10 ways to say ‘vacation’

It’s July already and many of you (I wish I could say “us”…) are on holiday! Yipeeee! Now’s time to do whatever you feel like, to catch up with old friends, to meet new friends, to get to know new places, and so on, but mostly, it’s time to relax! But given that I can’t relax, I’ll limit myself to talking about it and teach you several expressions we can use to talk about relaxing and having fun. Let’s go!

1. Chill / Chill out / Chillax

These three expressions are different ways of saying “relax”.

“Now that I’m on holiday, I need to chillax for a bit.“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

2. Zonk out

If you zonk or zonk out, you relax and fall asleep.

“I’ve got plenty of time now so zonk out for an hour after lunch.“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

3. Footloose and fancy-free

If you happen to be footloose and fancy-free, it means that you have no commitments or responsibilities, so you can do as you please.

“It feels strange to be footloose and fancy-free at last after so many months of hard work. This is a well-deserved holiday.”

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

4. Be/Have a blast

If something is a blast (or you have a blast), it means that it’s great fun and enjoyment.

“I have a feeling that today’s beach party is going to be a real blast!”

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

5. Let one’s hair down

We use this expression when someone can relax and enjoy their situation uninhibitedly because they are in a comfortable environment.

“Now that I won’t be at the office for a whole month, I can let my hair down a bit.“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

6. Paint the town red

When you paint the town red, you go out with your friends to grab a few drinks in a pub or club.

 “It’s our first weekend off. We’re going to paint the town red, man!“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

7. Take it easy

When you do things in a relaxed manner and easy pace, you are taking it easy.

“Woa! Stop nagging me with house chores! I’m on holiday so I’m just going to take it easy…“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

8. Take/Need a break (from…)

We usually need/take a break when we are overwhelmed by a situation or exhausted because of having worked too much.

“Good job the holidays are here. I really needed a break from work.“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

9. Unwind

Everyone needs to unwind after a period of work or tension.

“It’s just as well we have some time to unwind. The office was driving me crazy!“

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

10. Put one’s feet up

When we put our feet up, we usually relax and do nothing.

“After such a hard last week at work, I just need to sit back and put my feet up for a whole weekend.“

French Vacation Vocabulary & Expressions – Les Vacances

  • In this lesson, we will study the French vacation vocabulary, learn expressions used for holidays, as well as cultural information and tips.
  • Vacation, in French “les vacances” (always plural), is at the heart of the French culture.
  • With 5 weeks paid vacation for French employees, and a total of 16 weeks of vacation for French school students, France sure values her holidays.

1 – French Holiday Vocabulary

  1. bonnes vacances! = have a good holiday!
  2. bon voyage! = have a good trip!
  3. bonne route! = have a safe journey!
  4. les grandes vacances = school summer break
  5. partir en vacances = to go on holiday/vacation
  6. aller au soleil = to go under the sun
  7. aller à la mer = to go by the beach
  8. aller à la montagne = to go to the mountains (usually to ski, but maybe to hike)
  9. Faire ses valises = to pack
  10. Défaire ses valises = to unpack
  11. On est allés… We went…
    à l’hôtel – in a hotel
    dans un club de vacances – in a resort
    dans un camping – in a camping
    dans une auberge de jeunesse – in a youth hostel
    dans un gîte / une chambre d’hôte – in a B&B

    chez des amis – at some friend’s house.

  12. le départ – departure
  13. l’arrivée – arrival
  14. le trajet – the trip
  15. le voyage – the trip
  16. la douane – customs
  17. l’immigration – immigration
  18. la frontière – the border
  19. un passeport – passport
  20. un billet d’avion – plane ticket
  21. un ticket de train – train ticket
  22. une réservation – booking
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10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

2 – Expressing What Went Well or Poorly During Your Vacation in French

  1. On a vu… = we saw
  2. Le voyage/tout… s’est bien / mal passé = the trip/everything… went well / poorly
  3. La circulation était fluide / dense = traffic was fluid / dense
  4. L’avion/ le train était à l’heure / en retard = the plane / the train was on time / late
  5. La chambre (n’) était (pas) très confortable = the room was very comfortable (or not)
  6. La vue était superbe / moche (slang) = the view was great / ugly
  7. La nourriture était délicieuse / dégueulasse (slang) = the food was delicious / awful
  8. Il a fait beau / mauvais = the weather was nice / bad
  9. Il a fait (trop) chaud / froid = the temperature was (too) hot / cold
  10. Le musée était ouvert / fermé = the museum was open / close
  11. On a perdu nos valises = we (or someone else) lost our suitcases
  12. On a été volé = we were robbed
  13. J’ai été malade = I was sick
  14. Il y avait des grèves = there were strikes
  15. Le vol a été annulé = the flight was canceled

3 – Paid Vacation in France

The French are known to take a lot of vacations, especially if you compare them to the Americans! But is this “five weeks of paid vacation” myth really true?

