Trips vs. vacations is an ongoing debate amongst travelers, however, if you’re wondering if there’s a difference between trips and vacations, I’d say absolutely. Although most of us end up using these terms interchangeably, I differentiate the two as much as possible.

I realized the difference a few years ago when my family and friends would rave (and sometimes complain) about how many “vacations” I was going on a year. I politely clarified that although I travel often for leisure, not every “trip” is a “vacation” and vice versa. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t take many vacations a year.

Trips vs. Vacations

The Difference Between a Trip and Vacation

Trip vs Vacation: Weekend trip to Pacifica, California.

So what’s the fundamental difference between a trip and vacation?

The difference is your expectation.

Trips are something that you do and it often has a purpose. On the other hand, vacations are about the experience. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s dive in!

What is a trip?

What do you consider a trip?

My trips are intentional.

On trips, I have an agenda.

I want to see and do something in particular. It usually has a cultural or educational component and I return changed in some way.

During a trip, I put a lot of focus on the outside world and I’m usually out at museums, visiting attractions, chatting with locals and taking guided tours. There’s so much to see and do on a trip.

In other words, on a trip I am extremely active. With that being said, because of this, I usually have very little downtime.

I consider most of my weekend travels to cities like Chicago and Stockholm, “short trips”. These short trips can be anywhere from 2-4 days.

When I drove up to Quebec City to attend a travel blogging conference, that was certainly a trip. I drove 8 hours to the summit, attended the summit and turned back home (I had work the next day). Phew!

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My “Trip” to Ireland

During my first trip to Dublin, Ireland I wanted to experience and embrace as much of the Irish culture as I could.

I booked bus tours to see the Cliffs of Moher, Glendalough and Wicklow County.

I joined a free walking tour of Dublin, visited the Guinness Storehouse and the Irish Whiskey Museum.

Not to mention visiting cultural sites like the Kilmainham Gaol where I learned about the Irish fight for independence – I highly recommend checking out Kilmainham Gaol.

I also partied hard – I joined pub crawls almost every night.

Although I took time off of work to travel to Ireland, this was no vacation. This was a trip.

The most relaxing parts of this trip was when I was having dinner and napping on the bus.

You know the saying, “I need a vacation, from my vacation”, it’s a real thing when you go on trips.

The most important thing to remember when you travel is to know the kind of experience you want.

In Ireland, I wanted to see everything (or as much as I could), so I set my expectations on doing exactly that.

Trips vs. Vacations – would you consider my trip to Ireland a trip or a vacation?

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What is a vacation?

What is considered a vacation?

Vacations are different from trips because vacations are about the experience.

My vacations focus primarily on self-care and wellness. My main concern on a vacation is to relax, recover from the day-to-day grind and be merry.

On a vacation, I have no agenda and generally, I haven’t put a lot of thought into planning things to do.

Since I’m on my own time, I may wake up late or I may wake up early to go on a morning run. It really depends on how I’m feeling.

With that being said, on a vacation, I usually have no set agenda and I’m not stressing out about anything or anyone. When I set my intentions on going on a vacation I don’t even bring my laptop. I leave work at home.

After a vacation I come home with a nice glow, more meat on my bones and no bags underneath my eyes.

My recent trip to Curaçao was certainly a vacation. I decided that I wasn’t going to do any work on my vacation so I didn’t bring my laptop. I put up an out-of-office away message and I booked a hotel that offered free breakfast so I wouldn’t have to search for food in the mornings.

My “Vacation” to Barbados

Last year I spent a week vacationing in Barbados and this was one of my first vacations in a long time.

Aside from booking flights and an Airbnb, I did not plan much ahead of time. I only arranged a Barbados snorkeling tour and I left my schedule open so I could go with the flow.

I ate plenty of Bajan fish cakes and yes, I was living my best life.

Delicious Bajan fish cakes!

Vacationing in Barbados was the self-centering experience I needed after a hectic quarter at work.

If I went to Barbados with the same expectation to do as many things as I did in Dublin, I would have had a terrible time.

Trips vs. Vacations – would you consider my vacation to Barbados a trip or vacation?

Final Thoughts

So what’s the final verdict – trips vs. vacations? Are they the same or are they indeed different?

Everything considered, trips and vacations will mean different things to different people, so I urge you to discover the purpose of your travels.

Why do you want to explore a new destination?

Are you going for the food, the local culture or the attractions. Or are you going to relax, connect with nature or catch up on sleep. No judgment.

This doesn’t mean that trips can’t have a vacation component or vice versa, but the underlying difference when picking one or the other is your expectation and purpose.

To help you figure out if you want to go on a trip or vacation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I really want to do during my time off?
  • How do I want to feel during and after my trip?
  • What makes me happy? How can I do more of that while traveling?
  • What do I want to bring home with me, be it cultural understanding, a nice tan or a souvenir from an event?

You might find some overlap between what you define as your perfect trip or vacation and that’s perfectly fine. We all travel differently, however if you want a little bit of both, consider mixing things up by spending some days lounging on the beach and other days exploring attractions.

Remember, it’s your time off, you’ve earned it.

Go out there and spend your free time doing whatever you want. Just decide what kind of experience you want to have before you go – do you want to go on a trip or would you rather go on a vacation?

When you travel do you usually go on a trip or vacation?

3 replies
  1. Jaspreet Mahal says:

    This was such a wonderful post! Thank you 🙂 I love to travel as well and try to fit it in as much with work!

    Reply
  2. Dimitra Robinson says:

    Hi Danielle,
    I enjoyed reading your post on trips vs. vacations. Your life sounds like the life I want to live, just can’t figure out how. Congratulations to you!!!

    Reply

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