A vacation or holiday 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.
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.
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. The custom was introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it facilitated the grape harvest. In the past, many upper-class families moved to a summer home for part of the year, leaving their usual home vacant.
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Recent developments in communication technology--internet, mobile, instant messaging, presence tracking, etc.-- have begun to change the nature of vacation. Vacation today means absence from the workplace rather than temporary cession of work. It is now the norm in North America and the United Kingdom to carry on working or remain on call while on vacation rather than abandon work altogether. Office employees telecommute whilst on vacation. Workers may choose to unplug for a portion of a day and thus create the feeling of a "vacation" by simply separating themselves from the demands of constant digital communications. Antithetically, workers may take time out of the office to go on vacation, but remain plugged-in to work-related communications networks. While remaining plugged-in over vacation may generate short-term business benefits, the long-term psychological impacts of these developments are only beginning to be understood.
Vacation, in English-speaking North America, describes recreational travel, such as a short pleasure trip, or a journey abroad. People in Commonwealth countries use the term holiday to describe absence from work as well as to describe a vacation or journey. Vacation can mean either staying home or going somewhere.
The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Huntingtons and other fabulously wealthy industrialists built their own spectacular "great camps" in the Adirondacks of upstate New York where they could spend time with their families in private luxury. The scions of New York City took to declaring that they would "vacate" their city homes for their lakeside summer retreats, and the term "vacation" replaced the British "holiday" in common parlance.
In Hungarian, the word vakáció can mean both a recreational trip, an officially granted absence from work (generally in warmer months), and the summer (longest) school break. For absence from work, the word szabadság (freedom/liberty) can be used, possibly as betegszabadság (sickness freedom/sickness liberty) when the reason of absence is medical in nature.
Family vacation refers to recreation taken together by the family. The intended purpose of family vacation is for family to get away from day-to-day chores and to devote time specifically for the relaxation and unity of family members. Family vacation can be ritual--for example, annually around the same time--or it can be a one-time event. It can involve travel to a far-flung spot or, for families on a tight budget, a stay-at-home staycation. Some examples of favorite family vacations might include family cruises, trips to popular theme parks, ski vacations, beach vacations, food vacations or similar types of family trips.
Even in the United States, where no federal requirements as to minimum annual leave exist, many large corporations have generous vacation policies, some allowing employees to take weeks off and some even allowing unlimited vacation. Unlimited vacation arrangements may nonetheless come with implicit expectations, for instance, it may be implied that an employee should not take more than about the average number of vacation days taken by others. They normally also have the consequence that employees who leave the company receive no monetary compensation for leave days not taken.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, Americans collectively did not use 662 million vacation days in 2016. More than half of all working people in the United States forfeited paid time off at the end of the year. Two-thirds of people still do work while they are on vacation.
Family vacation and vacation in general has become a common theme in many books, films and movies. Writers often draw on common occurrences that take place during a vacation such as bonding and disasters.