Why vaxications may be the most memorable trips of the year

May 10, 2021

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“The day of our first shot, we knew when the second shot was going to be,” said Ana Botello de Hayes, a TPG reader living in San Antonio, Texas. So, Hayes said,”[we] worked the math, got on the computer and booked a trip for day 16 after [the second] shot and we were off on a plane!”

For Botello de Hayes, the flight from San Antonio (SAT) to Monterrey International Airport in Mexico (MTY), where she has some family, was her first flight since March of 2020.

And she’s not alone. Christopher Ambler, also a TPG reader, who is based in the San Francisco area, said he “figured out when [he’d] have full coverage after the second shot” and then booked a week-long trip to work from Las Vegas  “It was glorious,” he said, adding that “being fully vaccinated” gave him “peace of mind.”

In fact, many travelers have said they booked trips two weeks from the date of their final vaccine appointment — when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people are fully vaccinated. Oftentimes, travelers said they flew for the first time since the onset of the pandemic after getting vaccinated.

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The trend is so prevalent right now, the Merriam-Webster dictionary has even added an entry for the term “vaxication” to its “words we’re watching” series, which tracks trending terms and usage.

According to Merriam-Webster, vaxication — a portmanteau that blends the words vacation and vax (a common abbreviation for the wore vaccine) — has “increased in use as the COVID-19 vaccine has become more available to the public.” The word, the dictionary says, “is used humorously to describe the post-vaccination travel plans people are making.”

Merriam-Webster says that for a term to become an entry in the dictionary, it “must have enough citations to show that it is widely used,” among other factors. Currently, one of the citations for vaxication comes from a TPG guide to planning a vaxication published in March 2021.

“Some newly vaccinated people will be ready to get on a plane and travel far from home — or at least as far as destination entry requirements allow,” wrote TPG senior travel editor Andrea Rotondo. “I have friends that have booked vaxications to Hawaii, Mexico and various Caribbean islands.”

But the trend may have originated as early as December 2020, when the travel-marketing firm MMGY Global said they coined the term vaxication to describe “the first trip people take after treatment.”

For many, a vaxication may not necessarily mark their first trip, vacation or even their first flight since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and the world went into lockdown. It may simply be a celebration — a “thank goodness I’m vaccinated [getaway],” as Rotondo put it — that captures the spirit of relief and optimism so many travelers are feeling right now.

Christy Lee, a TPG reader living in Seattle, Washington, said the day she and her husband received their first doses and knew the date of their second doses, they immediately began “[narrowing it] down to a couple of different destinations.” Adding in the two recommended weeks for the second dose, Lee booked a trip to Disney World.

“We have been to Disney World many times before,” Lee told TPG, adding that she and her husband were cast members “once upon a time.”

Lee says she and her husband are both “huge Disney fans and … are always up for a Disney trip,” and added that they also picked Disney as their first trip after getting vaccinated to take advantage of lower park capacity and lower airfare.

Other travelers described booking solo getaways after getting the second shot while waiting for their families to get vaccinated. Others reunited with friends and family for the first time, or felt ready to head abroad.

Though vaxication hasn’t been officially added to the dictionary, its meteoric rise underscores just how much pent-up demand there is for travel right now.

At this time, about 31.6% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. As the number of people who received the vaccine increases, so too does the number of people hitting the road. A recent TPG survey shows that about half of U.S. adults plan to take at least one summer vacation this year — a significant uptick from May of 2020, when only a third of the country said they’d consider leaving home for a vacation before the end of the summer.

And metrics across the travel industry are rising commensurately: Flights are selling out to popular vacation destinations, which is pushing fares higher. Gasoline demand (and prices) are on the rise, too. And a vehicle shortage has made finding a rental car next to impossible in some destinations. Where cars are available, prices may be astronomically high.

It’s possible the word’s usage may decline before it reaches the criteria for entry that would have it immortalized in the dictionary alongside such travel terms as glamping (added in 2018) and vacay (a shortened version of vacation made acceptable in 2019).

But even if vaxications become normal vacations — not trips planned around inoculations — and the word falls out of use, it will almost certainly define the zeitgeist of this spring and summer, when vaccines became widely available and people everywhere began their personal journeys back to travel.

Feature photo by wundervisuals / Getty Images.

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