Yes it is. According to Le Journal du Net, French employees take even more vacation time than that, with an average of 37 days per year, or 5.2 weeks (in 2012). There is quite a difference between French workers: a public office manager takes an average 7.4 weeks of paid vacation, versus a farm worker/ artisan who takes 4.6 weeks.

So who doesn’t take this much vacation in France? Self employed people… Shop owners, small businesses and startups – believe me, not everybody takes 5 weeks vacation in France!

However, it’s true that in general, the French really enjoy a lot of vacation time: don’t go to France in August and expect to do a lot of shopping! A lot of stores close in August (listen to the tricky pronunciation of “Août” in my article) – and actually in January as well, especially in smaller countryside towns.

4 – School Vacation and School Breaks Dates in France

French kids enjoy 16 weeks of vacation (+ all the long weekends and official holidays…)

The French school vacation is divided as follows:

  1. France’s Summer break: “les grandes vacances”, July and August, so 8 weeks total.
  2. France’s Fall vacation: “les vacances de la Toussaint“, mid October, 2 weeks.
  3. France’s Christmas break: “les vacances de Noël“, mid December, 2 weeks.
  4. France’s Winter vacation: “les vacances d’hiver”, zone dependant*, February, 2 weeks.
  5. France’s Spring break: “les vacances de printemps”, zone dependant*, April, 2 weeks.

5 – What is the French Vacation “Zone” System?

Since 1964, France is divided into “zones” to facilitate the departure of students for vacation : France is cut into three zones (A, B, C) and the vacation time spread over one month so that there is enough room for everybody in the ski stations! I am NOT kidding…

So now, every single French household with kids has to check out this map to know which zone they now belong to, and when the vacation for their kid is going to be. And forget about meeting your Parisians cousins for the vacation if you live in Brittany… you are not in the same zone, which means you won’t have the same vacation date.

So practical!

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

For more info and exact French vacation dates, go to the French School Vacation Government Site.

6 – Watch Out For Ticket Prices and Driving in France During School Vacation

Of course, as soon as you hit the vacation starting / ending dates, France is in a gridlock. We call them: “les journées noires” (black days) and you should not plan on driving during these days if you don’t want to be stuck in endless traffic-jams (“les embouteillages”, “les bouchons”).

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Train and plane tickets, room prices, all goes up as well.

So it’s a good thing to know about the French school vacation dates before you plan your next trip to France!

7 – French Speaking Vacation Tip – Think Club Med!

  1. Lots of French students want to practice their French during their vacation.

    It’s a good idea, however:

  2. However, your family may not speak French, or share your enthusiasm to visit France over and over again… Or going to France maybe too far, too complicated… So why not try “Club Med”?
  3. As a French organization, many people speak French there, and you’ll be surrounded by a lot of French guests.

    Even in Florida, or the Caribbeans…

  4. Club med now has “family” clubs, which are kid friendly – although not everybody may agree on what is PC around kids! The evening shows may be viewed as “too risqué” for very conservative families, so be aware that with French speaking people, you’ll also get a bit of French culture, humor, attitude…

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

How do You Say “How Was Your Vacation” in French?

This is more tricky than it sounds. First, you have to memorize that the French word for vacation is always plural: les vacances, mes vacances, des vacances… The verb and adjectives will also have to be plural to match “les vacances”.

Then, to ask “how was your vacation” (or rather how were your vacations in French…) we don’t use the same construction.

  • In formal French, we say: “comment se sont passées tes/vos vacances”?

Or you can use a statement and turn it into an informal question:

  • “Vos/tes vacances se sont bien passées?”
  • Another way is to switch it around: “vous avez / tu as passé de bonnes vacances ?”

I suggest you pick one and learn it by heart to use it yourself, but you need to know the three formulas because they are very, very common in French.

Of course, one can get creative and say: “tes/vos vacances, c’était bien ?”. It’s much simpler, but less used in French!

