Take Two: The Value of Destination Repetition

Apr 4, 2012 by

Vegas--I've been there before, and I'll be there again. And again. And again.


I will never own a beach house.  I will never own a lake house, a mountain house, a cabin by a stream or a condo in Florida.  Why?  Because that would mean that I’d have to return to the same location year after year.  And the world is just too darn big to do such a thing.

Yet I am guilty of destination repetition–I’ve been to Vegas twice, Disney World four times (in a little over a year), and I have already booked a return trip to Bermuda.  In fact, as you read this I’m touring around DC yet again, having visited countless times before and having spent several months working there, enjoying my lunch in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery.

So I have to admit that there’s nothing wrong with repeat visits. There is something to be said about returning to a beloved location.  For example…

You know how to get there 

Showing my husband around the DC building where I used to work.

Knowing the technical ins and outs of a destination is extremely reassuring.

I’m leaving in just over two hours and I have zero directions printed out.  Why?  Because I could drive to the New Carrollton metro station with my eyes closed.  I have the DC metro map forever imprinted on my brain, the result of months worth of riding the orange line from Maryland to the Federal Triangle stop.  I think I could recite the stops in ascending or descending order all the way to the end of the line at Vienna/Fairfax.  I even do it in the soothingly robotic voice of the metro announcement.  Same, too, with airports.  I will never get lost at the Orlando airport looking for the Magical Express line and I know which exit to use at baggage claim to find a taxi in Vegas.

Additionally, once you arrive at your destination, being familiar with that destination’s particular quirks–say, how the Vegas monorail doesn’t really save time over walking or why you should definitely get a rental car in Walt Disney World–will make your trip much more stress free.  As a woman who actually cried in a two-hour line for a taxi in Paris, I know–it’s very easy to have a trip ruined by something you didn’t even anticipate.

Finally–and perhaps this is only important to me–after you’ve visited a place once or twice, you learn the most important thing of all:  where all the restrooms are located!

You know what you want to do when you get there

And, almost more importantly, you know what you don’t want to do.  I am positive we will not be visiting the Natural History Museum in DC on this trip.  Why?  Because we’ve been there, done that, and we are over it–and the swarming masses of screaming children.  When visiting Vegas, I will never stay at Circus Circus.  I don’t need to plan more than half of a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

But we are going to return to Mitsam, my favorite Smithsonian cafeteria.  We would stay at MGM Grand again, despite it’s sprawling size, and I’ll always plan to end each day of a Disney trip in Epcot’s World Showcase.  I know what I like in these places–and I know what to avoid.

You will explore that area more deeply

Some places--like Disney World--change seasonally, so there's always something new to explore.

It is impossible to feel like you truly know a place after only one visit.  That’s why I know that I some day have to return to Paris–I’m sure  my second (or third or fourth)  visit will be a much more positive experience than my first.  Heck, just returning to London after two weeks in Paris made me like London so much more–and it took me almost a decade to regain my love of New York City.

On my first trip to Bermuda, I had far more things planned than I ever could have accomplished in the three days I was in port.  That’s why I’m going back.  Vegas was great the first time, but on trip number two I was able to devote a whole morning and afternoon to resort-hopping–drink and camera in hand, of course.  And on our last DC trip we visited the National Cathedral, a location a bit away from the tourist center of the city but now one of my favorite places in the capitol.  This time we’ve planned an afternoon in Georgetown, which I’ve also never visited.  Even Disney has a deeper side–had it not been my fourth trip in fourteen months, I may not have taken the time to do the amazing–but rather long–Keys to the Kingdom Tour.

In short–and I feel I’m trying to convince myself here, too–there’s really nothing wrong with destination repetition, provided you also continue to explore new locales.  After all, what’s so wrong with liking a certain place so much you want to go back and spend more time there?  I’ll certainly be returning again to all of the places named above, and I have plans for repeat visits to other cities as well (New Orleans, I’m looking at you!)

Do you travel to the same destination repeatedly, or do you always seek out new experiences?  If you do, where do you repeatedly visit?  And have you been able to find a balance between revisiting your beloved towns/cities/attractions and pushing beyond your comfort zone to try new things and visit new places?  

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  1. Becky

    I definitely like to re-visit travel destinations. I’m also a person who loves to re-read books. I do find it hard to find a good balance of visiting somewhere I’ve already been, and going somewhere new. I have four trips coming up in the next two years – two are repeats. I’m going to Disney again during the Flower and Garden festival, and I’m cruising to Bermuda, a place I visited but was only 12 at the time so it almost doesn’t count! And then Nashville and Las Vegas are new places I am excited to see!

    • elbodans

      I re-read books, too. I hadn’t thought of the correlation, but I see your point. You know what’s going to happen, but it is still enjoyable. A very, very good metaphor for revisiting a destination!

      I love Las Vegas–and I hope you do, too! Nashville is on my list too, but I’ve never been (despite the fact that my sister-in-law lived there for years–I’m a terrible family member!)

      When are you cruising to Bermuda? My husband and I are going in mid-June. I’m kind of excited to be going back because I loved it there so much. It will be interesting to see how I feel about it when I’m NOT solo. Ironically, I’m a little nervous about traveling non-solo this time! Ha!

      • Becky

        We are going the first week of September, on Norwegian. I’ll be looking forward to reading what you do and what you think about it to prepare for my trip! I hope you have a great time with your husband! I’ll be traveling with mine as well so a couple’s perspective will be useful for me!

  2. Toni

    YES! It IS like re-reading great books (by the way, I am re-reading the Anne books). We’ve been to London more than 40 times- and I am longing to return. Fom many of those trips we combined it with something new- a new day trip, a new second or third destination… but it was comforting to have London! There is still so much I want to do there that we haven’t touched on, and of course, I want to repeat some of my favorites. But there are places (and books), that I won’t repeat. Paris is one of them. I guess I just don’t “get” Paris- it wasn’t romantic to me, it was dirty and the people were rude and the food yucky, and … well I’d rather think about London that be ngative about Paris. Oh- and Hong Kong- have to get back there, and Sydney, and Salzburg, and Oslo, ………

    • elbodans

      You are very fortunate to have so many places to which you’d like to return. That means you’ve had many, many great trips! ;-)

      And thank you for agreeing with me on Paris. Though I WILL return. Promise.

      I’ve read the Anne books so many times it isn’t even funny. And I’ve watched the miniseries so many times I can recite entire scenes!

  3. I was just talking to someone in the grocery the other day who said they were headed to a beach destination and had been going there for 14 years. It wasn’t even a particularly nice beach destination! When I think they could have been to the Caribbean, Hawaii or Bermuda…why keep going back to the same place? There is value in repeating destinations, as you say – we are headed back to little Tybee Island this summer because we loved it last year. Nice to go back to the same restaurants, etc. But I certainly want to go to lots and lots of new places as well!!

    • elbodans

      Glad to hear that someone has found balance. We are having a great time in DC–again–but also spent a good deal of our evening talking about our next as-of-yet unplanned trip, which will be to a totally new destination. Variety is the spice of life, after all. But sometimes you just don’t want a really spicy dish (says the woman who just had a crazy awesome meal at a fabulous Indian restaurant!)

  4. Regina

    I’m generally more receptive to repeating a destination that is within the US. Although I have been multiple times to Italy, Ireland, Canada & Mexico, I tend to visit just a few select spots as a repeat and then explore a whole different part of those countries that is new to me. For US cities I never tire of repeating: New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans & Chicago top the list. I spent many summers as a kid at the Jersey Shore and in my 20s skipped around from shore town to shore town and when I got to my 30s and had the money to rent my own shore house and not do a share, headed straight for Cape May and rented a shore house there yearly for a number of years. I still love Cape May and intend to stay again at some point, but now I have several friends who have bought beach houses elsewhere and they generously let me use their houses at various points in the season when they are unable to, so free will always win over a rental! I always mix in new countries or cities with favorite repeats throughout the year. While it may be nice to “re-read” a classic every now and then, I wouldn’t want it to be the only book in my library!

    • elbodans

      First–your last sentence sums it up perfectly!

      Second–I totally agree with domestic destinations being better for repeats. Quite simply, it is easier to get anywhere here. And by ‘easier’ I mean quicker and cheaper (usually–but not always). I asked my husband tonight why he loved DC and why we return here time after time. His answer: it’s close, it’s beautiful, and there are lots of great restaurants. And everything we want to do is free or close to free, so we have money to spend on those restaurants.

      I like your list of favorite US destinations, particularly because the two on the list I’ve not visited–Chicago and San Fran–are on my extremely short list for the end of spring. We shall see how that pans out. :-)

      • Regina

        Spring in San Francisco or Chicago are great times to visit. Kimpton Hotels has been sending me emails about different offers for all my repeat cities and I’m thinking I will need to at least try to squeeze in a 4 day weekend and take some time off work to go back to one of my repeat cities. Maybe DC again. I have still not been to the Native American museum that’s part of the Smithsonian and Mitsam sounds like a good place to stop and refuel during the visit.

        I’m still hopeful you repeat Paris and do it solo this time. I think your perspective on travel and rolling with the flow has changed quite a bit after this past year. Thus, I think you’d be seeing Paris in a new light the 2nd time around.

  5. Mike

    I guess everyone is different, but for myself I’ve learned from experience not to go back to a place (unless I plan on doing very different things). For example the first time I went to Cape Cod it was just the most amazing place! Driving the smaller roads like Route 6A and seeing all the beautiful homes, wandering the main streets of towns like Wellfleet and Chatham, riding a bike down one of the rail trails, listening to a town band play an evening concert — I could go on and on about all the amazing experiences I had in just 1 week on the Cape. So I went back, and you know, it was nice but not as charming as I had remembered. On my 3rd trip it was still a nice place to be, but knowing what shops were on the street or what scenic view was around the bend really took the novelty and surprise out of the trip.

    I’ve had the same experience in other places that I thought were so unique and captivating — Perugia, Rome, Cortona, Pesaro, to name a few. So maybe its just me (and perhaps others like me) but I find that there is never the same excitement and enjoyment on the 2nd or subsequent visit.

  6. I’m a committed repeater. We’ll do WDW at least once a year for the rest of our lives, easily. But we also have other destinations that we return to regularly. Chief among them is Eerie, Pa., if you can believe it! We have a favorite hotel there and everything. While we’re there, we really just relax, go on hikes and … relax. It’s not an exciting destination, but it’s comfortable and cheap!

    • elbodans

      Erie??? I actually laughed out loud at that? You’ll have to tell me more about it sometime. My friend Mark convinced me to cancel my California trip (which I may reschedule) by telling me all the fun things to do in my own state. I guess Erie counts, though it is as far away from where I live while still remaining in PA.

  7. Yes, yes, yes! We seem to be of the same mind on things (I know, shocking, right?). There is definitely something comfortable about going back to a place you’ve been before. Without the pressure of trying to find your way around, you can explore in a more relaxed way. You can barely scratch the surface of a place in one trip, but by going back, you get to know it in more depth.

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