Family travel- it’s important to most of us, right? I’m a frequent traveler, which means I’m apt to travel one of many different ways: solo, with friends, on organized tours, and with family. That’s where I cut my teeth- traveling with family all those years ago. To this day, some of my favorite trips are the ones I’ve taken with my siblings. As with any family, one must navigate those waters carefully, lest a feud, rivalry or head-butting ensues.
So, how do you have fun with family while avoiding potential sibling fallout? Here are some tips that I use when traveling with siblings.
Consider each personality and different travel styles
Often, siblings balance each other out with very different personalities. There might be one who is more outspoken, bossy if you will. Another may be very easy-going but sensitive. Someone could be not crazy about stepping out of their comfort zone, while another is happiest when thrown into different and strange cultures. Even if you see eye to eye with your sibling(s) on most things, you’ll have different styles and priorities, to be sure. It’s inevitable. Try to be sensitive to your siblings’ personalities, and if they are starting to get on your nerves, take a step back and think about where they are coming from and it will make travel with siblings that much easier.
Quick example (and I hope she doesn’t kill me). My sister is very dedicated to her daily Bikram yoga practice, even when she travels. In fact, she likes to compare Bikram studios in different countries. It’s cool. I admire her dedication and realize that it helps her physically and mentally. It sometimes throws a wrench in our plans when we want to do something (attend a show, go to dinner) which conflicts with her practice. It’s easy for me to get frustrated because when I travel, I try to be flexible and open to as many experiences as possible. I have to take a step back and realize that this is her thing. It’s what calms and resets her. And why would you want to travel if you’re not your best self and feel crappy? So, I get it. We adjust and plan around it. It usually isn’t a big deal.
Schedule alone time
Or simply time away from the family (it can be with others). When I was in Buenos Aires with my family a month ago, I could sense some internal tension building inside me. It’s difficult to coordinate several different peoples’ preferences daily. I decided to spend a day wandering around the city on my own. I had such a great time exploring little wine boutiques and old antique bookstores, marveling at the architecture, wandering around- map and camera in hand, stopping in bakeries every hour or so to savor a delicious new dessert. It was after that day that I realized I was in love with the city. It took me stepping away from my environment, which I brought with me in the form of my family, to have that sensation of falling into a culture.
Think about the things you want to do on your trip and discuss your expectations with your siblings before embarking on said journey. You will thank me later. There’s nothing worse than being in an amazing place and fighting over how you’ll spend your time there. If it’s really important for you to go to x- city (which might require everyone driving there, which was our family’s case in Tuscany with only one car), then let your siblings know. Agree on it before you leave home. Ask them what one of their must-sees are and come to a compromise on your time together. Setting expectations is key to avoiding chaos when you travel with siblings.
Agree to disagree
Plan on doing certain things on your own, regardless of sibling participation. During our recent trip to Buenos Aires, I wanted to venture over to Montevideo, Uruguay for a day, but no one else was interested. Instead of making a big deal about it and a) trying to persuade someone to go with me or b) resentfully blowing it off, I opted to travel to the capital city solo one day. It definitely would have been more fun with my sisters, but I’m glad I went on my own as opposed to not at all.
This may not be a big deal for some, but it can be a huge roadblock for others. I tend to lean towards not counting dollars if someone pays more here or there or thinking about how much you owe each other. If you feel like you might be owed something, speak up so you won’t build up resentment. It’s hard with siblings who are very close because we often are more casual with such transactions. Be sensitive, but also be generous, if you can. I hate when money is tight because I want more than anything to treat my sibs all the time! (I’m also the oldest of five, so I have that innate instinct to take care of them.) But I have to be frugal and realistic about my money situation, which occasionally involves reminding someone that they owe me 20 bucks (hey, that goes pretty far in South America and Asia!). Be sure to talk money when you travel with siblings to avoid issues.
Talk it out
If anything bothers you or seems to be bothering a sibling, get it out in the open! Nip any problem in the bud before it grows or festers. Don’t let a little miscommunication or disagreement ruin a trip and family time together. It ain’t worth it!
Travel with siblings is, to me, the most rewarding way to see a new and fascinating place. It gives you the unique ability to experience the world together, just as you experience life together throughout the years, with all of those growing pains and best and worst moments. Your siblings are your life-long friends who will be at the dinner table with you decades from now, telling stories and reflecting on the fascinating, sad, fun, hilarious, harrowing, and happy times you’ve had together. I never miss an opportunity to travel with my brothers and sisters. I also embark on such journeys with care and consideration, wanting them to have their best possible experience. I think it’s the most selfless travel I do, and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Lindsay is a freelance travel writer and runs the blog The Traveluster. She’s spent a lifetime traveling and studying culture, with degrees in anthropology and geography and a masters in international peace and conflict resolution. Currently living in Nashville, TN, she has previously called Baton Rouge, LA, Washington, DC and Seville, Spain home.