Tourist vs Traveler: Differences and Similarities

Tourist VS Traveler


I’ve read a lot of articles lately on the differences between tourist vs traveler. There seems to be quite a buzz about it.


Articles always make tourists sound like middle aged goofballs. Really?



A Family Tourist:

*Wants to relax and refresh – Bonding with the kids and recharging batteries is high on the list.

*Wants to see all the tourist places and top sights – Enjoys crossing new destinations and new continents and new UNESCO sites, etc. off their ‘to do’ list.

*Carries a camera everywhere and takes LOTS of photographs – Enjoys documenting the family holiday!


*Carries a map – They teach kids how to use an old fashioned map because sometimes you need one. What if you can’t get a signal for your GPS?

*Wears the same clothes they would wear at home including tennis shoes.  Families know getting kids into ‘ouchy’ or ‘non fashionable’ travel clothes, (the description of said clothes varies depending upon the age of child traveler) is easier said than done.

*Speaks English exclusively. Though families traveling with the kids at least try to know ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘Where is the toilet?’ in the local tongue.


They always make travelers seem like young hippies without jobs.

Tourist vs Traver: Pixabay


A Family Traveler:

*Wants to immerse themselves in the local culture – They want to give the kids a really deep look at the local culture. Maybe this is where their family’s distant rooms are!

*Wants to get off the beaten path – They like small towns, camping, and seeing off beat stuff.

*Avoids cameras so they don’t put up a barrier between themselves and the locals – They aren’t bloggers or scrapbookers, I guess!

*Avoids carrying a map so they can blend in – Use technology to get around. Which means the kids are navigating most likely. No one knows technology like a teen ager!

*Dresses like the locals and avoids tennis shoes like the plague – Let me know how you get your kids to do this.

*Tries to learn some of the local language. Future linguists?



Articles go on to hash over which one is better. People from each group are pretty staunch that their way is better.


Don’t we have too much of this in the world? Wars are fought over which religion is better, kids snarl over which haircut is better… Critics of every sort argue over which movie/book/hotel/wine/car/computer is better. The self proclaimed Fashion Police gnash about who wore it better. (Who died and put them in charge anyway?) Do not EVEN get started with the arguing over which political party has better ideas. Mercy sakes! I just can’t take it.

Like the Dalai Lama says… Be kind whoever possible. It is always possible.



So, here is an idea. Who cares which is better? Who could possibly decide that anyway? Consider the source carefully if you encounter someone who tells you your way of traveling is not as good. Why listen to the naysayers in the world???!!!

Tourist vs Traveler naysayer pixabay


Here is the REAL deal and you heard it here first. We are making up a new name called, “Happy Adventurer”.

Tourist vs Traveler Happy adventurer

Happy Family Adventurer:

*Sees what interests them! Who care if it is on the list? Who cares if it is even on your itinerary? If it suits your family or the kids are fascinated, then stop and see it!

Tourist vs Traveler: Happy adventurer


*Eats what looks delicious – local or not. Sometimes children will try new stuff and other times they only want french fries. What ever! Read my thoughts on traveling kids and food here.

*Wears shoes that make walking miles every day as comfortable as possible. I make my kids wear tennis shoes and good socks so we don’t have ouchy feet. Read my tips on shoes here.

*Takes photos of things they want to remember. A kid’s perspective for photos is really interesting! We have 4 in our family and everyone has a camera. We see the same sights but our photos at the end of the trip are all so very different. One year we had LOTS of photos of the cats in Morocco and visiting with the local dogs in Turkey. LOl!


*Savors the journey – near or far. Families bond over vacation and can enjoy the time together.

*Rests all day or heads out all day according to their energy level. Sometimes a holiday is just better with a nap – whether the traveler is 5 or 65!

*Speaks politely to the locals in however much or however little of the local tongue they can manage. Most tourist places are expecting monolingual Western travelers anyway and we all manage.

*Uses travel to expand their mind and view of the world. Travel creates global citizens when the kid travel! Multi generational travel is on the rise!

Bottom line?

We should all live and let live. Are you a tourist? Yeah for you! Are you a traveler? Yeah for you! Are you a Happy Adventurer? Yeah for you!  Please stop spending time throwing darts at others who are different from you.

If you want help planing the family adventure of YOUR dreams let me know!


Happy travels to ALL tourists, travelers, and happy adventurers!

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist logo

Thank you efrontlearning, gomio, life hack, words on images and for the photos!

You may also like...

24 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Sometimes I am all three on a single trip! LOL

  2. karla says:

    I love this post on every level. I can be a tourist and a traveler. Some days, I prefer to be off beaten ( actually, often, I do) but other days I just want to see those main stream ones. I do take a lot of photos every time so I guess I am a happy adventurer. Its true, whether a tourist or a traveler as long as you are a happy adventurer it shouldn’t matter.

  3. Bottom line is every traveler is a tourist and every tourist is a traveler.

  4. Precious words Natalie!!
    I hate labels, differences… In the end of the days all of us (travellers or tourists) want the same: discover a new place, be happy, have fun, learn… Let´s put our energy on what matters: explore the world!

  5. One Modern Couple says:

    This is great!! Everyone has their own preference and style while travelling and it took us a bit to accept the fact that we prefer to travel in ways that aren’t always what we read we “should” be travelling like. It shouldn’t matter what other people choose to do, as long as you are enjoying how you are travelling and seeing the world!

  6. Here’s to happy adventurers! The world needs more love and respect. If you have that, labels don’t matter.

  7. Well said, here here! 🙂
    I often try and disguise my touristy ways as best I can but the inevitable oversized map opening, gazing into it whilst looking completely dumbfounded totally ruins the act. Depending on where you travel and your confidence in that place, I think we all vary between these styles. As long as we go forth and travel, who cares 🙂
    Great post!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      I’m with you completely. I think the moments that cause you to stand in wonder with your mouth open are the bets ones!! (though probably not ones I want photographed – can’t possibly be a good look for me. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  8. twoscotsabroad says:

    Oooo I am a traveller but I am never without my camera. Craig says I need to put on my next online dating profile that the next boyfriend has to accept that his life will be fully documented by photos! Cheeky sod.

  9. Stacey Valle says:

    Good post! I love it! The whole point is to enjoy travel – doesn’t matter who’s a traveller and who’s a tourist. What’s important is that they’re exploring!

  10. Chris says:

    I don’t care what people consider themselves as (or how others perceive them), as long as I see others travelling, I think it can only be better for the world!

  1. September 26, 2015

    […] for the young, self proclaimed travelers as opposed to tourists (read more about that discussion here) many adventurers want the creature comforts of home. For Americans from the US, most of the year, […]

  2. November 9, 2015

    […] with the sole purpose of looking around for fun, then you are technically a tourist. (Read about the tourist vs traveler debate here) and touristy stuff is there just for you as a way to experience a safe (though usually watered […]

  3. January 3, 2016

    […] for the young, self proclaimed travelers as opposed to tourists (read more about that discussion here) many adventurers want the creature comforts of home. For Americans from the US, most of the year, […]

  4. August 19, 2017

    […] Read here to help you decide which type of traveler you ARE! […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: