While other factors may play a minor role, over 85% of our survey respondents think that the length of stay should be factored into how a house should be split. However, what if the minimum rental period is a week, and you can only stay four days? Is it fair for you to pay less, since everyone had to agree to pay for the week? If you stay for four days while others stay for six, how do you calculate the price for each person?
We studied this in a separate question, and built a shared travel calculator that allows you to calculate the cost of lodging under any scenario.
The answer is that typically, each person should pay proportionally to the number of nights they were there. This system is robust, because anytime someone stays in the shared accommodations for an additional night, the per-night price goes down for everyone. To calculate cost this way, we total how many people stayed over on each night, and create a grand total for the whole vacation. We then divide the total rental price by that sum to get the per-night price for each person (if this is confusing, go to the travel calculator and play around with it).
The alternative is setting a fixed nightly rate, based on the total cost divided by the number of nights, and then divvying that number up based on how many people are there on a particular night. This method ends up making some nights more expensive than others, which works well for hotels and other places that are rented by the night. However, it is problematic for accommodations that are rented by the week. Divvying up each night separately punishes people for using the house during the off-peak period, since those people will be staying in a house that is bigger than they need. In short, it creates an incentive to avoid being in the house when you are the only one there, which is wasteful. Most of our survey respondents agreed.
In some rare cases, sharing a vacation house equally might be the way to go. If you are sharing a house for a weekend and some people arrive Friday night while others arrive Saturday morning, there isn’t much of a difference in value for anyone. Or, if your group trip is over-subscribed, and someone decides they can’t stay a full week after their RSVP prevented another person from taking that spot, they should pay for the length-of-time they originally committed to.
In the next post, we’ll cover how to fairly share grocery expenses and bedrooms while on vacation.
Original posted on Jon’s Forbes Blog.