Lizzie Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, author, and co-host of The Awesome Etiquette Podcast, has agreed to weigh in on a few travel etiquette questions from a politesse perspective. She’s covered good airplane behavior, how to tip at hotels, and even whether you need to hang out with your short-term rental host. Here, Post hones in on shared vacation homes and how to avoid drama at them!
The idea of sharing a vacation home with your nearest and dearest is enough to make most of us over-the-moon: We actually get to choose our vacay crew? Fantastic. Especially for those whose family winter holiday break seemed to go on and on, this can be a dreamy prospect. But even the best-laid plans go awry, so here’s how to make sure your bestie is still your bestie after seven straight days of quality time at a shared home.
Got any general tips for avoiding problems when sharing vacation homes?
“Plan ahead. Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead. When you first get the idea to do this, look into all the costs associated with it: Are you going to split the place per head or per room or something else? Maybe your sister’s super-wealthy and she’s just going to cover everything, I dunno. Figure out how everything will be divided based on the logistics of the place. My family has a home on Martha’s Vineyard. To get there from Vermont includes a $150 ferry ticket, and $150 worth of gas. If I’m driving and someone else is coming, I’m absorbing all her transportation costs. Or maybe you’re going to a golf resort and there are fees associated with it. Agree upon [costs] openly and get everything paid for up front. That’s huge.”
Why is that so crucial?
“You never want money to come between friends. You want everyone to understand up front what’s expected of them financially and what they’ve committed to financially. I just heard of a group that involved three couples going on a trip, and one couple broke up. [The guy] doesn’t quite have enough money now to afford it. How are they gonna handle that, because if the guy just drops out, do you charge him for it? Do you kick him when he’s already down? Decide that stuff in advance: ‘Hey if you have to bail, this is what needs to happen. You either need to find a replacement that we all agree upon [or you have to pay].’ You have to figure out how to safeguard against that being an issue.”
What do you think should happen in that situation?
“Personally, I think since they hadn’t discussed it ahead of time, he needs to pick up his share—I don’t think he should be putting the cost on the other two couples.”
What if someone throws a wrench into things at the last minute, like inviting someone to crash on the floor of their room who hadn’t been discussed by the group?
“I think you have to think about how big is that wrench, and how much damage is it going to cause? If someone wants to crash on the floor at a house other people are paying for, she should be offering to cover costs—‘I could contribute X to a sleeping bag on the floor.’ It’s not the same as a cushy hotel bed.”
What if someone decides to invite someone with bad energy at the last minute?
“People need to feel comfortable speaking out about it: ‘There are some people that aren’t very comfortable with adding in extra people at this point.’ You have to think about the repercussions of that, though. Is it gonna cause such a rift with your friend, and be so difficult that just tolerating her is easier than not? Assess in the moment: ‘What can I tolerate?’”
How should you handle shared food and alcohol?
“Really come up with a plan for food. Are you going to bring stuff with you? Are you going to each take specific meals that you’re going to be responsible for? I recently took a trip where everybody camped out on the front lawn in front of a house, trading cooking meals and cleaning up after meals. It worked fantastically. Plan for meals. If you’ll be eating out, you’re gonna have to discuss it, and that’s what will make it go smoothly. When you don’t discuss it, that’s when people get upset.”
How do you divide the costs in a shared house? Per room or per head?
“This really depends on your group, and what they think is fair. My parents do a ‘This is the cost per room.’ For other people, it’s ‘This is the cost of per head.’ For me, it goes by number of places to sleep. You try your best to come up with something that everyone agrees upon.”
How do you get one-on-one time when you’re staying with a big group?
“I don’t think that needs to be a big group discussion. I can totally see going to the beach with my girlfriends and me and my really good friend wanting to escape together for a bit. You try to find respectful ways to do that. Seek out time where it’s easy to just break from the group. Couples can say, ‘We kind of want to go on a couple walk,’ or ‘Jimmy and I are gonna go out to dinner tonight just so we can kind of have a date night while we’re down here.’ I wouldn’t be like ‘We’re going to go for a walk!’ and announce it to everybody, and then be like ‘No, we weren’t going to invite everybody to come.’”
Any more tips?
“You want to have clear and open lines of communication and have everybody be on the same page about what this trip’s going to be about.”
Alex Van Buren is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.