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Are You A Traveler or a Vacationer?

Not all trips are created equal. Two people can experience the same place very differently. Take Paris for example: while some folks head straight for the Eiffel Tower, the high-end boulangeries, and The Louvre, others will find themselves eating cheap at La Pharmacie, discovering the catacombs, and wandering the twisty streets to discover the city like a local. Others will do a combination of both. Picnicing in front of the Eiffel Tower is my happy medium when traveling with first timers. 😉 🥐

How you experience a place relies on your main goals for your trip: are you traveling or vacationing? 

Here’s the difference. 

The Vacationer’s Dream

Vacationers are people who take a vacation or two per year, usually choosing locations that promise their particular brand of leisure: islands, ski resorts, all-inclusive stays in places with nice weather, beautiful views, and tourist-friendly activities galore. 

For you, dreams of future trips include seeking out great food and great pools, hitting the spa, sipping beachside cocktails at a high-end restaurant, fluffy white hotel sheets and armfuls of postcards to take home. 

Vacationers dream of relaxation, a break from the world as they know it and a time to cool off (or warm up!), kick back, and relax. Vacationers usually look for luxury, seeking out well-reviewed hotels and resorts that prioritize enjoyable experiences over immersive ones. We’re all vacationers from time to time - who doesn’t crave the no-pressure experiences of luxury dining, spas, heated swimming pools and a “do not disturb” sign hanging on the door handle as we snooze until noon? 

The Traveler’s Goal 

Travelers will go to great lengths to put new and exciting experiences under their belts. Poor weather, stiff bedding, crowded public transportation, and even the unknown can’t phase a person with a travel bug. In fact, it’s exciting to plunge into something new and different, and you prioritize immersion and experience over comfort. 

For you, “I’m traveling” can mean anything from backpacking from hostel to hostel and indulging in street food to embarking on ten-mile hikes through lush green mountains at the crack of dawn. It can be a sport of endurance, equal parts completing a physical challenge in beautiful nature or braving the hustle and bustle of crowded cities. The refreshing, renewing feeling that comes from travel can be physical, emotional, or spiritual– and for you, that may not include a cozy bed or a beachside hammock.

Unlike a relaxing vacation, being a traveler isn’t for everyone. Some people really don’t enjoy it or understand it. While vacationers plan trips to escape the daily grind and find tranquility, travelers hit the runway in “go” mode. “A tourist wants to escape life, a traveler wants to experience life”.

The Distinctions 

Both travelers and vacationers have the right idea – investing in a trip is about getting what you want out of it! Whether you hope to decompress or rev up, many destinations have something in either camp for you. 

Here’s a short quiz to help you figure out which category you’re in. Choose which best describes you: 


A - I often seek authentic experiences and off-the-beaten-path locales

B - I focus more on relaxation and entertainment, mostly sticking to popular tourist destinations.


A -  I pack light to stay mobile and adaptable… I can’t have too much luggage on the go.

B -  Overweight bag charges don’t bother me - I bring outfits for each day and extra amenities for comfort.


A - My itinerary is flexible, and I remain open to new experiences and adventures.

B - I have every day planned out to the last detail, often sticking to relaxing or popular tourist activities. 


A- I prep for trips, often putting effort into learning the local language. I’m excited to interact with locals!

B - I haven’t opened DuoLingo in awhile - my trips go just fine when only speaking English or my native language. 


A- I take multiple trips per year, so I’m more budget-conscious. I tend toward staying in boutique hotels, using public transport, and eating at local food spots.

B - I don’t go on many trips, so I tend to splurge on amenities like hotels, taxis, and dining in more upscale or tourist-oriented restaurants.

Travel goals: 

A- I leave a trip feeling exhausted, but accomplished in my cultural immersion and personal growth. 

B- I like to leave a trip feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. 

 Longevity and Pace: 

A - I might be gone for a while- I enjoy extended trips and take my time exploring a destination.

B- I like my trips short and sweet - a week or two with a tight schedule works for me. 

If you chose mostly As, you lean toward being a traveler. 

If you chose mostly Bs, you’re likely more of a vacationer.

Many people can be both vacationers and travelers at different times - and sometimes, people on opposite ends of the spectrum end up together. 

Finding Harmony Between Traveling and Vacationing

I myself am typically a traveler, not a vacationer. To me, the most refreshing experiences are those that  inspire excitement, present a challenge, and change the way I view the world long past my return. I don’t travel to take a break from challenges, I travel to find new ways to solve them. 

