Miss Conduct

Advice: What are the rules for vacations with a group of friends?

What’s fair for splitting costs on group trips? Plus, tips on tipping for takeout orders.

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Are there any rules for renting a vacation house with large groups of friends? Should the people in the master bedroom pay more than the people stuck in the room with four single beds? Should room assignments be random? Should the person organizing and putting their credit card down get first pick? It’s a recurring issue in my life and I was hoping for some insight.

Anonymous / Boston

If there were standard operating procedures, you and your friends would have encountered or figured them out by now. Splitting up expenses is always tricky because there are so many ways “fair” can be defined, as you’ve experienced — procedure versus result, equity versus equality.

Pro-rating the rent makes sense if the differences in room quality are large — don’t go crazy trying to calculate the relative value of a good view versus a Jacuzzi tub. Random room assignments also make sense. Some people might prefer to choose, especially if the rooms are different prices, but you can always let the choosers choose and assign the remaining rooms randomly for the don’t-cares.

Having the organizer get first pick of rooms may be reasonable if the entire group agrees to it, and everyone gets an equal chance to be that organizer over time. It’s not the kind of prerogative organizers should simply take for themselves, unless they want to be whispered about resentfully by those in the lesser suites.


Communicate expectations as clearly as if you were strangers (for money, food, group activities, chores, and so on). Assume good intent as if you were lifelong friends (for handling the inevitable miscommunications).

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Allow a reasonable margin of error, for both time and money, when you’re coordinating with other people. A certain amount of inefficiency and inconvenience comes with the territory. Prepare for unexpected expenses and don’t budget down to the dollar, or else you’re going to become That Guy, and it’s no more fun to be That Guy than it is to have one around.

In addition to rent, you’ve also got food, money for activities, household labor, transportation, and the like to divvy up fairly. In general, keep the categories separate for the sake of convenience. If there are big trade-offs to be made, work those out in advance: “Dan will cook the dinners instead of contributing to the grocery budget,” “Rani’s bringing her car so the rest of us will cover half her rent,” whatever. Crossing those streams once the vacation is started is more complicated.

And have fun! If this is a recurring theme in your life, it means people like you enough to keep inviting you back — and you like them enough to keep accepting the invitations — so you all must be doing something right.

If you order and pay online and pick up your dinner, are you required to leave a tip?

D.H. / Lexington

You should tip 10 percent or so if you had any special requests (additional sauce or a dish substitution). It’s not mandatory when picking up a basic order, but leaving a few dollars helps out a local business and builds good will, which is nice to have in a place where you’re a regular customer.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.