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Newsletter: Escapes: Why a trip with family is such a great, if intense, learning lab

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Matsumoto Castle in the town of Matsumoto, about 135 miles northwest of Tokyo, is one of four remaining original castles and offers insight into feudal Japan.
(Matthew Cohn)

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the moment, which explains timeshares, tattoos and destination T-shirts. So you can understand why, upon gazing at a newborn, you would assure his dad that of course you, the doting uncle, would take that little bundle of joy on a trip when he turned 16.

Time has a way of catching up with us. At least it did for Andrew Bender, who, in fact, promised to take his newborn nephew Matthew to Japan. The result: a trip of a lifetime for uncle and nephew and some life lessons for both.

Looking at the world in a different way is one of the joys of travel. After all, what is an adventure but a dream fulfilled? We hope to entice you to embrace the unknown with articles on a German design movement that is still relevant today; a dip in William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon pools; an attempt to break a record in Arizona; performances by one of the all-time bestselling country artists who has a new residency in Las Vegas; a trip to a cool place in Washington; and a journey to a sanctuary in Utah. (Animal haters can skip that one.)

Plus, we tell you what to expect this summer as you join 2.8 million of your closest friends in U.S. airports and remind you to take your camera and share the fruits of your photographic labors.

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My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. Dream a little and live a lot as the summer unfolds. Ready for takeoff?

Japan, with a teen: a survival guide for both of you

Andrew Bender and his nephew Matthew didn’t have trouble navigating Japan (Bender is fluent in Japanese), but they did have to learn to travel together, which is no small task in multigenerational trips. Matthew learned a lot about the country, and they both learned about each other, which may be the most priceless part of the journey.

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Matthew Cohn, left, and his uncle, Andrew Bender get a hands-on ninja experience in Tokyo.
(Andrew Bender)

Come on in, the water’s divine

Try to imagine what it was like at San Simeon when the Hearsts were in residence and life was a party. Today, you can tour this Julia Morgan-designed mansion and now take a dip in those pools, Mary Forgione writes. Fulfilling that fantasy comes at a price — $1,250— but one can always dream.

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The 104-foot-long Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
(Steve Jennings / Getty Image)

This water’s not bad either (and it doesn’t cost $1,250)

If you’re keen to explore the Olympic National Park in Washington state, you can do so and stay in a place fit for a president. Lake Crescent Lodge, Anne Burke writes, once hosted President Franklin Roosevelt, but it doesn’t cost a king’s ransom and the views are absolutely free.

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Lake Crescent Lodge has been a popular tourist destination since the 1920s, when it was known as Singer’s Lake Crescent Tavern.
(Anne Burke)

The outlook for summer travel by air: mixed

The bad news: It’s going to be crowded in U.S. airports this vacation season — about 3.4% more people than last year. That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s about 95,000 more people than last year. The good news: Airfares may not be as expensive as we feared — at least for summer. Fuel prices, which jumped recently because of tensions in the Middle East, do take a while to filter through the pricing structure. Read about other factors that could affect your comfort during the busiest travel season of the year.

Hot enough for ya? Maybe yes in Lake Havasu City

On June 29, the Arizona city will celebrate its all-time temperature mark: 128 degrees, set in 1994. You can join the Hot for Havasu festivities and perhaps sample the “dashboard cookies,” baked in a car. And no, we are not making that up.

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Lake Havasu City in Arizona hopes to beat its record-breaking 128 degrees. It will hold a 25th anniversary party June 29.
(Go Lake Havasu)

But Germany’s very cool

Especially if you’re a lover of all things Bauhaus, the school of design that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. How can a look that’s so playful also sometimes seem so cold? “That literally defines the school’s two philosophies,” writer Margo Pfeiff said in an email. Follow in her footsteps as she tours the German cities that reflect this angular, colorful style.

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Inside one of the original Bauhaus University buildings in Weimar, eastern Germany.
(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)
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Some holiday cheer for Shania Twain fans

She’s back for another residency in Las Vegas, this one starting in December at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Jay Jones reports. Part of the proceeds go her charity, Shania Kids Can. Twain’s performance dates extend into 2020, Jones writes.

