For some travel companions, the “money talk” wasn’t part of their pre-pandemic planning ritual. But as people start replanning trips canceled by the pandemic or begin booking their first big vacation for the After Times, it’s probably going to be more necessary.

“It’s hard to tell where people are at now,” said Nick Holeman, head of financial planning for Betterment. “Maybe people had to dip into emergency funds or aren’t able to pay off their credit cards in full for the first time due to the pandemic. Now, more than ever, it’s important to have those discussions.”

Even with those closest to us, talking about money can be challenging. When travel is thrown in, it can be made more stressful, because neither party wants to feel like they're being held back or made to spend more than they can.

But if you’re willing to have those conversations upfront, it can make the trip more enjoyable, because you won’t be spending your time away constantly looking at a banking app. Here are some tips from financial experts as well as frequent travelers about how to navigate those talks.

How to start the conversation

Because discussing money can often be considered taboo or triggering, Beth Williams, founder of Future Wallet, suggests wading into the conversation by first chatting about what the ultimate goal of the trip is.

“Getting everyone aligned and excited about that can be a helpful way to start off the money conversation,” Williams said. From there, the willingness to be vulnerable and provide others with the range that they would be comfortable spending kicks off the very necessary conversation.

“Being able to take that first step and say ‘I value our friendship, and I’m excited about sharing this time with you, so I also wanted to share something that’s been on my mind,’ which, for example, could be that you’re in a different financial situation than before,” Williams said. “That language is useful in helping talk about a budget.”

Holeman also thinks language and intent matter when going into discussions about money.

“Even just framing it as ‘Hey, I want to make sure everyone is relaxing and enjoying themselves and having fun together, so let’s have this convo early and make sure we’re all on the same page,’” Holeman said. “It lets people know that you’re not trying to necessarily take charge of things or be judgmental, rather you want everyone to feel comfortable.”

Generally, Williams said, people appreciate the transparency; nobody wants to realize too late that they have entirely different perceptions of what they want to spend on a trip. Conflict often occurs when people waited until too far into the planning process to raise issues with costs.

If conversations become confrontational, Williams suggested asking open-ended questions to better understand the other person’s motivations.

“Asking them more about why spending more on this element is important to them helps you understand them and helps them feel heard,” Williams said.

For instance, if your friend says they want to stay at an inclusive resort because they want a break from cooking, a compromise could be that you share a cheaper Airbnb and offer to handle meals.

Setting budgets (and expectations)

Traveler Elizabeth Sweet said when traveling, whether with a partner, family or friends, setting budgets and expectations go hand-in-hand. While there are myriad ways to increase or lower costs, if you and your companions are coming from wildly different places, it can be challenging to meet in the middle.

“I think it’s important to be realistic and say ‘Okay, if my friend is looking to spend $10,000 on a trip and I’m looking to spend $3,000, then we’re looking at very different trips and experiences,’” Sweet said.

For that reason, Lacey Cobb, a certified financial planner with Personal Capital, recommends discussing ballpark budgets well before landing on a destination. It might be a moving target, but it’s a helpful reference point for nailing down larger expenses.

“It really comes down to setting expectations upfront,” Cobb said. “If you handle the hard conversations first, then it allows you to relax on vacation and not be constantly worrying about money.”

Cobb added that having that conversation ahead of time also means you’re able to plan better and can look for ways to reduce costs.

Another element of expectation setting, traveler Arianna Mears said, is repayment plans. If one person puts the lodging on their credit card, it should be discussed how and when they will be paid back beforehand, so it doesn’t devolve into a larger conflict on the road. She also recommended Splitwise, an app that lets you keep track of balances and expenses.

Making room for flexibility

While pre-booking some activities helps with sticking to the budget, it’s important to not over-plan.

Mears said the key to group happiness is to leave plenty of room for flexibility when making itineraries — it allows for people to opt into the larger trip but pick and choose activities they would prefer to spend their money on. That could look like alternative options or simply free time. It is better to split up for a few hours and have everyone do something they enjoy than have anyone feeling resentful about being made to do something they weren’t completely on board with.

“I think if you truly respect your travel partners, you are also accepting and don’t make them feel bad about not joining in on an activity,” Mears said. “I think that’s a really important component that people don’t always talk about: It’s okay for somebody to stay back or do something different.”

Enjoying your time together

Beyond money, many people’s travel-related priorities have changed during the pandemic, ranging from what experiences are important to them and who they spend their time with. For many people, the driving factor for planning trips right now is a desire to see those they care about.

“I’ve found, at least with my friends, that we’re just more hungry for human interaction with those that are close to us, regardless of what we’re doing,” Holeman said. “I think it makes those conversations easier. They’re like, ‘Hey, we’ll make this work. I just want to see you, catch up, connect, see that you’re doing well, and be able to have some new memories with you.’”