‘I’m watching every last cent’: For July 4, my friend booked an Airbnb on Cape Cod — and said I’m welcome to visit. Should I offer to pay half?

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Dear Quentin,

My friend invited me to Cape Cod over the July 4 weekend. He booked an Airbnb for 10 days and said he was inviting friends to come stay. I suggested that I stay from Thursday to Tuesday, but he said Thursday to Monday would be best, as he may have other people staying on Tuesday. It’s costing me $ 220 to get there and back with the train and ferry. 

Given that he is hosting and has the last word on what days are available, should I offer to pay 50% of the cost of my accommodation while I’m there, or treat it as if I were visiting his house in California? I want to do the right thing, but I’m watching every last cent, and this vacation is already nearly breaking my budget.

Grateful & Slightly Broke in New York

Related: ‘We live on a fixed income’: My husband and I are retired. We’re invited to our niece’s destination wedding. Are we obliged to buy a gift?

Being the host gives him more than a semblance of control over who comes and goes, and when.

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Dear Grateful & Broke,

I’m on the fence.

On the upside, it’s a handsome white picket fence surrounding a rose garden in Provincetown, in my mind’s eye. On the downside, it’s not a particularly comfortable one to sit on. For that reason, I suggest getting these kinds of financial matters out of the way before you travel and, ideally, before you pay for your travel (although it’s too late for that now).

If you are truly broke, be honest about it. If you can manage the expense but it’s more than you would normally spend on a vacation over a long weekend, you could play a game of New England roulette. Ask him if you could pay something toward the Airbnb, perhaps half the cost of your four-night stay. If he says yes, be prepared to open your wallet.

He is the host. So you are under an obligation to him during your stay. He chose the house and selected the days you may come visit. If you hate the house? Tough. Being the host gives him more than a semblance of control over who comes and goes, and when. He is also responsible if something goes wrong, and the contract is between your friend and Airbnb ABNB, -0.15%.

Airbnb provides AirCover to hosts with every booking. “If there’s a serious issue with your Airbnb that your host can’t resolve, we’ll help you find a similar place, depending on availability at comparable pricing,” Airbnb’s policy states. “If a similar place isn’t available or you’d prefer not to rebook, we’ll give you a full or partial refund.”

Friendship is a delicate dance

Every friendship is different, of course. Some friends would split the rental costs 50/50 without discussion. Others might not, especially if they are very close and know there’s a big disparity in incomes. If you earn $ 60,000 a year and your friend earns five times that, I would expect him to treat you rather than nickel-and-dime you. 

Look at it this way: You’re getting out of the New York City heat for nearly five days, which will feel like 10 days once you’re on Cape Cod. AAA estimates that 70.9 million travelers will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Independence Day weekend, up 5% over last year. One reason: Remote work has given many people more flexibility and freedom.

Friendship is a delicate dance sometimes, but part of that is being sensitive to the other person’s financial situation. And if your host says, “I’m the host — and the Airbnb is on me,” what then? Pick up the tab for the first and final meal and make sure you chip in for groceries. Sometimes the smallest, most thoughtful acts of generosity have the most impact.

Other columns from Quentin Fottrell:

‘Are they cheap?’ I’m taking a trip with two friends for Memorial Day. I’m spending $ 90 on gas, and neither offered to chip in. What should I do?

‘I’m weary of repeating myself’: How do I deal with rich friends who take $ 22,000 cruises and book $ 800 hotel rooms? Prices are crazy enough already.

‘Her world is rocked’: A friend hit the jackpot, but her old friends are abandoning her one by one. Is there a cure for jealousy?

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