17 Aug 2023

Harmonious holidays

The holiday season is well under way, prompting some queries about the whole business of going on holiday with friends. Many of us are electing to team up with friends for shared holidays: accommodation is cheaper; self-catering is more alluring if there are plenty of people to help; at its best, a holiday with friends is sociable and offers lots of variety. But there are several obvious traps, which can be avoided if you think about them, and discuss them, before you arrive at your destination:


This is often the first stumbling block when you’re planning a holiday with friends. As a rule, if one person has been responsible for finding a rental property, booking it, paying the deposit and so on, then it would seem fair for them to be rewarded with first choice of room. Of course, this allocation is never inevitable as different groups may have varied requirements: one person might prefer to be in a small, quiet room at the back of the building, rather than the big airy room with huge windows opening on to a noisy seafront; if a couple has a child or baby, they should be given the bigger room; there might also be issues about stairs or access.

If all your claims are equal and you have shared much of the responsibility for booking the accommodation, then you might need to put your heads together before you leave. If there is quite a big discrepancy between the different rooms, it might seem inequitable if rooms are grabbed on a first come first served basis. A possible alternative would be for each guest to draw a number in advance (you can use an online tool) of, for example, 1-6, with number 1 having first choice, 2 second choice etc. Alternatively, you can use an online tool specifically designed for house sharing. That way, rooms will be allocated based on chance, giving everyone an equal opportunity to secure the most desirable rooms.

If the rooms are dramatically different (magnificent master en suite vs cramped back room with bunk beds) it might not be entirely fair for everybody to be paying the same rate. Another way of organising the house would be to divide the rooms into A and B categories, with the As paying more than the Bs (for example 65% as opposed to 35%).

All of these solutions require a little bit of thought, attention and communication. It can feel as if you’re making a mountain out of a molehill beforehand, but it certainly won’t feel trivial when you turn up at the house and find the room allocation inequitable or awkward. It is far better to nip any problems in the bud before you set off.


Money can be a real sticking point on shared holidays, and you really do need to discuss this fully beforehand. Once you have sorted out the accommodation, the main pressure point is eating and drinking. Some people may want to eat out every day, stock up on spirits for early evening cocktails and order vast quantities of wine with every meal. Others might be on a tight budget, regard eating out as a treat and be determined to opt mainly for self-catering, as a cheap alternative. These very different positions look hard to reconcile, but a little bit of forethought and constructive compromise will go a long way.

If you’re at the extravagant end of the spectrum, accept that you cannot have it all your own way: be prepared to go with group wishes when it comes to eating out vs staying in, and if it all seems too niggardly offer to treat the group to a meal out, or to buy stocks of booze for the house.

If you’re worried about money, you need to come clean and say so at the planning stage. Explain that the whole holiday is only affordable to you if self-catering is on offer, but also concede that you don’t want to stand in the way of others’ enjoyment, so if endless unaffordable meals out are the group choice, you’re more than happy to bow out and look after yourself. Make this offer in a positive spirit and do not act like a martyr.

If you are all going out and eating together it is sensible to split restaurant bills equally, or use a communal kitty, and not to spend hours parsing bills and quibbling over what each person ordered. Ultimately, if everyone is self-aware and conscious of inequalities, it should all even out – for example if you’ve really laid into the wine and cocktails at dinner, and some other people have been very abstemious, it is a nice gesture to make up for your transgressions by offering to buy them breakfast or lunch the following day.

Timetable and Lifestyle

These short-term exercises in communal living can be surprisingly challenging. You might find that you’ve landed yourself with a bunch of friends who are night owls, who stay up in the early hours and don’t really get started until midday, while your tendency is to be in bed before midnight and up with the lark. If you’re going on holiday with good friends, you probably know all about these divergences beforehand, but it is a good idea to discuss them at the planning stages. Forewarned is forearmed and the best way of dealing with timetabling anomalies is to go about your own business independently (eg get up when you choose and have an early morning swim and walk before anyone else is about), rather than lurking around the house feeling resentful.

You’re going to be sharing a space with a random group of friends, so it’s important that you are very conscious of your own behaviour and physical impact. In these circumstances, the safe default is to be tidy and self-contained. Keep your belongings out of everyone’s way (preferably in your room), do your fair share of washing up, and leave the bathroom in a pristine state. Even if you are naturally extremely untidy and chaotic, you should work hard to curb these tendencies, as they are much more likely to cause distress and irritation to the group than meticulous tidiness.

Group Activities

At best, being on holiday with an assortment of people will widen your horizons and open you up to new activities and interests. It is always good to approach shared holidays with an open mind, and to be a little experimental and adventurous. If, for example, you haven’t ridden a bike since you were a teenager and there is a suggestion that the group has a day out on hired bikes, you should consider going with the flow – it might be a revelation.

On the other hand, there should be no pressure on group members to participate in activities, and you might have to accept that some members of your party are much more interested in shops, museums and galleries than parasailing and kayaking. If you decide that you want to opt out of activities altogether and elect to spend a day lounging on the beach, of swinging in the hammock back at the holiday house, nobody should argue with your decision.

Again, it is a good idea to discuss these preferences before you leave, so that everyone knows what to expect and resentments don’t build up. The important thing is not to let one individual dominate activity planning – one strong-minded person can make every day feel like a highly organised route march, and that’s not what holidays are about.


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