French Holiday Vocabulary

Instructor: AJ Dana-Yoblonski

Dual citizen of France and Canada. Journalist - French print media (L'Obs, Paris Match, Le Parisien, ...) / Private tutor (grammar: English, French, Latin; literature) / Institutional communications officer

Whether it be at the mountains or on the beach, going on a holiday in France is one of the best ways to make a Frenchie happy--and probably make them stop complaining. Let's go over the basics to achieve this.

Salut, à la prochaine! screams Paul as he reaches the security check at the airport. You wish him bonnes vacances! (bo-n va-kon-s), i.e. a nice holiday. Those were quick goodbyes, you say to yourself! On the other hand, it's true he's been excited about his vacances de Noël (Christmas holiday).

Organizing a Voyage

For starters:

  • vacances (say: va-kon-s): holiday or holidays (always plural)
  • être en vacances (say: eh-tr on va-kon-s): to be on holidays
  • partir (par-tee-r): to go, to leave
  • arriver (a-ree-vay): to arrive
  • partir en vacances (say: par-tee-r on va-kon-s): to go on holidays

Paul told you all about his trip on the way to the airport: how he'd gotten his congés, how he'd chosen the destination and where he'd made the réservation. Wait, what does all this mean?

French Pronunciation Meaning
un voyage V-wah-ya-zhe a trip
être en congés eh-tr on kan-zh-ay to be on a work leave
poser un congé po-zay un kan-zh-ay to get a work leave
la destination deh-stee-na-si-an destination
à la mer a la meh-r to the sea
à la montagne a la man-ta-ni-ö to the mountains
à la campagne a la kom-pa-ni-ö to the countryside
une réservation ray-zeh-r-va-sian a booking
réserver ray-zeh-r-vay to make a booking
faire une réservation feh-r une ray-zeh-r-va-sian to make a booking

A month ago, you asked Paul: où pars-tu? (say: oo par-tu?), meaning, 'where are you going?' In France, there are three seas: the Atlantic (which tends to be very cold), the English Channel (which tends to be even colder) and the Mediterranean sea (which is warm and the most popular holiday destination). Paul decided to partir à la mer in the middle of winter. When is that?

A la mer

French Pronunciation Meaning
en été on ay-tay in the summer
en automne on o-toh-n in the fall
en hiver on ee-veh-r in the winter
au printemps o pruhn-ton in the spring
les vacances d'été va-kon-s d-aytay summer holiday
les vacances d'hiver va-kon-s d-ee-veh-r winter holiday

How can he get to the moutains?

French Pronunciation Meaning
en voiture on v-wah-tu-r by car
conduire kan-du-ee-r to drive
en avion on a-vee-yan by plane
voler vo-lay to fly (can also mean: to steal)
en train on tr-uhn by train

A la montagne

How long can he stay there? Usually, in France, holidays during the school year last deux semaines (say: dö sö-meh-n), meaning 'two weeks.' The summer holidays can last for up to deux mois (say: dö mwah), i.e. 'two months.'

During the Vacances

Two days later, you try to call Paul for a chat (he was supposed to call you to let you know he had arrived safely: je suis bien arrivé, but of course he forgot). His phone is on voicemail. What could he be doing?

French Pronunciation Meaning
visiter vee-zee-tay to visit (a place)
un/une touriste too-ree-st a tourist
aller au restaurant a-lay o reh-s-to-ron to go to the restaurant
sur la plage sur la pla-zhe on the beach
se baigner sö beh-ni-ay to go for a swim
nager na-zh-ay to swim
bronzer br-an-zay to sunbathe
être bronzé eh-tr bran-zay to have a tan
une combinaison (de ski) kam-bee-neh-zan a ski suit
faire du ski or skier feh-r du sk-ee or sk-ee-ay to ski
faire du snowboard feh-r du snowboard to snowboard
descendre les pistes deh-son-dr lay pee-ste to go down the slopes
remonter les pistes rë-man-tay lay pee-ste to go up the slopes
un télésiège tay-lay-si-eh-zh a chairlift

After the Vacances

Two weeks later, you go and meet Paul at a café. He called you to say: je suis rentré ce matin (say: jö su-ee ron-tray cö ma-tuhn), meaning, 'I got back this morning.' When you see him, the first thing you ask is: as-tu passé de bonnes vacances? (say: a-tu pa-say dö bo-n va-kon-s), meaning: 'did you have a nice holiday?'

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