8 – How do You Answer “My Vacation was…” in French?

Here again, you have to watch out to keep your answer in the plural.

Your answer usually “matches” the formality of the question, but it’s not set in stones.

  • Mes vacances se sont (très) bien/mal passées – My vacation was (very) good/bad.
  • J’ai passé de (très) bonnes / mauvaises vacances – I had a (very) good / bad vacation.

or, much easier:

  • C’était super / nul – It was great / really bad.

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’

9 – How to say Where You Went / Are Going on Vacation in French?

You’ll start by using “aller” or “partir”.

In the past, both form their passé-composé with “être”:

  • Je suis allé(e), je suis parti(e) – I went, I left
  • Nous sommes allé(e)s, nous sommes parti(e)s – we went, we left

In the future, we tend to use the near future construction:

  • Je vais aller, je vais partir – I’m going to go, I’m going to leave
  • Nous allons aller, nous allons partir – we’re going to go, we’re going to leave

Then, what follows get complicated… I’ll sum it up here, but read my articles to know more about the French prepositions of place and how to say the date in French.

  • Use à + city, en + feminine country, au + masculine country, aux + plural country.
    Je suis allée à Paris, en France, au Japon, aux Bahamas.
  • Use en + month
    Je vais aller en France en juillet.

Voilà, I hope this is helpful. To learn more about French vacation vocabulary, the best is to learn in context: I suggest you check out my “Une Semaine à Paris” and “Une Semaine à Paimpol” downloadable French audiobooks, featuring:

  • A fun and reachable French story, full of useful everyday vocabulary and situations, and its English translation.
  • A story recorded at 2 speeds: a bit slower than normal and street French (normal for the French and featuring modern pronunciation and glidings).
  • A Q&A section to practice your French out loud and check your understanding of the story.

5 Different Words for “Vacation”

10 Ways to Say ‘Vacation’“Vacation”—whether it’s long, short, at home, or far away—is a word that can put a smile on anybody’s face! Here’s a fun list of different terms for the concept, albeit with slightly different meanings.

Vacation: The Gage dictionary defines it as “a scheduled time of freedom from work or activity.” That said, many of us find that our vacations are busier than our workday lives as we attempt to cram in as much adventure as possible.

Holiday: Stemming from “holy day,” this term is more widely used today to describe statutory days off as opposed to a personal break from work (not to be confused with “the holidays,” which refers to the time surrounding Christmas and New Year’s). Think St-Jean-Baptiste Day and Easter.

Staycation: Growing in popularity due to tight budgets and conflicting schedules, the staycation gives you a break from work and the chance to play tourist in your own city—just be sure you don’t spend two weeks working through the laundry pile or building a backyard deck.

Micro-vacation (what the British call a “mini-break”): These extremely short vacations are a great way to grab some much needed R&R with a trip to a nearby spa, beach, or cottage—ideal for recharging those batteries!

Daycation: Find yourself with an afternoon off? Don’t waste it on dentist appointments and dirty dishes. You’ll be amazed at how rested you’ll feel after a trek in the woods, a trip to a museum, or a picnic in the park.

What’s your favourite type of vacation?


Leave of absence from a regular occupation, or a specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism
For other uses, see Vacation (disambiguation).

Vacationers at the beach in Broadstairs, Kent, UK

A vacation (American English), or holiday (British English), is a leave of absence from a regular occupation, or a specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism. People often take a vacation during specific holiday observances, or for specific festivals or celebrations. Vacations are often spent with friends or family.[1] Traveling together creates chemistry.[2]

A person may take a longer break from work, such as a sabbatical, gap year, or career break.

The concept of taking a vacation is a recent invention, and has developed through the last two centuries. Historically, the idea of travel for recreation was a luxury that only wealthy people could afford (see Grand Tour).

In the Puritan culture of early America, taking a break from work for reasons other than weekly observance of the Sabbath was frowned upon. However, the modern concept of vacation was led by a later religious movement encouraging spiritual retreat and recreation.

The notion of breaking from work periodically took root among the middle and working class.[3]


In the United Kingdom, vacation once specifically referred to the long summer break taken by the law courts and then later the term was applied to universities.

[4] The custom was introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it facilitated the grape harvest.

[citation needed] In the past, many upper-class families moved to a summer home for part of the year, leaving their usual home vacant.[citation needed]

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