Where we used to go: childhood haunts worth revisiting

Early holidays etch themselves sharply in eager young minds. Years later, those grainy family pictures of our younger selves act like wormholes in time, instantly transporting us back to travels past: to catching crabs at the seaside; to choruses of cicadas at dusk; to road trips through strange new lands.

We asked Lonely Planet staff to slip through the wormhole, recall some of the places and experiences they remember most vividly from their childhood, and explain why they’d like to retrace their steps as an adult.

Cape Cod, USA

Exploring Cape Cod’s pristine coastline is a rite of passage for many American families. Image by Rana Freedman / Lonely Planet. Exploring Cape Cod’s pristine coastline is a rite of passage for many American families. Image by Rana Freedman / Lonely Planet

What I remember: My family used to rent a house ‘down the Cape’ (as you’d say) for two weeks every summer. This is a quintessential Massachusetts summer destination - the Cape is beloved by locals, some of whom spend the whole season there. Those days would be filled with ice cream, fried seafood, bicycle rides, ocean swimming, miniature golf, barbecues, and sand on your floors, in your shoes, in your bed sheets… yeah, sand in pretty much everything.

Why I go back: I head to the Cape whenever I’m home visiting my parents in the summer. The smell of salt water and the heat of the air as my bare feet pick out a path to the ocean drums up such nostalgia it can bring tears to my eyes. I even don’t mind the crunch of sand in my mouth as I eat lunch on the beach. Any visitor to New England in the summer (or early fall) must visit the Cape to experience this iconic destination.

Rana Freedman heads up US marketing and communications at Lonely Planet’s Oakland office. Follow her tweets at @lonelyplanetusa or @ranajean.

Young, Australia

What I remember: During the summer holidays my dad decided to entertain me and my sister for the day by driving us to Young - known as the ‘cherry capital of Australia’. Four days later, with no cherries, we arrived back in Sydney after a road trip that included visits to Bathurst, Ningan, Cobar, Broken Hill, Mildura and picking up a Dutch hitchhiker travelling to Perth.

Why I’d go back: The landscape was spectacular, the sky was an expansive blue and the earth was a deep red. The conditions were wild...driving over dried-up rivers, whirly-whirlys (dust devils) dancing around us, and emus running alongside our car.

Yeuko Ogawa is a User Interface Designer at Lonely Planet’s London office.

Zermatt, Switzerland

A young Clare Mercer (right) getting to know one of the locals in the Swiss Alps. Image by Clare Mercer / Lonely Planet. A young Clare Mercer (right) getting to know one of the locals in the Swiss Alps. Image by Clare Mercer / Lonely Planet

What I remember: the walk from a campsite in Täsch, Switzerland, to Zermatt, picking wild strawberries along the way. Zermatt itself was chocolate-box perfect: no cars, just horse-drawn carriages and the tinkling of bells as goats filled the streets when the goatherds brought them down from the pastures at the end of the day.

Why I’d go back: Zermatt is still vehicle-free and I bet it’s still every child’s dream of a Swiss mountain village. I'd love to show my children the Matterhorn, the Alpine meadows and the picture-perfect chalets. I just wouldn't let them buy a Swiss Army knife and test it out on a finger…

Clare Mercer manages Lonely Planet’s foreign publishing partners from the London office.

Las Vegas, USA

What I remember: There are plenty of child-friendly reasons to visit Vegas: pirate ship pyrotechnics, roller coasters, light shows, circus spectacles. But my most vivid memory from our family trip there when I was 13 was of me and my brother being temporarily abandoned by our slot machine-bound parents in one of the hotels' enormous casino halls. Looking a little forlorn (there's not much to, well, do in a casino if you’re a child...), we were approached by two security guards, accused of 'illegally loitering' and ordered to move along, despite protestations that we had nowhere to go. Eventually, our parents – lighter in the pocket by this stage – claimed us back. Reluctantly.

Why I went back: I returned to Las Vegas over a decade later, this time with a valid ID, a couple of good friends and, crucially, without the irresponsible parents in tow. Turns out that Vegas as a 20-something can be a lot more fun: it’s brash, silly, noisy, exhilarating, baffling, exhausting. I only managed three days before it spat me back out into the Arizona desert, a little broken but with a smile on my face, and not a single charge of illegal loitering to my name. Result.

Jessica Cole is a Commissioning Editor in Lonely Planet’s Trade & Reference team in London. She tweets @coleywole.

Mount Takasaki, Japan

Britney Alvarez (riding high in Japan, top left) longs for a monkey-free second visit to Mount Takasaki. Image by Britney Alvarez / Lonely Planet. Britney Alvarez (riding high in Japan, top left) longs for a monkey-free second visit to Mount Takasaki. Image by Britney Alvarez / Lonely Planet

What I remember: I spent my childhood in Japan from the age of 18 months to six, and vividly remember a visit to Mount Takasaki when a wild monkey - the size of a three-year-old me - suddenly jumped out and snatched my opened pouch of precious yogurt-covered raisins (sent to me in a special care package from my US-based grandmother).

Why I’d go back: My traumatic experience on that fog-enshrouded mountain burned itself into my memory, yet the place still intrigues me and I’d love to return someday to experience it from a taller vantage point, as I would like to remember the unique setting’s beauty rather than the ferocity of that ravenous monkey!

Britney Alvarez is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Lonely Planet’s Oakland office.

