Fairest way to split family vacation expenses?
June 30, 2017 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Family members are all flying to a city for vacation. We will be renting a house. What is the best/fairest way to divide up the expenses?

Family consists of my mother, my two siblings/spouses and me/spouse plus kids (I have 1 kid, one sibling has 2 kids, one sibling has no kids). So, 10 people in total, 7 adults (3 couples plus a single) and 3 kids.

Should we divide expenses by the number of adults (7)? Or by the number of bedrooms that each family/ unit uses? Something else?

On one hand, if you go to a hotel, you expect to pay per room. On the other, we are renting a house that is big enough for 10, so perhaps we should calculate things on a per person (or per adult) basis?

I feel like I can't decide since with each option I think about exactly how it would impact that person (e.g., "that way mom pays more" or " that way the couple with no kids is subsiding the ones with kids" and I can't make an unbiased (or at least, fairly biased? Is that a thing?) decision.

So, what say you, uninvested MeFites?
posted by msbubbaclees to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just to clarify: "Family members" who are "all flying in" -- does that mean everyone, including you, is flying in? Are there major cost differences to the flights?
posted by lazuli at 8:22 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think either per adult or per room would be fair. My tie breaker would based on who could more easily afford the larger share or needs the help of smaller share. Whatever you decide, I would then make sure that the rest of the family are OK with it. An email along the lines of "we could do it this way or that. I think this makes sense - are you with that?" or if you find you don't have a strong preference or don't want to take a strong stand, ""we could do it this way or that. What do you think?"
posted by metahawk at 8:26 PM on June 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Take half of the rental cost and divide that equally including kids. The other half is divided up based on rooms. (So if person, spouse and kids are all shoved into a room, they pay less).
posted by raccoon409 at 8:26 PM on June 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Per adult seems the most fair, but there are questions about how many people are in a room (do the kids have their own room(s)? Then the parents pay for those) and the size of each room. I just know single people often get the short end of things, often, and I think I'd be really resentful if I was expected to pay, for instance, $300 for a tiny room when a family of 4 paid the same for a much bigger room. Dividing it up per adult makes things more equal.

Also, depending, keep in mind how you're going to divide up food costs. Sure, kids eat less and all, but I'd divide it up with regard to everyone (so per every person -- so yeah, families are going to pay more in total than a childless couple or a single person).

But definitely try to err on the side of fair to the people who are single/without kids.
posted by darksong at 8:35 PM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

As far the lodging goes, I would suggest dividing by the number of bedrooms that each family/unit uses. Assuming each child gets their own room, each bedroom is roughly 14.3%.

Your mom pays 14.3% (1 bedroom)
You and your spouse pay 28.6% (2 bedrooms)
Sibling A + spouse pays 42.8% (3 bedrooms)
Sibling B + spouse pays 14.3% (1 bedroom)
posted by Juniper Toast at 8:42 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can you clarify where the kids are sleeping? My answer would depend on the layout of the house. If baby kids are sharing a bed with their parents, that's way different than a 16 year old kid getting their own room.
posted by salvia at 8:49 PM on June 30, 2017

The house isn't just bedrooms though. You'll be sharing bathrooms - how many does the house have? And the kitchen - who will be keeping track of grocery runs? And are you renting a car or cars so you can go buy those groceries? Are there nearby entertainments that the whole family will be enjoying that costs extra money, like renting kayaks or visiting an amusement park or museum?

It's a mishmash of expenses and who is doing and costing what and it's very difficult to keep detailed track of it all. If there are family members who you know have financial difficulty, I'd err on the side of a system that favors them most and just roll with it. But if you're all fairly well off, it gets harder to decide.

