English Idioms for Traveling

Imagine that you are venturing out to an English-speaking country for a holiday or vacation. What are some things to consider when speaking to others? There are several different idioms that are commonly used when referring to traveling, taking a vacation, or going on a holiday. Have you heard any of these phrases before? Does your country have any phrases like these? What do they mean?

What does “On a Shoestring” mean?

During the planning of your trip, there are some things to consider. How much money will you want to spend on this trip? When you are there, how much money will you spend on things such as the airplane ticket or bus fare, lodging, food, and souvenirs? Perhaps you only have a small budget in order to take this trip. If there is a small amount of funds that are available, then this means that you are on a shoestring budget.

“I am excited about my trip but I am on a shoestring budget.”

What does “Pack Light/Or Travel Light” mean?

Now that you have decided on when and where to go for your vacation or holiday, it is time to pack what you will bring with you. There is much to consider when packing your luggage and what to bring. Charges from airlines should be considered and also the weather for which you should dress is also, most likely, consideration as well. If you decide not to pack many things in your luggage, this is called packing light or traveling light. This is not common for long trips but mostly for trips that are quick and not typically far away.

“I will pack light for this trip because it is only for a few days.”

What does “To Hit the Road” mean?

When you begin your travels, this is called hitting the road. This idiom can be used when you leave for your trip or leave your home. This term is not just for traveling or vacation but can be used at anytime that you are leaving home or a place that you are at.

“Okay, well it’s getting late and I am going to hit the road.”

What does “To Call it a Night/Day” mean?

This term is similar to “hitting the road” in that you are finishing your day. To call it a night means that you are done doing something (in this case, perhaps you are done sightseeing or venturing out in a new place while on vacation or traveling) or wanting to go to bed for the night. This term can be used in other situations that are not just traveling but in everyday speech.

“After waling so much through Rome, I think that I will call it a night.”

What does “At the Crack of Dawn” mean?

Most often, when on vacation, you are trying to do and see as much as you can in the short amount of time you have at that time. In order to see or do all that you are trying to do while visiting, you may wake up at the crack of dawn. This means that you are waking up literally as the sun is rising or doing something as early as possible.

“We have to take the train to get to the museum, let’s wake up at the crack of              dawn.”

What does “Off the Beaten Track” mean?

To use this phrase, off the beaten track, means that a place you are or are going to is very far from where others live or in a remote location. An example of this may be a tour through forests, beaches, woods, or jungle areas. This doesn’t mean that there are dangers, necessarily, but this means that these places may not be typical places for tourists to venture to.

“We will go to a beach today but it is off the beaten track so we should be careful.”

What does “To Catch Some Sun” mean?

Being an idiom, this doesn’t literally mean that somehow you will be able to catch the sun. To catch some sun can be done at the beach by being outdoors or sunbathing. This term also can be said to someone who may have gotten sunburned while being in the sunshine. So the next time you head somewhere very sunny, you may say that you are going to catch some sun.

“While we are away in Jamaica, I will catch some sun!”

What does “Live Out of a Suitcase” mean?

Someone who stays in different places for a short amount of time often says that they live out of their suitcase. Typically this means that the person who is going from place to place packs just enough of what they need in their suitcase as well. You may say they pack lightly.

“I have gone from state to state so often that I feel that I live out of a suitcase.”

What does “To Catch the Red-Eye” mean?

This is a super simple idiom that means someone is taking a flight at a very late point in the night.

“I have to hurry and pack. I am taking the red-eye flight out to London tonight to meet             my friends and family for a vacation.”

What does “To Live it Up” mean?

This is most people’s goal when taking time for vacation or for a holiday. To live it up means that you are having an amazing time, enjoying everything, and (hopefully) without a worry in sight. Imagine vacationing in a place like Las Vegas where you can really live it up!

“I am so excited to go on this vacation with my friends. We are going to live it up and             party!”

What does “Take Things Easy” mean?

This could be considered the opposite of living it up. To take things easy means that, while on your vacation or holiday, you rest, relax, and do things to help you recharge before going back to your regular schedule. Imagine somewhere that is cozy like a cabin or cottage in the mountains.

“I just want to take this vacation and take things easy. No big plans. Just relaxation.”

What does “Backseat Driver” mean?

Often, people decide to drive to the place that they will be vacationing. This is usually done with family and friends also. At times, spending long periods of time with friends and family can be frustrating for the person doing the driving. Do you ever have that one person who tries to give directions or criticism from the backseat? This is known as a backseat driver.

“This trip is already long enough without having a backseat driver! Be quiet!”


Do any of these phrases or idioms sound familiar or do you share any idioms like these in your language? Were any of these idioms strange sounding or easy to remember?

Now that we have learned several new idioms that are used during vacations and travel, let’s practice!

  1. “I want to take a nice vacation somewhere but I’m on a ___________ and can not spend a lot of money right now.”
  2. “Let’s go to Las Vegas and really _________!”
  3. “I am really looking forward to going to the beach and ________. I need a tan!”
  4. “I’m sorry but if I am going to meet you on this trip I’ll have to catch the __________ flight. Maybe I can join you on your next vacation.”
  5. “Let’s go on a tour of this cave. It’s a little __________ but we should be okay. It doesn’t seem too dangerous.”
  6. If you were going on a trip or vacation and did not pack much in your luggage, it could be said that you ____________. This means that there wasn’t much that you brought with you.
  7. If you went to a spa for your vacation are you taking it easy or living it up?
  8. “We woke up so early! It’s literally the ____________!”
  9. “I have been to so many places in a short amount of time I feel like I __________.”
  10. “I don’t like going on long road trips with him. He can be such a _______.”
  11. “Today was so much fun! We saw so many different things today and walked a lot. It’s getting late so I think that I’ll __________”

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