Photo: Amber Madden
Leave the past where it belongs.
You’ve lost the key to your hotel room in St. Petersburg and it’s freezing outside. The panic rising, you rifle frantically through your purse, desperate to find it. Your sister Claire’s eyes are now boring into the back of your neck; you wait for the words you’ve been dreading. “You’ve lost the keys to the room, haven’t you?” she says. This is quickly followed by the killer blow: “You always do this. You always lose things. You lost the necklace I got you for your 16th birthday. The dress I lent you 2 years ago for that wedding. My Encarta 1995 CD”.
Your fight ends in hours of passive-aggressive silence as you search the pavements of St. Petersburg for the lost key, while Claire mutters angrily about a hamster that’s been missing since 1992. You know the only way through this is to leave the past where it belongs: unhealthily repressed somewhere in your sub-consciousness.
Accept each other’s habits.
Travelling with your sibling can be like travelling with a small child. Sticking to an hourly schedule your sister will remind you repeatedly of her many needs. This reaches its climax on a trip to Rotterdam. Having finally left the hotel, you’ve walked all of 30 minutes before Claire lets you know that she needs the bathroom. Now lost somewhere in suburban Rotterdam, you begin your hour-long quest to find her a toilet while she repeats her need with increasing urgency.
Finally, after having found a toilet in a local library, Claire returns smiling, before declaring, “I’m thirsty.” You grit your teeth, smile, and lead her towards the nearest coffee shop, reminding yourself repeatedly that we all have our annoying habits, and a right to pee is the only way to keep the peace on these sisterly trips.
Leave the family out of it.
On a festive trip to NYC, your sister declares that she doesn’t like your (now ex-) boyfriend. Fair enough, the guy’s a loser — but you don’t think that at the time. Furious, you text your other sister, Mum, best friend, and a few colleagues, telling them how rude Claire has been. Immediately, Claire’s phone beeps with messages from the traitors, telling her what you’ve just told them. The result is a fight in the middle of NYC’s biggest toyshop, F.A.O Schwarz.
As the sounds of kids laughing, crashing piano keys, and ‘Jingle Bells’ ring out, you and your sister became embroiled in an epic fight, partly with each other, and partly with a crowd of people at home in the UK. You later realise that talking it out together would’ve saved a lot of drama. And data roaming fees.
Let the hotel know the nature of your relationship.
You and your brother take a summer jaunt to Malta. You’re travelling under the same surname, a small detail with unfortunate consequences. Arriving at your hotel, you are served champagne by smiling staff before being shown to your suite and sumptuous king-sized bed. As far as the hotel is concerned, you are Mr. and Mrs. Jopson, here to spend a romantic few days in their hotel. You spend the next three nights lying rigidly side-by-side in your honeymoon suite, trying not to roll into the middle of the bed.
While sharing a bed as kids is fine, as 30-something adults it’s startlingly awkward, particularly when your brother forgets his PJs. You remind yourself that in the future you must let the hotel know if you’re travelling as siblings, to avoid any more awkward encounters.
Give each other space.
On a trip to Majorca earlier this month, you and your sister share a room. Lying side by side in your twin beds, Claire gets a Skype call from her husband. As Claire chats away, you notice that her husband seems a little uncomfortable, nervously glancing across the screen. Lying there with your retainer in and PJs on, you soon realise that whilst poor James is trying to catch up with Claire, you’re lying glamorously next to her without a bra on.
You apologise and spend the next 30 minutes sat on the toilet seat in the bathroom. Yes, you might have known Claire since your early days together in the womb, but that doesn’t mean her husband knows you in quite so much detail. Everyone needs their space now and again, especially when travelling.