Emma’s family has stayed at the same campground every Christmas for over 70 years.
Her great-grandparents used to take her Nanna down, lugging their tent and camping equipment on the train.
While the Gold Coast campground has been through a few renovations, the tradition has lived on, with each member of the extended family even staying in the same lot year after year.
Although the 33-year-old, from Ipswich in Queensland, loves exploring new places, she says returning to the same destination can leave more of an impact.
“You get a connection to the area,” Emma says.
“You repeat them every year and you never really lose them. It becomes a part of who you are.”
A holiday, not a trip
Not all of us are lucky enough to have a family connection to a destination, but it’s still possible to create your own traditions.
For 33-year-old Harrison Nguyen from Sunshine in Melbourne, four-wheel driving the beaches around South Australia’s Port MacDonnell has become his favourite pastime.
He’s been visiting two or three times a year for the past five years — sometimes with his partner, and other times with friends.
“There’s a lot of places off the bitumen we go and it’s a lot of just kicking around the campfire talking shit all day.”
Sangkyun Kim researches tourist behaviour and psychology at Edith Cowan University, and says part of the appeal of visiting a place multiple times is not needing to stress or prepare.
You know what to pack, what the holiday house will be stocked with and which local restaurants cover the dietary requirements of your kids – no research needed.
“You just get there and you know what to do,” Harrison says.
And you look forward to doing those same activities every time you return.
Carmel Foley, from the UTS Business School, says repeat visits takes the pressure off travelling.
“You don’t have to go and see the galleries and museums and do everything while you’re there because you’ve done it all before and you may not even feel like doing it this holiday,” she says.
Ms Foley has researched caravan park holiday culture in Australia, and says people tend to differentiate between travel styles.
Harrison describes himself as “a routines kind of guy,” and enjoys knowing what to expect from his South Australia trips.
“There’s always a risk of not enjoying something if you’re trying something new,” he explains.
“I do also try new things a lot, but there are certain times when you want that comfort, you want the familiarity where you know what you’re getting.”
Holidays that feel like coming home
Mr Kim says for many of us, the allure of recurring holidays stems from the emotional and psychological connections between a visitor and a destination.
This rings true for Emma, whose camping trips come with a raft of childhood memories.
“We used to build these epic volcanoes in the sand and put some kindling in them when we were all finished. And we’d light the volcano on fire in the sand,” she says.
Mr Kim explains how when we return somewhere we feel an emotional connection to, it feels like coming home.
This can arise from feeling a connection with the locals, or from returning to places we’ve been as a child, as these memories create a strong nostalgic connection.
When Emma’s father was declining from cancer, they took him for one last trip to the campground in the middle of the year, “just so he could go one more time”.
“It was really important to everyone, especially the older generations, because it’s one of those things where when you create a tradition and you do it again and again, it ingrains its importance in your life,” she says.
Building a new community
Ms Foley says that while a sense of familiarity and nostalgia does come into play, the biggest finding from her research was around the sense of community holidaymakers feel.
“If people go on a holiday where other people go every year at the same time as well, and they get to know each other, it becomes really really sociable,” she says.
She says the relaxation of holidaying in a familiar place gives people more time for sociable relationships, allowing them to make genuine connections.
In one holiday park she visited, two children of returning families ended up getting married after growing up together.
Emma’s family books the following year’s holiday as they drive home, and Ms Foley says this practice is common, with some caravan parks home to 90 per cent repeat visitors.
Harrison says one of his highlights has been bonding with the locals.
“As you go back year after year, they start to recognise you,” he says.
“People over there are so friendly, you get that sense that they know you. It’s just a nice feeling.”
ABC Everyday in your inbox
Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Everyday each week