Travel and Vacation: What’s the Difference?

Many people out there use the words travel and vacation interchangeably, thinking that they are the same thing. Any experienced traveler, however, will be quick to tell you that they are nowhere near the same.

So what constitutes as travel and what constitutes as vacation? How are they similar and what separates the two? Continue reading below and find out…

The Basics of Travel and Vacation

Let’s start with the plain basics of travel and vacation. People normally go on vacation to relax, get away from the realities of their lives, and rejuvenate. They leave their worries behind and just live one day at a time. Days are spent hanging out on the beach, taking relaxing walks, and eating good food. Families go on vacations because they present great opportunities to spend quality time together. People who travel on the other hand do so because they are motivated by the need to learn and experience something they haven’t experienced. They read about their destination even before reaching it. They try to speak the local language, insist on eating local food, and frequent cultural and heritage sites. It is almost always a jammed packed itinerary. They travel to discover.

Travel and Vacation: Rock cut Myra Tombs in Lycia, Turkey
Rock cut Myra Tombs in Lycia, Turkey

The Destination

Identifying whether your holiday is vacation or travel usually begins with the destination. Island retreats with long stretches of fine sand and endless views of the ocean make it a good candidate for a vacation. After all, a beach location is usually accompanied by a good book, some sunscreen, and a cold, tropical drink in hand. That’s not to say that by simply choosing a beach destination means there are no opportunities for actual travel. Lots of them have histories themselves especially since it was not too long ago when traveling by sea was the only way to get to anywhere else in the world. But, in reality, the likelihood of travelling to Tahiti is just as likely as saying you will be vacationing in Uzbekistan.

The Itinerary

Travel and vacation often have very different itineraries. To begin with, a vacationer typically has no itinerary. The whole point of vacationing is to relax and do practically nothing. One might take part in light sightseeing excursions, but most of his/her time will be spent lounging around, reading a book or a magazine, and spoiling oneself with atypical indulgences. A traveller will go beyond the tourist spots to see how the natives live, take walking tours and learn about the city’s deepest and darkest secrets, and eat at local eateries. The fewer tourists there are and the more opportunity there is to speak that country’s language will be his/her idea of a good trip.

Travel and Vacation: With tour guides in Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, spring 2012
With tour guides in Cinque Terre

The Accommodations

Grand resorts that offer all-inclusive packages cater mostly to vacationers. These establishments market such features to encourage you to spend as much time and money in their resorts. If you choose to stay in one of these and spend most of your time within the resort confines, you’re most likely on vacation. Hostels, traditional bed and breakfasts, and homestays are a traveler’s preferred accommodation options. They provide the best opportunities to meet other travellers and interact with the local community.

The Takeaway

The biggest difference between travel and vacation comes from the takeaway. People who come back from vacation usually return feeling refreshed and renewed, but essentially the same person. They will go with their lives just as they did before they left and there is certainly no sense of urgency to go back on the road. They long for the comforts of their home and the normalcy of real life. Travellers on the other hand, usually come back a slightly different person because every experience they had on the road shapes the person they are now. Another person said to me once that for her, the hardest part is leaving. Not because its time to return to real life, but because of the fact that the destination became like a home.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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