Many of us like to revisit the same places year after year. Others of us like to return to the vacation spots of our childhood. And some of us do both.
My husband, Tim, is a great example. Every summer he takes our kids camping at a lake in northern California’s Mendocino National Forest—the same lake (which he refuses to let me name, for fear others will discover it) where he and his four siblings camped each summer as children. Nowadays those siblings bring their own kids, and they’ve grown to a group of 40, all gathering at the same place where they’ve been vacationing for 50 years. I’d join them more often, except that most years I need to hoard my precious days off from work so I can take the kids back to my own summer childhood vacation spot: Cape Cod. Whichever coast my family is on, you can be sure our summertime traditions allow Tim and me to relive great memories and maybe even channel our younger selves through our kids.
I bet many of you can relate. TripAdvisor recently surveyed its community and found that nearly 7 in 10 respondents (69%) have returned to a favorite childhood vacation destination as an adult. They are motivated by memories: Some respondents (43%) want to relive fond memories of their childhood, and some (38%) want to take their children to the same place they went as a child, mainly because they want them to share the positive experiences they had as a child. The top classic American attractions they like to visit are national parks, diners, and ice cream parlors, although they enjoy going back to the drive-in movie theaters of their childhood too.
For the many of you who revisit locales as part of an annual tradition, here are a few ways to make both the tradition and the memories last.
1. Preserve rituals that are exclusive to your annual trip.
Save certain activities or pastimes for that trip only. As an example, Tim’s family always brings a battered old ring-toss game and horseshoes to the lake, and they spend hours having tournaments. Also, each year take a photo of your group (and/or your kids) standing in the same spot or in front of the same landmark.
2. Master a new challenge each year.
It’s important to inject an element of novelty and challenge into your tradition each year, so that it doesn’t become a snooze. One way is to spice up the trip with an activity you’ve never done before. A group bonds when it masters a challenge together. Each year Tim’s family brings some new water toy to the lake so they can all try innertubing, wakeboarding, water skiing, or whatever the adrenaline-pumping flavor of the year is.
3. Turn the chore-like portions of the trip into fun traditions too.
Usually the biggest chore is getting there, so punctuate long, boring drives with exclusive rituals as well. Each year Tim and the boys make pit stops at the same farmstand that sells amazing strawberries, the same sandwich shop for lunch, and the same beloved mini-golf course.
4. Savor the trip highlights as they unfold.
Psychologists have found that expressing happiness about events while they are occurring helps you recall them later—and boosts your mood later too. Social sharing online assists this effort—indeed, it may be a reason why so many people post positive moments of their lives on Facebook—but, to get your kids involved too, at the end of each day of your trip, have them articulate their favorite moment that happened that day.
5. Record the vacation so as to keep happy memories vivid for years to come.
Be the trip reporter. Take photos, gather trip memorabilia, keep a journal. Have your kids create a scrapbook with mementoes from the vacation. Of course, you can also share your experiences with others in travel reviews.