out practically gave me a heart attack! You can be strict with your own budget, but never impose your budget on others in the group.

Think twice about an Airbnb-style home rental as a budget move unless you’re feeling nostalgic for those ultra-intimate road trips. Doubling up on motel rooms is cheaper and there are’s usually more bathrooms to go around. Don’t push for deep discounts —– a friend I shared a cottage with in Key West made a fuss about the shower curtain in order to claw back a few dollars and it just wasn’t cool. And if you’re really all about the cash flow, remember that single girls have been known to rent their homes while they’re on the road. Depending on where you live, your trip may end up paying for itself! (Tiptoe around any landlords, of course.)

But say your budget is so tight that you’ve skipped everything I’ve said so far and everyone’s cranky by the time you arrive. In that scenario, you need breathing room. I remember one time a friend and I were flying from Athens to London and it only took the smell of my fresh nail polish in the cramped cabin to push her over the edge. Until the air clears, make all scheduled group fun strictly opt-out — this gives frenemies a chance to carve “me” time out of the “we” time and unwind.

And resolve lingering tension before you need to pack up your peeves and go home. Whatever happens in “Vegas” needs to be buried there. Otherwise, you’ll be staring at each other for hours and your emotional sore spots will scab over. Friends are precious and travel can be stressful. Don’t push a great relationship beyond the breaking point.