Trips vs. Vacations: What’s The Important Difference?

Trips vs. Vacations - what's the difference

Is there a difference between trips and vacations? Absolutely! Although we end up using these terms interchangeably, I try to differentiate the two as much as I can. 

I realized the difference two years ago when my friends and family would rave and sometimes complain about how many vacations I take a year. I had to clarify on multiple occasions that although I travel often, not every “trip” is a “vacation”. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t take many vacations a year.

The difference between a trip and a vacation is the expectation. Trips are something that we do and it often has a purpose. On the other hand, vacations are about the experience.

What do I mean by that?


Trips vs. Vacations


My trips are intentional. 

On trips, I want to see or 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 and taking guided tours. I am also very active. I would have very little down time.

Last winter I went to Dublin for the first time to experience and embrace as much of the Irish culture as I could. I booked two-day tours to see the Cliffs of Moher and visit Glendalough and Wicklow County. I did a walking tour of Dublin, visited the Guinness Storehouse, the Irish Whiskey Museum and I did pub crawls almost every night. This was no vacation. The most relaxing parts of that trip were when we were having dinner or 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 important thing to remember here is the kind of experience you want. I wanted to see everything in Ireland and so I set my expectations to see a few of the Seven Wonders of Ireland and visit cultural sites like the Kilmainham Gaol where I learned about the Irish fight for freedom.



Vacations are a bit different. Vacations are about the experience. My main concern on a vacation is to relax, recover and be merry. On vacations I wake up late, I have no set agenda and I’m not stressing about anything or anyone. I come home from my vacation with a nice glow, more meat on my bones and no bags underneath my eyes – oh the good times! 

Last year I spent a week vacationing in Barbados and I think this was one of my first real vacations in a long time. Aside from booking flights and lodging, there wasn’t a lot of planning involved. I didn’t arrange any formal tours and there was no sense of urgency. I ate fish cakes all day and I was happy. Traveling to Barbados was the self-centering experience that 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’m sure I would have had a horrible time.

Comparing trips and vacations.

Trips and vacations will mean different things to each and every one of us so I urge you to find the purpose for your travels. This doesn’t mean that trips can’t have a vacation component or vice versa, but the underlying difference is our expectation and purpose. Ask yourself, what do I really want to do during my time off? How do I want to feel after my trip?

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 overlaps between your ideal vacation and trip, but just decide what kind of experience you want before you go. 

What’s YOUR ideal vacation like? What do YOU like to do on trips?

Author: Danielle Desir

Danielle Desir is a Travel Finance Strategist that uses her financial background and knack for financial planning to empower those who want to travel afford travel and excel in their personal finances. She shares creative planning strategies, saving tips, cheap flight deals and even talks about her student loan repayment journey. Her financial expertise has taken her across the globe to over 22 countries and 3 continents (and counting), all while paying off her student loans, saving for a house, owning a home, and working full-time.

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