From the Beaches to the Mountains: French Vocabulary for a Vacation That Can’t Be Beat
Whether you enjoy the feel of sea water and hot sand or the crisp mountain air, there’s nothing like a relaxing vacation.
However you choose to vacation, wouldn’t you love to do it all in French?
We’ll give you all the French vacation vocabulary words and phrases you need, plus example sentences so you can use them correctly in context.
So grab that passport and let’s get started!
- Tips to Learn Vacation Vocabulary
- Talking About Vacation Plans
- Vacation Accommodation
- Modes of Transport
- Vacation Activities
- Dining Out
Tips to Learn Vacation Vocabulary
Drill flashcards before your trip
Make flashcards for the words below and get into the habit of testing yourself by going through them periodically before your trip.
Want to squeeze in some practice anywhere without carrying around a stack of index cards? Try an app like Quizlet to create flashcards online, play games while testing yourself and even put images on the cards as clues.
Visualize the vocabulary
As you’ll see below, French vacation words tend to be highly visual. Aside from all the important nouns you’ll need to learn for different types of trips and accommodations, it’s just fun to picture yourself splashing on a French beach or hiking through the Alps.
Start with creating mind maps, or visual diagrams that represent the words you want to learn. There are many examples of mind map templates from which to choose.
You can also create a memory palace. The idea of this memorization device is to visualize a location—say, your childhood home—and populate it with the relevant vocabulary. For example, you could visualize a building and each hallway, room or object would be associated with a word you wish to remember.
It’s a great technique for visual learners to create context for seemingly isolated terms.
Watch authentic French videos
The best way to remember any new French vocabulary is to learn it in context. And one of the best ways to do that is to watch videos in French from French sources. You can easily find French TV shows and movies on streaming services like Netflix. If you prefer shorter videos, you can find French videos about all sorts of topics on YouTube.
FluentU is another way to hear French how it’s spoken in actual French-speaking regions. It’s a language learning program that uses authentic videos with interactive subtitles as the core of its lessons, along with active learning features like flashcards and quizzes.
The videos on FluentU are sorted by topic, so you can easily find media that’s related to travel, such as news clips about French vacation habits or video tours of French open-air hotels.
Start using the words in your own sentences
You’ll be using the words and phrases below with real French speakers throughout your vacation. So, why not start practicing now?
Make a list of the words that are most important to you and keep it somewhere easily accessible, like your journal or on your phone. Then whenever you have some downtime, practice creating sentences with them in a variety of contexts.
For example, don’t just learn the word nager (to swim). Start creating sentences, like:
Où est la plage? J’aimerais nager cet après-midi. (Where is the beach? I would like to swim this afternoon.)
Savez-vous nager? (Do you know how to swim?)
We’ll provide lots of example sentences with the vocabulary below for inspiration.
To ensure your own sentences actually make sense, you can get them corrected by native speakers on Lang-8.
Splash Into 50 French Vacation Vocabulary Words and Phrases
Talking About Vacation Plans
This topic will require you to get comfortable with some basic interrogatives in French.
Common questions and answers
avec qui? (with whom?)
Comment voyages-tu? (How are you traveling?)
Je vais au/à la… (I’m going to…)
les vacances de Noël (Christmas vacation)
les vacances d’été (summer vacation, also known as les grandes vacances)
les vacances d’hiver (winter vacation)
les vacances de printemps (spring vacation)
les vacances de la Toussaint (fall vacation; All Saints).
Où vas-tu en vacances? (Where are you going on vacation?)
Je vais à la plage/en montagne/à l’étranger. (I’m going to the beach/to the mountains/overseas.)
Quand iras-tu en vacances? (When will you go on vacation?)
Je voyagerai pendant les vacances d’été. (I will travel during the summer vacation.)
Avec qui allez-vous/vas-tu voyager? (Who are you going to travel with?)
Places people stay on vacation
un hôtel (a hotel)
une auberge de jeunesse (a youth hostel)
un club de vacances (a resort)
un camping (a camping ground)
un appartement (an apartment)
un gîte (a holiday home/cottage)
une chambre d’hôtes (a bed and breakfast)
Phrases for making a reservation
Je voudrais une chambre (I would like a room…)
salle de bains (bathroom)
pour un/deux/trois/quatre personnes (for one/two/three/four people)
du [date] au [date] (from [date] to [date])
Je voudrais une chambre pour deux personnes avec salle de bains du 5 août au 12 août. (I would like a room for two with a bathroom from August 5 to August 12.)
Pour mes vacances, je vais loger dans un hôtel. (For my vacation I am going to stay in a hotel.)
Je logerai dans une auberge de jeunesse. (I will stay in a youth hostel.)
L’année dernière, j’ai logé dans un camping. (Last year, I stayed in a camping ground.)
Modes of Transport
Getting to your destination
en avion (by plane)
en bateau (by boat)
par le train (by train)
la gare (the station)
le billet (the ticket)
aller-retour (round trip)
Getting around your vacation spot
en Métro (by subway)
à pied (on foot)
Comment vas-tu en Belgique? En avion ou par le train? (How are you going to Belgium? By plane or by train?)
Où est l’aéroport, s’il vous plaît? (Where is the airport, please?)
Je cherche la gare. (I am looking for the train station.)
À quelle heure est le départ de l’avion? (What time does the plane leave?)
Combien coûte le billet pour Nice? (How much does the ticket to Nice cost?)
Je voudrais un aller-retour par le train qui va à Marseille. (I would like a return ticket on the train going to Marseille.)
This topic is a great opportunity to pick up common French nouns and verbs. There are hundreds of activities that you can add to your vocabulary list. Some common ones include:
faire de la planche à voile (to windsurf)
faire du lèche-vitrine (to go window-shopping)
se bronzer (to suntan)
aller au restaurant (to go to the restaurant)
nager (to swim)
faire du ski (to ski)
faire du vélo (to cycle)
visiter des monuments/ des musées (to visit monuments/museums)
Try to use this vocabulary with different tenses!
Aujourd’hui, je voudrais aller à la plage pour me bronzer. (Today, I would like to go to the beach to suntan.)
Hier, je suis allé(e) faire du vélo en montagne. (Yesterday, I went cycling in the mountains.)
Demain, j’irai au restaurant avec mes amis. (Tomorrow, I will go to the restaurant with my friends.)
One of the best parts of a holiday is getting to eat out and sampling food from the country you’re visiting. So, food vocabulary should be in the cards. We’ll give you the basics for a vacation—for an in-depth guide to restaurant vocabulary in French, check out this article.
le repas (the meal)
le petit déjeuner (breakfast)
le déjeuner (lunch)
le dîner (dinner)
la salle à manger (the dining room)
le restaurant (restaurant)
Qu’est-ce que vous recommandez aujourd’hui? (What do you recommend today?)
le plat du jour (today’s special)
Je voudrais… (I would like…)
L’addition, s’il vous plaît. (The check, please.)
À quelle heure est le petit déjeuner? (What time is breakfast?)
Comme dessert, je voudrais la crème caramel. (For dessert, I would like the crème caramel.)
Recommandez-vous le plat du jour? (Do you recommend today’s special?)
Je voudrais des escargots. (I would like some snails.)
Now that you’ve used all the tools and resources at your fingertips and you’ve prepared everything for your vacation, you’re ready to go.
Use your new vocabulary as often as you can and you’ll become good at communicating and recognizing repeated words.
Bonnes vacances! (Have a good vacation!)
Hilda Thomas was a lecturer at a South African University for many years and taught French language and literature from the beginner level to PhD level. Her specialization and passion is teaching French as a foreign language.