I caught the travel bug in 1990-something in the back of the trusty family minivan heading south. That annual family road trip brought out the best and worst in my family, but it was the definition of adventure for this Midwest kid.
The only person in the world who knows exactly what it felt like to be in that car is my little sister. The “I’ll turn this car around right now!” empty threats. The James Taylor “Carolina on my Mind” playing on repeat. The endless rounds of the license plate game. She was there for it all.
My sister and I have chosen to take more than a few sibling trips together as adults now.
Maybe it is in a veiled effort to recapture that road trip magic or maybe it’s because we’re both in that wonderfully weird mid-twenties phase when half of our friends are having babies and the other half can’t afford a plane ticket. Either way, the adult sibling trip has transformed the way we travel.
Through four countries and counting, I’ve learned a few tips to make the art of traveling with siblings a little less stress-inducing.
This in-person planning time allows you both to express things that are on your “must-see” list while coming to an agreement on things you’re both fine with missing. You can discuss the touchy subjects like budgets, travel goals, and potential routes easier this way too.
Have a little more mileage separating you? FaceTime or use your time home for the holidays to sit down and scope your trip out.
Create a Shared Document
If the Type A personality trait doesn’t run in your family you might be able to pass by this tip. For us, having a Google sheet listing out our itinerary, coffee shops to try, and links to all our booked info is key. Keeping a log of what has and hasn’t been planned and paid for is a must especially if you are sharing responsibility for bookings.
From a safety perspective, having a shared document like this also makes it easy to send your itinerary to your parents to ease their fears about you both being the subject of the next Taken movie.
Build in Solo Time
I’m no expert in psychology but I’m pretty sure that you can get sick of any person given enough time attached at the hip. This is especially true of someone you’ve spent at least a few years of your life bickering with.
Plan in time for each of you to do anything you’d like. She might be really interested in a museum that makes you want to snore. You might want to shop for hours without judgement.
Avoid tense situations by giving each other permission to explore solo for awhile. You’ll appreciate your travel buddy even more when you meet back up.
Mom always said to take a nap or eat a snack when you were grumpy as a kid, right? The same wisdom applies to your sibling trip too. Carve out time to sit and read in a park or choosing a centrally located hostel or airbnb that allows for mid-day breaks. This intentional downtime has the power to divert more than a few adult temper tantrums.
Whether it’s big or small, appreciating your travel buddy brings a sense of comradery to the trip. Going out for dinner your first night abroad? Grab the bill. Enjoy a midday gelato break on you. By both committing to improving the travel experience of the other, you’re sure to keep the tone of your trip collaborative.
Let’s go back to preschool rules. In this case, we’re talking about taking turns being the chief decision maker each day.
When traveling with siblings it can be really easy to fall into familiar older/younger dynamics. Fellow older siblings, you might find yourself feeling stressed about navigating to another destination or deciding where to eat yet another meal. Younger sibs, this is your chance to boss your older siblings around for a change.
The leader gets their chance to direct the trip toward the experiences that matter most to them. They also bear some of the burdens of navigation and budgeting on the fly.
You might even come away with a greater understanding of what it’s like to be your sibling for a day.