Hit us with your best shot

With apologies to Pat Benatar, we’re asking for photos, not a fight. We will, once again, display reader photos in our annual summer vacation photo issue in print and online. The photos must have been taken between Memorial Day and Labor Day for this year. You can read the instructions and see examples of some photos that were included last year at our summer photo guide. This year, we have an easy-to-navigate form to fill out that ensures we are getting all the information you can give us on the story behind the photo.

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Melanie Borcover had just completed her Peace Corps service in Madagascar and was touring with her mother when they encountered this chameleon. To get this close-up, she came within a foot of the reptile with her Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200.
(Melanie Borcover)

Trying out your new BFF?

Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, is known for matching people with their animal soul mates. Now, it will give you a chance for a “test drive” in the privacy of your room. The sanctuary plans to open a hotel by late summer that will allow you to overnight with your maybe. You don’t have to be adopting to stay at the hotel, although the 30 rooms and 10 suites are animal-friendly

Reading and writing and buying a sub

You can fill up on L.A. Times content to your heart’s content through our newsletter subscription page: membership.latimes.com/newsletters.

You can write to us and tell us what you’d like to see in this newsletter… or what you saw and didn’t like. We love getting mail: travel@latimes.com

Or you could subscribe to the L.A. Times, print or digital or both, and wake up each day secure in the knowledge that there’s a whole world of news, events and features awaiting your tender gaze. Few things in life are certain; should you not avail yourself of one of them? Visit our subscription page to get the deal of a lifetime.

What we’re reading

Can’t planes board more efficiently? It’s a question we’ve explored in the Travel section, but this Washington Post article by Shivani Vora updates readers on the ways airlines are finding new efficiencies.

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Put aside a chunk of time to read this well-written and -researched piece in the Atlantic by William Langewiesche that centers on what really happened to Malaysia Flight 370, which disappeared five years ago. Pieces of the plane have been found; the writer suggests that the plane shattered when it hit the water after going off course for several hours. He also turns its attention to several people who might have been responsible for the disappearance, finally coming down firmly on one.

If you’re headed for Barcelona, Spain, you almost certainly are familiar with Antoni Gaudí and La Sagrada Familia, the work-in-progress church (2028 is the target for completion for this edifice, which by then will be more than 140 years in the making). But there are several other don’t-miss places associated with the Catalan architect, Sherri Eisenberg writes for Afar magazine. For instance, who would not want to hear live jazz on a summer evening on the roof of one of his former homes?

FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017 file photo, dignitaries leave after a Mass at Barcelona’s Sagra
La Sagrada Familia designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Its target date for completion is 2028.
(Manu Fernandez / Associated Press)

End paper

OOO? No, no, no!

The bounce-back messages that tell emailers that you are OOO, shorthand for “out of office,” are ubiquitous and a kind way to let people know they are shouting into the dark, at least for a while.

I see many of those messages from you on Thursday mornings when this newsletter is delivered. Some are bland and say only, “I’m out of the office and will return June 24. Please contact XYZ person in my absence.”

But some are more detailed and say you’re out of town or out of the country. Unless you have the National Guard posted at your house and a team of attack dogs, you should rethink that and just say you’re out of the office and leave the email for the person who should be contacted in your absence.

The same advice goes for the message you leave on your office phone and for posting on social media, said Kevin Coffey, a retired LAPD detective who speaks on travel safety.

Be especially wary of telling the world, unwittingly through social media, that your home is unoccupied.

“Here are a few postings you should give second thoughts to posting,” he said in an email:

-- “X more days till our trip

-- “My bags are packed, I’m ready to go

-- “We’re here; one week in paradise

-- “Check out the view from our hotel

-- “Our flight is delayed.

“In the end, every traveler should ‘post, share and check-in’ wisely, and always think before you post, ‘If a thief saw this posting, could they use it to their advantage?’ ’’ Coffey said. “Instead, consider posting all your great vacation photos when you return to reduce your chances of being victimized while traveling.”

Wise words.

I always end this newsletter with a wish that you travel safely and well, and that includes making sure that from the time you leave until the time you come home, you’ll be worry-free and feel as though the world has one protective arm around you and the other arm holding bad people at bay. That is still and always my wish, but please also know that we will be here to welcome you home.


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