The Differences Between a Vacation and a Trip


As someone who travels fairly often, my husband and I discuss this all the time between us and our friends. We love to travel; and we love to go anywhere new and exciting and back to places we just adore. We have four kids, and all our closest friends have kids. We try to do long weekends without the kids a few times a year, a couple of big trips with the kids each year, some long weekends with the kids each year and we have to do the obligatory family reunion type stuff every year or so. What we discuss is the fact that some trips feel like more work than they are worth and some feel like full on vacations, but they’re not always what you might think. When you leave home, it’s a vacation, right? Not really; some of our vacations feel more like work than anything else (perhaps it’s the four kids) and we need a vacation to recover from our vacation. For example, my family has a reunion in northern Texas every other summer and we have to fly there this summer to a miserable little town we all despise, but we do get to spend a long weekend with my exceptionally cool grandmother who lives on her farm (she’s in her mid-90s and she’s so much cooler than any of us will ever hope to be). That’s not a vacation; it’s a trip. So what’s the difference? Well, let me try and tell you what makes a vacation and what makes a trip, and you can decide for yourself which one is which in your own life.

Vacations are a Reward

The biggest difference between a trip and a vacation is that a vacation is just that; a vacation. It’s not a place you HAVE to go; it’s a place you WANT to go. It’s a place that you spend too much money visiting. You do things you would not ordinarily do, experience things you can’t wait to experience, and you feel good every moment of every day. You can take a vacation with the kids, and you can take one without the kids. Sometimes it doesn’t feel much like a vacation with kids since you don’t actually get to ‘vacation’ from your responsibility, but it all depends on your kids and their ages and behavior.

Trips are Necessary

Now, we are not going to say that a trip is not something that you cannot enjoy. It is absolutely something you cannot enjoy. But that isn’t a guarantee. A trip could be for work. It could be for something sad, like a funeral. It could be a weekend trip to another city so you can have dinner and a date night and not have to worry about making beds and cleaning your own house, and that is certainly enjoyable. A tip is somewhere you go, and a vacation is something you experience.

How to Tell the Difference

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. For example, we go to North Carolina every summer to spend a week on the Outer Banks, and that’s vacation. But it’s trip-like, since we have the kids and it’s a lot of work. We love having the kids, but having infant twins and two older girls on the beach and everywhere you go certainly does feel a bit like a trip and not so much a vacation. When we go on our annual friends trip every year (we’ve done Vegas, Jamaica, New York, Hawaii, Mexico, and cruises), it’s a vacation. It’s fun. There is nothing we have to do and nothing that isn’t a great time from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep at night (embarrassingly early, I might add).

But then there is our annual Tennessee trip. We live in Florida and when we tell people we rent a house in Tennessee each summer, they laugh. Why would Floridians want to go to Tennessee? What’s there? It’s not tropical and exciting (um, we live in Florida, so tropical is a bit of an everyday deal and totally and completely overrated). But our answer is always this; Tennessee is the best vacation we ever take; ever. It’s vacation, even if it doesn’t sound like it. We go to Lake Norris and rent a house on the water with a bunch of friends and family. We actually rent several houses. This summer we will have the house for a week with two couples our age (one is family and one is not) and they are our best friends in the world. Between the six adults, we have 8 kids ranging from our almost 1-year-old twins to 7. We bring the boats and we pack nothing but pajamas and swimsuits. We spend every single day on the boat from morning until night, relaxing, running skiers, tubing and swimming. It’s the most fun we’ve ever had, and it always is. And it’s also something that is so relaxing because the kids have life vests on, they swim, we swim and everyone just has fun. Everyone is too tired to go anywhere at the end of the day, so we eat at home and play games and then we do it all over again. It might sound like a trip, but we feel good and relaxed when we get home.

There is a huge difference between a vacation and a trip. Sometimes when I accompany my husband on his work trips and we decide not to bring the kids, it feels like vacation. Sometimes when we plan a vacation and we bring the kids, it feels like a trip. We can’t tell you which is which in your own personal experience, but we can tell you this; if you don’t feel relaxed, it was not a vacation. We can also tell you this – enjoy both. Trips and vacations are both travel and should both be enjoyed endlessly and without stress. You get to see the world, experience new things and have as much fun as you want; do it.

 Photo by Kent Nishimura-Pool/Getty Images


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