Since the 17th century, holidays have been a period during which pupils and students are free from school; a period of absence from work which, by extension, has been regarded as leave and then as paid leave and that can give rise to travelling, whether for tourism or other purposes.

INSEE defines holidays as “journeys comprising four consecutive days and nights away from home for reasons other than professional, studies and health. Rest at home is not included.” This definition shows the difficulties faced by public institutions to establish a stable and clear definition framework. The duration proposed by INSEE goes against the principles established elsewhere to differentiate between short stays and long stays. Similarly, why could we not say that we are on holiday at home, if we agree that a holiday is a break from work. It is to be noted in fact that the refusal to travel as a matter of principle accounts for part of the non-departures, and this is mostly, but not exclusively, due to economic reasons.

Moreover, the word “holiday” covers the reality of tourism for some researchers, and in particular for sociology researchers. For example, Norbert Élias and Eric Dunning (1994) use the paraphrase “to go away during the holidays” which they include within the spectrum of free time under the most effective subcategory such as the most “de-routinising”. Similarly, Bertrand Réau’s book is entitled Les Vacances des Français (French people’s holidays) where as it is only about travels.


  • Élias Norbert et Dunning Eric,1994, Sport et Civilisation. La violence maîtrisée. Paris, Fayard.
  • Réau Bertrand, 2011, Les Français et les vacances. Paris, CNRS Éditions.