Can You Still Call It A Vacation After You’re Retired?

A few months after I retired and we moved across the country, Max and I took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We were looking forward to exploring the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. We would see the remains of the first English settlement in what became the United States of America.  We would watch artisans make glass, silver products, and clothing as it was made in the 1600s.  We would take a carriage ride around the perimeter of the first capital of the Virginian colony and attend a re-enactment of a colonial officer’s treason trial.  We would eat gingerbread made as it was in the early 1700s.  We would stand at the site of the decisive battle of the American Revolution.  Our plans were packed with educational and culturally enriching opportunities.  And shopping.  Besides the numerous gift shops adjacent to the aforementioned educational and culturally enriching opportunities, there was a large outlet mall, a huge Yankee candle megastore, and at least four multi-level shops devoted to selling Christmas decorations.   Scenery, history, and shopping… what more could a girl ask for from a vacation?  Maybe an amusement park?  Oh, there’s a Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, too. 

As we awaited the day of our departure, something was still bothering me, however.  Before we left, Max kept a countdown on the number of days until our “vacation.”  Every time he used the term “vacation,” something just didn’t sit right with me.  I asked him if it was still called a “vacation” since we no longer had jobs and, thus, really, had nothing from which to vacate. 

We tried to think of something else to call this event, but were not successful.  We tried “pleasure trip,” but that seemed too cumbersome.  We tried “getaway,” but thought that didn’t seem completely accurate, as there was no one chasing us.  Besides, there were no criminal activities, machine guns, or speeding cars involved.  Finally, we gave up and stopped calling our impending trip anything at all.

This issue of what to call this trip begged a bigger question.  When we were working, this sort of trip was incredibly fun, partly because all the time spent in this riot of entertainment was time not spent working.  I was worried that the trip would not hold the same appeal and enjoyment as past “vacations” now that the guilty pleasure of playing hooky from our jobs was no longer a component.

On the Sunday we arrived in Virginia, it was drizzling.  We had planned to go to Busch Gardens for part of the day, since I had not realized until a few days before we left (and AFTER I had already purchased online admission tickets) that the amusement park was only open on Saturdays and Sundays at the time of the year we were going.   Something weird happened, though, and I made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision.  I decided that, instead of braving the rain and racing around trying to get to Busch Gardens to use those prepaid admission tickets, we should just let it go.   Max and I have a tendency to overplan things.  I still refer to our first visit to Disney World as the “forced march across central Florida” because of my obsession with planning the heck out of stuff to avoid missing anything good.  This fateful decision to throw Busch Gardens to the winds ended up setting the tone for the whole trip.  Our pacing turned out to be just perfect.  As we pursued our fun, we did not run; we meandered.  Over the next five days, we saw all the sights we intended to see and more.  We walked aimlessly and endlessly through beautiful, tree-lined paths and reconstructed colonial towns. We absorbed the wonderful atmosphere with the very oxygen that we breathed.  We stopped at the College of William and Mary bookstore several times to browse, bask in the energy, and linger over a beverage.  I spent some time each day in the hotel’s indoor pool.  We ate well.  I managed to purchase goods from all four of the Christmas stores.  We both slept soundly and peacefully every night.   Although I was not aware I was feeling any stress before we left for Virginia, I became acutely aware of the complete absence of tension during this trip.  I was completely in the moment and enjoying everything as it happened. 

Maybe it was a vacation after all.

A few months later, we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, which rekindled the whole debate.  This trip would not be the lazy, spontaneous type of trip Williamsburg had been.  We had tickets and dinner reservations and had a pretty strict schedule of touring.  As we bounded through the four days in Las Vegas, our steps were springy and our eyes were wide.  Everywhere we looked, there was something different to see and everywhere we went, there was something different to do.  It was like an unending buffet of activity- even when we started to get full; we gulped and savored one more bite.  Still, I found myself still wrestling with the question of whether or not it is still a vacation when you no longer work for a living.  I was able to resolve the dilemma by asking myself a few simple questions:

  •   Was I cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry?  No.
  •  Was I suffering through some new house-related disaster?  No.
  •  Was I hauling my mother to medical appointments or evaluating health insurance plans for her?  No.
  • Was I evicting less-than-cuddly wild animals from my garage?  No.
  • Was I on vacation?    YES!

So what are your thoughts?  What makes a “trip” a “vacation” for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

8 thoughts on “Can You Still Call It A Vacation After You’re Retired?”

  1. I think for me a vacation means a change of scenery and routine.Even in retirement there are meals to prepare, laundry to do, and familiar routes driven on the way to errands .I love hearing about your historical trip.I want to see Monticello and visit some other historic places this come in year in our travels.. my bucket list (I like to call it a LIFE LIST!) includes a lot of USA places I want to see.. Las Vegas is an easy trip from phoenix and I find it always least every other year or so.I could spend the evening just staring at the flower filled ceiling at Bellagio! Another Life List item is to see the Cirque show based on Beatles music..Thanks for the post..

    1. Thank you for your comment, Maddie! I love history and really enjoy trips that immerse me in the true life stories of the people and events that brought us to where we are today. I hope you get to experience some historical travel. The area a day or so around DC is such a jackpot for history fans!

  2. A few people have blogged about this same topic over the last year… and I still struggle with it myself. Hubby calls it vacation. I’ve simply just started calling them trips, long weekends, or visits. As in… we had a long weekend in NOLA in May, a 2-week trip to Florida last month, and even a day-trip yesterday to the country. And I’m planning a big anniversary-trip for next year. That feels more like reality for me, as I’m not really on vacation from anything. In fact, I worked part-time from Florida (consulting work), which hubby just could’t grasp as he still thinks of it as vacation. To me, they are all just part of life now – not get-a-ways from anything.

    1. Hi Pat. Thanks for the comment. I’ve always loved the idea of a vacation being “something special,” kind of apart from regular life, but your comment is really making me rethink that position. After all, what’s more special than life? And how great that you have a regular life that is decorated with your fun adventures!

  3. Hi Terri ! My Husband and I have been taking a least two trips a year now that we are both retired. We are just as excited about planning the trips and researching our destinations now as when we used to plan them when we were still working. We used to call them our “vacations” before we retired because they were our way of getting away from the stress of our jobs and changing the scenery. But now we just call them “FUN” because that’s what they are, PURE FUN! We used to be so bummed because we used to only have a limited amount of time each year to devote to a trip, 4 days here or 5 days there. But we can go away and stay as long as we want. We are taking an 7 day cruise to Europe next year and planning a 10 day road trip in California! We can take our time, wander around, take side trips, FUN, FUN FUN!!!!1

    1. It sounds absolutely wonderful! I think I’m going to adopt your title- “PURE FUN” trips. I spent about 50 years living in Southern California. I don’t know where you are heading in California, but feel free to ask me if there is any information I can share to increase your fun! 🙂

      1. Thank you so much Terri! We have always wanted to drive the Pacific Coast Highway. Recently a friend of ours traveled with his wife to into Oregon and Washington by extending the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip. This idea has really excited us because we can go from stunning ocean view to majestic mountains. If you have any information about must see places in California we would be so appreciative!

        1. Hi! I sent you a couple of emails with some ideas. The email address is from a different account than the terriretirement one, so just wanted to let you know in case you didn’t recognize the sender.

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