Summer of revenge travel: L.A. Times readers share their most memorable destinations
After fits and starts of so-called revenge travel over the last two years, the pandemic-inspired urge to roam hit its stride this summer.
That’s why I asked L.A. Times readers — and a few of my colleagues — to send me stories of their summer travels.
To put it succinctly: I was awed by your adventures. One traveler tested her mettle on a 90-mile hike in Europe; another introduced his child to the Cape Cod ice cream parlor he grew up visiting in the ’80s.
A recent graduate — the first in her family to go to college — went to Rhode Island for her long-delayed university commencement ceremony. A married couple traveled to Mexico and made it just in time to say goodbye to a dying loved one.
Others weren’t able to travel this summer due to health concerns, money or other roadblocks. One reader who lost her job said her family reached a point where they couldn’t afford groceries, let alone travel. “I wish we could go somewhere with the kids,” she said in her message.
Not everyone gets the opportunity to travel, one more sign of the inequitable society we live in. I don’t claim to have answers but wanted at least to acknowledge this perspective before sharing readers’ summer travel stories.
Are you unable to travel? My inbox is always open if you’d like to share your experience. Send me a message anytime.
I hope you find inspiration and a sense of camaraderie among travelers from these stories, which have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Tejupilco de Hidalgo
We went to a city close to Mexico City called Tejupilco de Hidalgo to see my husband’s family and his lovely mother.
On the third day of our visit, she passed away. She had been very sick for a while, and we were conscious that she could get overwhelmed by having my husband there. But later, we realized she was just waiting to be with him one last time.
We felt blessed to be there to support the rest of the family. We stayed for three weeks and enjoyed each other’s company. We can’t wait for vacation time with the whole family.
— Mayte Esquivel
I visited Vancouver for the first time in 10 years, jogging the seawall in the morning, walking around Stanley Park and exploring the city and mountains like Whistler. Using the Evo car share service was amazing and cheaper than taking Uber. We also took a flight on a float plane!
After flying to Idaho to visit family for a few days, we came back to L.A. and drove out to Palm Springs for several days, relaxing in the pool by day and driving out to Joshua Tree to see the stars and Milky Way at night.
— David Menkes
We visited the town of Dennis in Cape Cod, Mass. We spent half-days on the beaches on the south and north sides of the cape, visited the Cape Cod Museum of Art (which hosted a terrific retrospective exhibition on Donald Stoltenberg called “Building His World”), enjoyed a seafood lunch at the Sesuit Harbor Cafe and learned history at underappreciated sites like the 1736 Josiah Dennis Manse Museum.
Our 7-year-old enjoyed visiting Sundae School, an ice cream parlor I grew up with back in the 1980s.
— Patrick Burns
I traveled to the smallest state in the country: Rhode Island. Curiously named, Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island but rather a coastal swath of land with an area of 1,214 square miles (for reference, Los Angeles County is more than 4,000 square miles).
The Providence-Warwick area is said to have the most doughnut shops per capita, and Newport is home to the oldest standing synagogue in the country. Rhode Island is also the home of my alma mater, Brown University.
After two years of COVID-related delays, my class was finally able to graduate in person. As the first person in my family to go to college, I was happy to finally have the opportunity to celebrate with my parents and show them the most loving community I’ve ever been a part of. A belated congratulations to the Class of 2020!
— Naomy Pedroza
One exhilarating (and slightly terrifying) thing I did while on a family vacation in Mammoth: the Via Ferrata tour.
The activity is similar to rock climbing, but without the fear of falling to your death. Well, there’s much less of the fear, at least.
With a guide leading the way, you step and grasp onto a series of iron rungs while your harness stays connected to a cable (note: you’re the one who has to continually connect your harness, so there’s a good amount of focus involved).
Climbing down the rugged cliff, walking across a narrow suspension bridge and taking in the view of an expansive landscape of trees was an experience I won’t forget. It was the perfect amount of thrill for this risk-averse traveler.
I’ve been researching other destinations with Via Ferrata routes. Tahoe next?
— Michelle Woo, Times West Coast Experiences editor
Stockholm, Paris, Vienna, Prague
I went to Europe twice, and both times were to see Pearl Jam concerts. The first trip was to Stockholm, and the second trip was to Paris, Vienna and Prague.
The Vienna and Prague shows were canceled due to Eddie Vedder’s voice being impacted by the heat/dust/smoke at the show near Paris.
However, I met so many great people along the way and connected with several via Facebook. Travel is life’s best teacher!
— Henry Yu
Montreal and New York
My family’s summer was built around a trip to Montreal, Lake George (in upstate New York) and Manhattan.
After weeks of delicate planning amid COVID upheavals, it was brilliant for the three of us to stroll Rue St-Paul in the oldest part of Montreal, to see the very 21st century light show they do nightly in the very 19th century Notre-Dame Basilica, and to see teams from our daughter’s Irish dance school, Cleary, win four first places at the North American championships.
Lake George, a 170-mile drive south of Montreal, was tremendous too. We shared a sprawling lakefront property with great friends, tubing, kayaking, eating ice cream from Martha’s.
And then things turned sideways.
My wife and I came down with COVID. The bad news was we had to cancel three nights in Manhattan. The good news was that our cases were mild. Also we saved at least $1,200 (three hotel nights plus meals in Manhattan), and our Lake George friends had room for us to convalesce more or less at water’s edge.
