“We’ll meet for breakfast tomorrow at 9am. Make sure you have enough time to get ready and please set your alarm clock!”
I utter the same statement during every trip that I embark on with my younger sister and I will awake the next morning to the same realisation: she’ll still be late. Let’s face it, travelling with siblings is no mean feat because some of our personalities are literally on opposing ends of the spectrum. So, is it really a holiday or merely a change of scenery?
My trips with my sister have taken us to various corners of the globe from marvelling at the Acropolis in Athens and lazing on some of Fiji’s most breathtaking beaches, to battling altitude sickness on Mount Titlis and whizzing on a jet boat around the Auckland Harbour.
These are no doubt memories that I’ll remember for life. But to survive these trips, I had to stick to some tips for the benefit of both of us (and our sanity).
1. Make a mental note of each person’s preferences
When planning the trip, it’s crucial that you factor in what each person likes, dislikes and must-dos. Some things, of course, are a no-brainer – you can’t claim you’ve been to New York without visiting The Statue of Liberty.
My sister loves indulging in super-chill holidays where she can enjoy the modern comforts of the hotel rooms, laze by the picturesque beach and eat to her heart’s content. Shopping isn’t quite her thing unless it’s something that she’s been pining to get. As for sightseeing, full day tours are an absolute no because she just doesn’t quite have the patience to last from 8am to 10pm.
I do my best to think about all this as I’m mapping out the itinerary and I always ensure that I leave gaps just in case we get lost or face some trouble during our journey. It’s important that the itinerary is a balance of things that appeal to our specific interests so that nobody will end the night on a grumpy note.
2. Go with the flow
I fondly remember one particular hike that we took when we were in Cape Town. After doing my research, I realised that the renowned Table Mountain was actually worth hiking up on foot. Most claimed that even the least fit of the lot will take a maximum of two hours to reach the peak.
Always the one to challenge the other, I told my sister that we should attempt this hike instead of taking the 4-minute cable car ride up. On the day itself, we braced ourselves for a fun, casual hike and were super excited! The reality was far from what I had pictured though…
Our 1.5L water bottle was almost empty after the one-hour mark, I fell after tripping on one of the rocks and was so close to the edge, we were practically not talking to each other (other than the occasional “Hurry Up!”), we took double the usual time (four hours, mind you) to reach the summit, my knees were aching so bad and I wanted to strangle her almost 80% of the time.
Hence, the notion of “going with the flow”, albeit sounding so simple superficially, actually helped significantly. During your travels, you will not be able to anticipate everything and it doesn’t hurt to take a step back when something happens, analyse the situation and put your brains together to come up with a solution. Complaining, whining and being moody really won’t do much other than dampen the whole holiday even more.
3. Compromise, compromise, compromise
Travel can really test the strength of your relationship (read: bring out the sibling rivalry full-force). Compromising and being flexible is of paramount importance. The best way to avoid potential sibling fall-out is to always try to understand where the other person is coming from. It’s difficult at times but it will spare you of another blown-out-of-proportion argument.
Try to be sensitive to each person’s personality and set expectations so that everyone is on the same page. Remember, it’s perfectly fine to disagree as long as it doesn’t turn into a full-on brawl.
4. Ensure “you” time for yourself
I know that spending an entire trip together can take a toll so make sure you incorporate some time for yourself. Whether it’s breakfast early in the morning or maybe a cup of tea to unwind in the evening, you will need this time to recalibrate.
This also gives you time to check off things that you want to do, which may not be something on your sibling’s bucket list. No doubt it’s a trip that you embark on together but that doesn’t mean that you should compromise on your own personal time.
5. Rise above being petty
Most importantly, if anything arises during your trip, let it out in the open and nip the problem in the bud before it festers. Don’t let a tiny disagreement or miscommunication ruin an entire trip because it’s not worth it (think about the amount of money spent!).
Travelling with your siblings have their own perks. You can just be your absolute self because technically, they’ve seen every side of you. You don’t have to fake it when you’re not in the mood to do something and you can count on each other to take some pretty awesome photos (it’s a different story when parents attempt to snap one).
You just have to take note of some of these tips to prevent your vacation from heading south. Trust me, with this trusty guide in hand, you’ll survive your next vacay like a champ.