My ideal trip is deeply immersive, pulling me into the world and showing me its ways firsthand. Sore feet and sunburn don’t stop me, new cuisines and great heights don’t scare me, and I often find that my favorite travel experiences are those that don’t quite go as planned–  I find that bumps in the road are just opportunities for new adventures. Not everyone can or wants to travel the way I do and to be honest sometimes it's exhausting. People see the amazing photos of these idyllic places, but often times it takes hours of windy roads, long boat rides, or sea planes to even get there. Then there are some times when it's easier than expected...

Take, for example, our recent trip to the island of Grenada. We of course stayed at Sandals Grenada (our favorite all inclusive resorts), but did you know that the country is made up of three islands? Grenada of course is the main island and then there is Carriacou and Petite Martinique. I myself had never even heard of the others so of course when I found out there was a flight to Carriacou that takes just 15 minutes I booked us a ticket for the next day! The island is home to quite a few Scots and they build boats the same way the Scottish have been doing for hundreds of years. (Blog all about this trip forthcoming!)

My husband Alex, the other half and self-proclaimed “trophy husband” of Chelax Adventures, is the total opposite. Alex is 100% a vacationer. He prefers relaxing on a beach, swim-up bars, and staying put, to my sunrise hikes, night markets, and street foods. You might think that a traveler marrying a vacationer is just asking for conflict. But, we always find a compromise - sometimes it takes a bit of negotiating. 😜

How We Strike A Balance

In my last blog post, I recapped my wedding on the beautiful island of Saint Martin / St. Maarten, a half-French, half-Dutch hidden gem. What most people don't know is, my (Cuban) husband has always been a Caribbean guy and really had no interest in going anywhere else. I had traveled solo around Europe extensively before meeting him and absolutely fell in love, so when were deciding on the wedding location we made a deal - we would get married in the Caribbean and honeymoon in "dreaded" Europe. Little did he know how much he would fall in love with the Med, the Aegean, the Adriatic - the list goes on! Or maybe he just fell hard for me and he's been blindly following me ever since? TBD...

Alex and I may take a trip to the leisurely Caribbean, but then rent a car to check out the sunset party like we did on our trip to Antigua, or ferry to Barbuda. We’ll check out the local fish fry and junkanoo in Turks or hop in a jumper plane to Carriacou from Grenada. I plan adventurous trips in Europe or New Zealand, but always allot a couple days by the sea or a boutique hotel in the Marlborough vineyards for Alex to enjoy. Think of it as a gift for stepping up to my wildly adventurous plans, when he’d probably rather be sleeping in and sunbathing.  And, one of our favorite experiences to plan are European Christmas Markets– we take river cruises to strike a perfect compromise: luxury and no packing and unpacking for Alex, and a different city every day to explore for me!

Of course, sometimes I do have a problem just relaxing. When I’m in a new place, I feel like making the most of my time there, and de-stressing is sometimes stressful when you want to go, go, go! But I find that, when we plan a relaxing trip rather than staying on the go, I have the time to truly sit back and take on an element of living like a local, discovering little things that I may otherwise overlook if I rushed through a jam-packed itinerary. 

All in all, for us, finding the balance between vacationer and traveler provides a more well-rounded, interesting, and memorable experience than choosing one side or the other… and it helps that Alex is an especially good sport. 

It’s not hard to find the blend between traveling and vacationing to round out a trip, if you know where to look. And after years of traveling with Alex (going on 10 this year), we certainly know how to create the best balanced experiences around the world. 

You Can Do It, Too

As a travel agent, I’m dedicated to providing my clients with the experiences they value the most. I’m happy to help set up a wonderfully relaxing, all-inclusive vacay anytime. I’m equally excited to help quench your thirst for adventure with new sights, thrilling experiences, and authentic immersion. I have the experience and the passion for both, and a unique knack for planning trips that balance these two preferences into one amazing experience for all to enjoy. 

Myself and the Chelax Team know that everyone travels uniquely – and we can help you plan a trip that’s equally perfect for you and your travel partners. We will also be hosting some small group trips in the future if you'd like to adventure a bit, but feel more comfortable going at it with someone guiding the way. Stay tuned and make sure to sign up for newsletter "Postcards from Chelax".

Let us connect you with your next great adventure– click here to learn more!


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