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Online Dating - One of You Has To Travel For the First Visit, Who Pays? - Advice

Updated on March 27, 2011

Asked by idmeyers:

"I live in missouri the guy I have been talking to lives in NYC

come for a visit. The flight is about $400 not including hotel. As a women meeting and going to somewhere for the first time I prefer to select my own hotel. Should I be expected to pay for the whole trip?


Asked from the Hub: Online Dating - First Meeting, Who Pays?

Dear idmeyers,

Thanks for reading my hub Online Dating First Meeting, Who Pays.

When I wrote that Hub I really thought it was very obvious that when a lady lets a man pick up the check, there's an unspoken acceptance that this was in fact a date and that she is in fact, interested. I was surprised that there was some feedback stating the guy should always pay. I've since written a few Hubs on the subject, one specifically for Justin who had really been taken advantage of by girls not interested in him, just looking for a free meal.

It's not OK for women to take advantage like that. And it's not smart for a woman to give such a clear signal that she's interested in a guy, when she isn't. I wrote at length about that in the Hub you referred.

Your situation is a little out of the norm. If I'm understanding your post correctly, you are the one travelling to him. You will be selecting a hotel. And you're asking if you should be expected to pay for the whole trip.

My answer is, yes. You should expect to pay for the whole trip. But let's break it down.

Since there is a burden of financial responsibility on whomever does the travelling I highly recommend not meeting for that first time at either of your cities. Pick a vacation spot, like Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe or Disney World. That way you both have to take off work, make travel arrangements, spend money, and show the other person that you're making the same commitment to meet they are. 

Even a 3 day weekend someplace right smack in the middle of you both is the perfect solution.

The problem with your laying out funds for travel is that you'll feel more invested. You'll feel like you have more at stake. And those feelings are correct. That's not a good place to start your meeting off. 

Your paying is already on your mind. It's revealed in your wording. You're asking honestly and openly, but you have a little tell there that says you're not completely comfortable with being the one that's shelling out dineros.

If you allow him to pay for your airfare or hotel, there's an assumption made that says you're interested. You'll feel obligated and that will effect your ability to be yourself. He'll feel like you must definitely like him, and if it turns out that once you meet him there is no chemistry, that is going to be a problem. 

Adding up the total cost of the trip and splitting it 50/50 might sound fair but it isn't. You're the one that got to travel. No matter ho fairly you both want to treat it, it's just not something that feels equally fair. Additionally you have all the expenses you can't add in. If you had to take time off work, if it's paid time could you suggest that had you not used those days you'd have been able to collect compensation at the end of the year for them. There's travel to the airport, and parking or cab fare. There's his gas picking you up, there's his time off work while you're visiting his city. And the same dilemmas regarding had it not been for this trip would he have done x, y, and z. Then there's any tit for tat regarding choice of hotel, or choice of flights. He could say he'd have taken the red eye which was cheaper, you could say you're staying at a cheaper hotel than he would have picked. This will just go on and on, and can't ever be fairly split. 

If you were both meeting in a neutral place, you could agree that you'll each do what you need to do with work time, you'll each make your own travel arrangements, you'll each select your own hotel rooms. Right up to that first face to face dinner, there really is a completely fair split of all expenses. 

I'm actually very uncomfortable with the idea that you're the one doing the travelling and absorbing the expense. I don't think you feel it's completely fair, and I see too many scenarios where this gets too uncomfortable. If it's not too late my advice to you is to cancel that trip and for the two of you to make another as I suggested in a neutral place.

If you do go through with this meeting, you need to be very careful letting money interfere with being yourself, and with getting to know him. If you feel like you can't do that, it's not worth the trip. 

Since you are the one paying so much on travel, I believe it would be gentlemanly for him to pick up the checks at dinners and dates, and treat you to everything that goes on while you're there. It won't be an even trade but it would be a sincere gesture. It would be a good acknowledgement on his part of the effort you've put forth. In your situation I dont think this is assuming or lending an incorrect signal, the way an exchange of money would be. His handing you $200 toward your hotel is a big no-no. His picking up the check for dinner every night you're there is a yes-yes.

Think of it this way. If a friend from school or a cousin or someone was coming out to visit you, and spending money on airfare and hotel, wouldn't you treat them to everything you could while they were there? 

Money has a way of ruining a lot of things. It would be good to really talk about it if it is bothering you before you go.

Much of this is just a no-win no matter what happens. If you don't hit it off you're going to be even more uncomfortable about having spent this money. If you do hit it off, things get even more complicated. If you are a great match and decide you're boyfriend and girlfriend and everything is peachy, then what. If he offers to reimburse you for half of your travel arrangements is he just being a good boyfriend? If you decide the next trip is on him instead, are you going to add that pressure to his visit? Thinking "he owes me this" is not the same as thinking, "I can't wait to see my boyfriend." And what if something goes wrong. What if he gets sick or you meet someone else, and this second trip never happens. Then you're back to being upset about what you had spent. 

Finance is proportionate for everyone. If you and I agree to meet in NYC for coffee, and it turns out you don't show up, I'm not out anything. I can afford the coffee, I can afford an afternoon, I can get to NYC no problem. When we made the arrangement it wouldn't even cross my mind to ask you to reimburse me for half my coffee or half my subway fare. These are things proportionate in my life, that I can afford.

Making an arrangement like your making is really only going to go smoothly if the financial part of it is also proportionate to both of you. As soon as it isn't, as soon as the cost of things becomes a concern - airfare, hotels, taking off work - that's when the arrangement becomes complex. If you're both well off and grabbing a flight or dropping a thou on a long weekend away is nothing, than this is easy. 

Re-think this trip, idmeyers. Why isn't he coming to you first, why can't you meet in the middle. Make sure you really feel fine about spending this money before you do it. Good luck.

Blink 182 - First Date

For the guys: How do you feel about a woman that lets you pick up the tab for a date even though she's not interested?

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Submit a Comment

  • ameliejan profile image

    ameliejan 6 years ago from Alicante, Spain

    I think the person travelling should pay, unless they travel on the 2nd visit too, then something should be arranged.

  • jennysbus profile image

    Jenny 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Hi, I found alot of constructive points and things that people do need to consider when dating someone from different cities

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 6 years ago from NY


    marellen, I think that's the best way to be fair and get off to an even foot.

  • profile image

    marellen 6 years ago

    I like meeting in a neutral place where both parties have to pay... that says commitment to me. Helpful hub....

  • susannah42 profile image

    susannah42 6 years ago from Florida

    I think the person who is travelling should pay.