My impulse as a single adult in a large extended family is to favor the single people, but I recognize that parents with kids on vacation are doing the job of parenting in a new situation and also that kids are wicked expensive just generally. I'd suggest making kids into fractions and splitting it up evenly by units of adults, the actual real adults end up paying a certain number of adult units. By this I mean, if a kid is a really little baby who isn't going to eat much food and will sleep with the parents and all that, the kid gets a free pass. But 5 to 13 (this is arbitrary, whatever makes sense in your family) would be half an adult unit, teens are three quarters. So say you and your spouse has a 10 year old, you'd end up paying for 2.5 adult units of the total expenses including food and rentals and yadda yadda. This compensates for the kid's costs but cuts the parents a break that doesn't make the single and childless resentful.
posted by Mizu at 9:05 PM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

My inclination is to just pony up myself. When you start sharpening pencils like that, somebody's gonna think they got the short end of the stick, no matter how careful you are. And if the difference is $20 or $50, why would you invite that resentment?

Things are different if you're renting a place where no matter how you slice it, everybody's paying more than they would prefer. But in that case, maybe you're staying too upscale.

So I guess the question needs more info: how many days are you staying, how much is the overall rent, are you all rich, are you paying to fly in also, can you afford to rent the place yourself, and will _that_ cause resentment if you do (or will everybody just say "ha! we sure put one over on msbubbaclees!")

If you host this time, then it becomes somebody else's problem next time, and they better not come to _you_ with their hand out!
posted by spacewrench at 9:14 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

In my family we would divide that evenly amongst the siblings (since you are all married). Parents don't pay and kids are incidental. Then the kid having parents would buy the food or something to make it more fair.
posted by fshgrl at 9:20 PM on June 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

In my family, my husband and I would cover the total cost of the rental and then we would divide food by meals (Family A, lunch day 2 dinner days 1 and 3 etc). As the hosts we would likely do fewer meals then the others. Then people can choose how much or little to spend per meal. Some people will do cereal for breakfast while others will do a full steak bbq with all the trimmings.
posted by saradarlin at 9:30 PM on June 30, 2017

When I traveled with family a few years ago, we paid per room - but all rooms ended up being used. In some cases, teens end up using more space/resources than adults, so I don't know about just charging the adults (why do teens in bathrooms take FOREVER??). Maybe something like... babies are "free." Toddlers... chip in a little extra for groceries and house needs. Up to 10 is "half an adult" and above that, they use up about as much space as an adult. There's no perfect way to make it perfectly "fair" to everyone - just aim for reasonable.
posted by raztaj at 9:34 PM on June 30, 2017

I think I'd probably go by bedrooms. So if all the kids are in one room that has a bunch of bunk beds, the parents just split that cost in half. If the kids are on the sleeper sofa, they don't count (though they do for food). If the kids have their own bedroom, they count as much as an adult. This method screws the single adults, but so does everything else in life (e.g., they still have to pay for a whole hotel room). Then again, since it's your mom, you could just say the siblings will cover her part.
posted by salvia at 10:28 PM on June 30, 2017

There is an app for that: http://www.spliddit.org
posted by Toddles at 10:55 PM on June 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

In my family, each sibling household would split evenly, regardless of how many kids they have, but that may be harder for you to implement as the kid-havers!
posted by corb at 11:15 PM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Rental cost gets divided by rooms used, all other costs get divided by person, perhaps with some multiplier, like kids equal 70% of an adult. Expenses not used by everyone (e.g. alcohol) are borne by the people who use them. My family has a spreadsheet for this-- each row is cost, who paid, and who used.
posted by supercres at 5:28 AM on July 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Generally we do it by bedroom.
My 15yr old gets his own room, and we get our, so I pay for 2 rooms. My sib who has a baby, pays for 1 room.
I do like the idea of rolling the parent's room across the family, and letting them stay for free.
posted by niteHawk at 7:02 AM on July 1, 2017

The one time we did this, my sister and I split the cost of the house and my parents brought all the food. My brother paid nothing, but he had the most kids and had to pay significantly more to get there. YMMV.
posted by summerstorm at 7:56 AM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I do this, I do it more or less "per person in a bed." This winds up including children but not babies, and not kids who sleep in their parents' room on the floor.

(And, a lot of times there is fudging if we know someone is less able to pay.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 AM on July 1, 2017

2nding those who mentioned cost of flights. If y'all chose a place where some people had more expensive flights than others (and some people were so close they could drive!) that could be a factor.
posted by amaire at 8:30 AM on July 1, 2017

« Older Desperately seeking a diversion   |   How do I deal with being heat sensitive? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.