This sort of post crops up in the blogging world every couple of years and after two years of living in Belfast with my brother Jack, I feel we are qualified to contribute to the discussion. In fact, we have sibling travel down to a science.
There are five years between my brother and I, a bit larger a gap than I have seen in other sibling pairs. We travelled frequently as young children and my parents knew the woes of a family of five being stuffing into cars of various sizes. Although the getting there was often difficult, memories of enjoying a destination together as a family remain.
When I decided to go back to Ireland, I heavily suggested that Jack should come too. Now he is heading home to New Zealand, and in light of our great trip to Paris in May, I would like to share some tips about how we made sibling travel so successful!
1. Plan together
A bunk in a hostel dorm can often get my thrifty senses tingling. An extra 30 bucks to spend on something else? Whhhhhaaat? Too bad for me Jack prefers private quarters.
Planning together allowed us to cater for our different travel styles. My rule here is err on the side of the most private person. You can get cheap, private rooms in a low budget hotel or hostel. Although that will never be as barrel scrappingly cheap as a dormitory, it is a lot harder to pursuade a private person to share with six strangers than it is to increase your budget with plenty of notice (for saving purposes). Why make someone feel uncofortable? It won’t help the trip vibes. And if the money really is unsavable… well, this sibling journey just isn’t for you, because compromise is the backbone of YOUR ENTIRE TRIP (see point #2).
Key quote: “It’s important to agree about what you are going into so you can have max fun and minimum disappointment on your adventure.”
2. Be ready to compromise
Very few people get the chance to spend an infinite amount of time travelling. It’s extremely unlikely that you will spend tweleve solid months globe-trotting with your sibiling (and if you are that lucky – I am so, SO envious).
The point is, time is valuable when you are on the road. Neither of you will get to see and do everything you want. Make sure you both get the chance to prioritise something you want to see.
Key quote: “Try making a Top 5 list each and see how many you can work into you trip. You might find you have similar ideas. You are related after all!”
3. Realise each other’s strengths
We were a planner and a non-planner travelling together, which can be a powerful combination! I typically do all the pre-trip bookings, printing of boarding passes – the organisational stuff. Whereas Jack is better navigating the metro. A couple of times in Paris I had to make a concious decision to stop negotiating the stops and directions because I was wrong more than half the time. He was also really great at taking over when I was too hangry to think… see point 4.
Key quote: “Don’t be afraid to step back if your sibling is in their element!”
4. Eat often!
This is a rule for travelling with anyone.
If someone (named Rachel) is getting even a little bit cranky, stop immediately and find food. If you don’t, all kinds of nasty and not meant things will be said ‘in hanger’. This is best avoided.
You can avoid such senarios by scheduling snacks little and often throughout the day. We aren’t talking three course meals which require you to find a trattoria or cafe. Oh no, just a few tasty treats in a backpack and a mutual decision to spend an extra half hour in the park to nom them down.
I can become a very hangry person, I’m not the best when I am tired and sometimes I just can’t be arsed. That’s a pretty special little combination when you mix it with travelling. After two years of travelling my sibling and I have learned that we can and will drop anything for a food stop.
Key quote: “Never underestimate the power of hanger.”
5. Support each other
Sitting across the road from the Eiffel Tower watching tourist after tourist fall into traps. Or standing on the metro and watching a woman get pickpocketed of her passport. Knowing my sibling has my back has been the biggest reward earned from this type of travel.
Your siblings know you best. Jack and I have travelled together so many times that we know what each other’s limits are and when to step in. We have unspoken systems for checking zips, getting on and off transport, and negotiating crowded areas. Not to mention, it’s AMAZING to have an extra set of eyes watching your backpack on a bus!
Although we were always alert, it was reassuring to know that no one was going to be able to grab my arm and force me into an ‘African Friendship Bracelet’ because my brother was with me.
Key quote: “Travelling with siblings is like travelling as secret agents – someone’s scanning the crowds, watching your six, and they are on your side.”
I’ve seen some suggestions about ‘scheduling alone time’. That made me laugh a bit. Excuse me, it’s 6pm, time for my scheduled 15 minutes alone now fek off.
Taking time out doesn’t need to mean going off on a dander, alone for a couple of hours. If you are siblings who can do that, great. As a general rule, we don’t do extended alone wanderings when we sibling travel because neither wants to be paranoid about the welfare of the other.
I think it is more important to be able to enjoy sitting in silence or doing nothing vaguely together. Someone could take their book onto the hotel balcony, for example. Or I might look in some nearby shops while Jack sits in the cafe. In the evenings I would write my blog notes and Jack would check the newspaper. Our own thing, in the same space.
Key quote: “Just because you are travelling together doesn’t mean you need to be in each other’s pockets.”