30 Travel Idioms

Australian train travel stamp

Idioms are used regularly in every-day spoken language.

Even beginners are faced with idioms if they travel to an English speaking country for a holiday.

That’s why it’s important to include idioms in all levels of language courses.

Plus they are fun, and help with vocabulary learning and recall because they paint bold pictures in our minds!

You can use a couple of travel idioms from this list as a warm-up activity, especially for a travel conversation class, or build an entire class around them.

My students always enjoy trying to match these idioms with ones from their native language – there are many similarities.

Direct translations or pictorial sketches (if you can draw), prompt much laughter, making the classes more memorable and enjoyable.

Travel idioms for English classes

  • They are in the same boat – they have the same problems as each other or are in the same difficult situation.
  • Don’t rock the boat! – don’t do anything to cause trouble or upset someone.
    She sailed through her exams – she found the exams very easy and got good results. Also, something is smooth sailing.
  • They missed the boat – they missed an opportunity because they didn’t act quickly enough.
  • He will be shipped off to boarding school – he will be sent to boarding school.
  • She needs to shape up or ship out – she needs to improve her performance or behaviour, or leave.
  • He hit the road – he left (a relationship) or he started on a journey. An angry “Hit the road!” means “Leave now!”.
  • We will look at again down the road – we will look at it again, later.
  • Let’s get this show on the road – let’s start this activity or event.
  • She has itchy feet – someone who can’t stay in one place, relationship or position – they crave change.
  • He put the cart before the horse – he did something in the wrong order.
  • I fell off the wagon – I failed when trying to stick to a new habit or diet.
  • They drive me up the wall – they annoy me, they drive me crazy! Also, drive me around the bend.
  • The TV fell off the back of a truck – the TV was stolen goods. In British English, fell off the back of a lorry.
  • Our wheels fell off – we failed at what we tried to do after working long and hard.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the oilsomeone who complains gets a lot of attention.
  • We will catch the red-eye – we will catch a plane departing very late at night.
  • They fly by the seat of their pants – they are impulsive, never planning anything.
  • That is just a flight of fancy – that is an exciting but impractical idea.
  • He has gone off the rails – he has started to behave badly, dishonestly or illegally.
  • She has a one track mind – she can only think and talk about one thing.
  • It is off the beaten track – it is in a remote location, or is something that is not well known. Also, off the beaten path.
  • We are on track – we are making progress and will achieve our goal.
  • They have lost track – they no longer know what is happening, haven’t kept in touch, have lost something, or don’t remember something.
  • We covered our tracks – we hid the evidence of what we did.
  • He followed her train of thought – he understands the connections linking various events, reasoning, or arguments.
  • She is running on fumes – she has used up all her energy, but is somehow continuing.
  • I visited your neck of the woods – I visited the area where you live (or work).
  • He talks a mile a minute – he talks very fast.
  • Your idea is just the ticket – your idea is the perfect solution.

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