In the end, after recuperating, we managed a three-hour visit to Manhattan (MOMA, Fifth Avenue, Central Park and out) before flying home. It wasn’t the trip we’d planned. But given all the trouble and loss suffered by so many over these last several months, it was a journey for which we’re deeply grateful. We’ll remember it for a long time.
Just don’t ask how much we paid for that rental car.
— Christopher Reynolds, Times travel writer
This summer, I went on my first trip to Las Vegas since I turned 21 in 2018. I had long put off this rite of passage, first because of college, then pandemic shutdowns.
But in June the stars aligned: A room was booked and paid for, and I didn’t have to drive — jackpot.
So one Friday, a group of us piled into a friend’s 4Runner and skedaddled toward the I-15. Naturally, we got caught in the wagon train of Californians scrambling for Vegas after the workweek. The Mojave Desert at sunset looked spectacular.
We stayed at Treasure Island, which could use a face-lift, like many Vegas hotels. That first night, we didn’t go out, opting for rap battles and drinks in the room instead. Saturday would be when we would really do it up.
The next morning, we had lunch at Tacos El Gordo (the best buche tacos ever) and walked the Strip, where we drank tallboys in the open, midday, without an iota of shame.
The plan to do it up? That was scrapped once we realized there was no way we’d make checkout time. So another night of rap battles and tallboys it was.
We did not gamble a cent or go clubbing, and we skipped out on the buffets, but we still had a blast. It was Vegas, our way.
— Jason Sanchez, L.A. Times multiplatform editor fellow
I went to Scotland to walk the 96-mile West Highland Way with my daughter, Lucy. I walked more than 90 miles in eight days and maneuvered around the toughest sections by using Scotland’s amazing public bus system. I am a 59-year-old woman with breast cancer, so choosing to skip the part of the West Highland Way called the Devil’s Staircase was the right call for me.
We had perfect weather, and there were no crowds, on or off the trail. We saw Highland cattle, deer and eagles along the way and walked through pine forests to the banks of Loch Lomond, along Rannoch Moor and through valleys at the foot of Scotland’s highest mountain.
The next time I do a long walk — probably along the Rhine in Germany — I will plan to stop along the way to explore little towns and get out on the water, rather than walking all day to a beautiful village by suppertime and then departing it the next morning immediately after breakfast without sampling its views, culture and food. Taking time to stay in lovely places along the West Highland Way, like Drymen or Bridge of Orchy, or getting out onto Loch Lomond on a boat would have made my journey better.
— Carolyn McKnight
We went to Costa Rica. We enjoyed the beach, the weather, the culture and the food. Water sliding and zip lining through the forest was amazing.
— Enoc Cortez
Channel Islands National Park
My family and I have camped on Santa Cruz Island three times, and each time something incredible happens.
The first year we saw three whales on our way out. The second year we saw shooting stars under a sky dark enough to see the Milky Way. This year, we got to hang out with a friendly seal.
We were snorkeling in the kelp forest (as you do on Santa Cruz Island) when it popped its little head out of the water just eight feet away. My 14-year-old son spotted it first.
“Mom, I just made eye contact with a seal!” he said.
We thought that thrilling encounter would be it, but instead the seal stuck around — lying on the sandy floor below us, then swimming up underneath us and doing some very cool twists in the water.
We were a little nervous at first — are seals aggressive? — and we tried to give it space, but this seal seemed to want to play. It swam around and under us for about five minutes before putting on what I like to think of as its final farewell show. It jumped clear out of the water and flicked its tail a few times, sending water splashing.
Next thing we knew, it was gone.
— Deborah Netburn, L.A. Times reporter
I took a tour of southern Africa in June and went on multiple safaris. I saw so many beautiful animals and will never look at a zoo the same way again.
— Barbara Neuberg
Yosemite National Park
Tears started flowing the instant I finished climbing the first stretch of cliff face in the magnificent Yosemite Valley. A chorus of trees huddled below and what looked like a vertical mountain loomed above. Half Dome winked from across the way.
My partner, Emanuel, an experienced climber, held me until I calmed down.
“I’d only climbed a handful of times and never more than a single rope length. This required three.
But where better to push my limits than Yosemite, a climbing mecca. The granite in the area — composing wonders like El Capitan — is renowned for its toughness. I matched the ancient rock’s resolve and pushed on, seizing sun-scorched features. A squirrel easily bypassed me on his own ascent: equal parts inspiration and taunt. At the top, I shuddered with relief and accomplishment.
The route, called Munginella, is considered a beginner’s climb, but I felt like I’d summited Everest. After scrambling down, we ended up at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Tourists streamed by as we sauntered in, sweaty and caked with dirt, and beelined for water. It was an epic midpoint in a weeklong camping trip that spanned the Yosemite high country, valley floor and a final night in Mammoth.
— Lila Seidman, L.A. Times reporter
We discovered the Mendocino coast last year on a road trip, and it was so nice we had to do it twice this summer.
On the way, you see the sweeping vistas of the Sonoma Coast and drop into the forests near Stewarts Point, following the fences of Sea Ranch until you come upon the redwood campsites of Gualala — an amazing little town that still has that “off the radar: feel.
The coast turned to foggy moodiness on the drive up to Mendocino, with little stops on the way — coffee at WhiteCap, a sandwich in Elk and a visit to Point Arena Tileworks to buy local tiles. Then we camped at Russian Gulch State Park, a hidden gem with a beach under a bridge.
We drove back down the coast to recharge in the redwoods at Samuel P. Taylor State Park before darting down Interstate 5 home to L.A.
We keep meeting new people and finding new places on this route. Hopefully it stays like it is now — perfect California.
— Michael Frey
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