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fighting siblings

Fighting Siblings: 5 Ways to Make Your Kids Get Along on Vacation

Ahhh, the joy of a sibling. Your best friend, lifelong confidante, built-in buddy. At least that’s what every parent hopes. The truth can be a lot tougher to swallow. No one knows how to grate on your nerves and push your buttons better than your brothers and sisters.

Parents who think that simply packing fighting siblings into a car, putting them on a plane, or sequestering them in a hotel room will change all that, are right.

It makes it worse.

But there’s hope. Sure, siblings may still squabble, but if you employ these five tactics, you stand a chance of getting at least one family photo that doesn’t look like a scene from The Simpsons couch.

Fighting Sibling Vacation Tactic 1: Become the Enemy

Take the iPad that they refuse to share. Choose the radio station after no one can agree. Proclaim from the highest mountain, for all to hear, that “Now, no one will get any ice cream!” Become the focus of their anger and I guarantee you they will come together. There is no greater uniting force than a common enemy. Be that enemy.

Fighting Sibling Vacation Tactic 2: Give Them Skin in the Game

What’s that they say about idle hands? If you were just picked up and dragged along for a week with no idea of where you were going or what to expect, you’d probably be a bit of a disturber too. Get the kids involved in the trip early. Tease them with tidbits of how much fun you’re going to have. Exaggerate your concerns over how you’ll ever get to all the fun stuff if they waste time arguing with their sibling. Drop heavy hints that the fun will have to end if the kids can’t get along. Trust me, they’ll take the bait. Older kids can get even more involved. Give them a day activity to plan or a restaurant to choose. Take all their suggestions seriously and if, for some reason, you need to nix their idea and they don’t like it (“No, little Billy you’re not diving with sharks on this trip.”), simply return to rule #1.

Fighting Sibling Vacation Tactic 3: Don’t Overdo It

One of the key components of a miserable child (i.e. one more prone to pinching his sister) is fatigue. It doesn’t matter how “child-friendly” or “hands-on” a museum is, don’t try to squeeze more than one major activity into a single day. You will deserve the meltdown you get if you’re trying to cram too much into your schedule. Instead, stick to one must-do and one additional possibility each day. And for the love of everything that is holy, keep them all well-fed while you do it.

Fighting Sibling Vacation Tactic 4: Reduce Projectile Options

Every time they play chess at home does it end up in tears? Don’t bring the chess board. Is choosing which movie to watch the usual path to an argument? Don’t give them any options. Kids don’t change. They aren’t going to simply start getting along and agreeing on things because you took them away from home. Leave the “I’m going to find the most embarrassing place to scream my lungs out because it went missing” items at home. I’m looking at you favorite Shopkins and limited-edition Star Wars action figure.

Fighting Sibling Vacation Tactic 5: Divide and Conquer

Sometimes fighting siblings just need a break from each other. All that family togetherness that you’re craving as parents can be the straw that broke the usually-only-mildly-irritating kid’s back. Consider sometimes splitting up your brood between adults and activities. It will give them a break from each other and give you some quality bonding time with each. Plus, spending time apart means you’ll all have something to talk about when you get back together … and the kids can argue over who had the most fun. Ahhh, siblings.

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on

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