Yosemite National Park, USA

What I remember: I was nine years old, sharing a cabin with my grandparents in Yosemite. Following an unsuccessful day looking for bears, I was delighted to find a mouse scurrying about our room. My grandad, less impressed, tucked his trousers in his socks and started chasing it, while shouting a string of expletives that has become a family catchphrase.

Why I’d go back: Yosemite is a superb family destination, with plenty of activities and wonderful, dramatic scenery. The big draw for my daughter is the possibility of seeing wild bears. For me, I’d love to drive back through the Mariposa Grove looking up at the incredible giant sequoia.

Claire Naylor is a Senior Editor at Lonely Planet’s London office. She tweets @ThingsJonesDoes.

Devon, England, UK

Ellie Simpson (centre) inspects the day’s catch on a jetty in Devon. Image by Ellie Simpson / Lonely Planet. Ellie Simpson (centre) inspects the day’s catch on a jetty in Devon. Image by Ellie Simpson / Lonely Planet

What I remember: Perched over the jetty in breezy Devon, armed only with a stick, a piece of string, and some bacon bits, crabbing was a real thrill when I was seven. I just didn't understand why I had to throw my catch back into the sea after all that hard work!

Why I’d go back: I’d return to feast on the freshest, tastiest crab I could get my hands on now (without having to catch it myself). Seafood, spotless beaches, cream teas and cliff walks - Devon has all the ingredients for a proper English holiday.

Ellie Simpson is a Traveller Communications Coordinator at Lonely Planet’s London office. Follow her tweets @GutsyGrad.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

What I remember: Vast stretches of open beaches, sunburn, catching soldier crabs, learning to surf, fairy penguins on the foreshore, endless games of beach cricket, koalas in the backyard; Dad tying the suitcase to the roof of the Holden Commodore only to be lost somewhere on the dreaded return journey between the island and Melbourne (that only happened once!)

Why I’d go back: Having spent a good portion of the last decade exploring abroad, it’s been over 20 years since I’ve visited. In my nostalgic mind the island still represents the idyllic summer holiday for any young Australian and families – but what’s changed?

Andrew Hinshelwood is Head of Business Development (Asia/Pacific) at Lonely Planet’s Melbourne office. He tweets @AHinsh79.

Lake Taupo, New Zealand

Freezing cold water - and a heartbreaking introduction to movies - hasn’t put Liz Heynes (bottom left) off Lake Taupo. Image by Liz Heynes / Lonely Planet. Freezing cold water - and a heartbreaking introduction to movies - hasn’t put Liz Heynes (bottom left) off Lake Taupo. Image by Liz Heynes / Lonely Planet

What I remember: As a kid, Taupo holidays were all about swimming in freezing cold lake water, being sunburnt like a lobster, deafening cicada song and never catching any fish. Taupo was also the place I saw my first movie, ET, at the temporary cinema and cried for a full 24 hours afterwards.

Why I’d go back: Despite huge tourist numbers and bad traffic in summer, Taupo is a great holiday destination for families. I’d take my kids to Acacia Bay for a swim, followed by mint choc-chip ice cream and a visit to the Craters of the Moon geothermal area. On a rainy day you can’t beat soaking in the warm thermal waters of the AC Baths or De Bretts.

Liz Heynes is an Associate Product Director at Lonely Planet’s Melbourne office.

Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK

What I remember: Exploring the coastline, mostly: from beautiful big beaches like Whitesands (a gauntlet of windbreaks and picnic blankets on a sunny day), to hidden, hard-to-reach coves like Solva, a pebbly paradise for any young rockpooler looking to sharpen their skills. The fish and chips in that part of the world isn’t bad, either.

Why I’d go back: I’d have to organise the picnic myself these days, of course, but those beaches haven’t lost their allure; and the cliff-hugging Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has become the jewel in the crown of the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, one of the best long-distance walks in the UK.

James Kay is a Digital Editor at Lonely Planet’s London office. Follow his tweets @jameskay123.

Big Pea Porridge Pond, New Hampshire, USA

Louise Bastock exploring the wilds of New Hampshire from a secluded cabin in the woods. Image by Louise Bastock / Lonely Planet. Louise Bastock exploring the wilds of New Hampshire from a secluded cabin in the woods. Image by Louise Bastock / Lonely Planet.

What I remember: Pulling up at our cabin in the woods, my car sickness soon turned to excitement, and then swiftly to fear: beside the hornets, jellied colonies of giant tadpoles, and snapping turtles, we discovered that we were sharing the wilderness (and potentially our cabin) with over-friendly bears, taken to enjoy their evening naps on the residents’ porches.

Why I’d go back: Despite the initial nature overload, Big Pea Porridge Pond truly was the ultimate adventure holiday destination; with days spent catching those once-feared tadpoles, canoeing on the lake, and exploring the forests, a kid could really be a kid.

Louise Bastock is an Editorial and Community Assistant at Lonely Planet’s London office. She tweets @LouiseBastock.

Do you have a gilt-edged memory to share? Maybe you dream of going back somewhere as an adult to retrace your steps? Or perhaps the opposite is true, and the idea of reprising a family holiday sends a chill down your spine, as it does for Lonely Planet's Helen Elfer? Tweet us about it either way @lonelyplanet using the hashtag #lpfamilyhols, or reminisce to your heart's content on our Thorn Tree Travel forum.