ENGLISCH/834: Questions to Mrs. Gobbledygook (157) Travel plans (SB)


157. What is the difference between travel, trip, journey, voyage and tour?

Dear Mrs. Gobbledygook

... When my English friend brought me to Heathrow airport the other night for my flight back to Germany, he wished me "bon voyage". Now, all the way back I kept wondering if there isn't an English phrase to wish someone a good journey instead of using a French loan word. I didn't find an English expression in my dictionary and thinking of the french surrogate "bon appetite" because there is no English word to wish someone a nice meal, it doesn't seem unusual.

By the way, there are a lot of words describing that someone leaves his home for holidays, such as travel, trip, journey, voyage and tour. But what is the difference?

Thanks ever so much for your kind answer in advance
Yours sincerely

Lotte A. (from Kiel, Germany)


Dear Mrs A.

First, there are English expressions for the french "bon voyage" such as "have a nice trip, have a good journey ... etc." but using the french phrase is rather fashionable at the moment. It gives the person using it a slight cosmopolitan touch.

Now, your second question needs a little more explanation: Living on an island, makes travelling a very expensive occupation, if you don't want to stay in Britain like the most English holiday makers. But the British like travelling, even if it is only a small trip to the seaside. That's why they have so many words for it.

Travel, trip, journey, voyage or tour

1. Travel - the expression travel is not used as a countable noun. English people never say "a" travel. But they do use it in the act or process of moving from place to place. For example:

He came home after years of foreign travel.

They say

travel broadens the mind.

And we often hear it in its plural form:

Did you meet anyone interesting during your "travels"?

2. Trip - Trip is a short visit to another place often with a particular purpose. See the following example:

Daphne won't be back for ages, she's gone on a shopping trip.

When someone travels on business we say they're on a "business trip". Another example of a visit with a particular purpose in mind, but the purpose may simply be for pleasure:

We had a lovely trip to the country the other day.

The trip involves going and coming back. And it is often short. Maybe hours, days, weeks or even months but not usually years.

Steady on, Peter, I'm only going on a day trip. I'll be back for supper.

Whereas if someone goes on travels or on a journey, you would not expect him back so early:

Good bye, Benny, I wish you all the best in France. My thoughts will always be with you. Try to write if you can. I will never forget you. Bon voyage!

3. Journey - a journey is a long trip without necessarily coming back. I mentioned earlier that you would never say "a" travel. Instead we can say "a" journey.

After a long journey by plane and by road we finally arrived at the house.

And if you arrived at the house of your friends in Britain you might have been asked:

How was your journey?

The English also use this word when talking about traveling to work:

I have a 20 minute journey to work each day.

4. Voyage - This is a very long journey but almost always one made by sea.

When I retire I am going on a long sea voyage and never come back.

Voyage is obviously used less frequently now in these days of air travel, except the wish mentioned above "bon voyage".

Now we come to the last word:

5. Tour - This is the word from which derived the word »tourist« and means a short trip or a long journey around several places of interest in order to see them.

A short trip:

We went on a tour of the old castle.

or a long journey:

We began our tour of Europe in Amsterdam.

Literally it means a visit to a place as a tourist:

Yesterday, we went on a tour of Paris. Tomorrow, we are going on a tour of Rom. But today, we can relax in Berlin.

It is also used to describe the journeys from place to place by a company of actors, orchestra, sports team and so on.

The orchestra is going on a tour of greenland next week. Do you want to come?

Just imagine, you are sitting by the fire place with your family making travel plans:

We begin with a sea voyage to india. And then we go on a journey up in the Himalaya. While we are there we can go on a tour of Katmandu. And from their we can make a lot of trips in the surrounding area.

Have a nice trip.


Mrs Gobbledygook

4 March 2009