It’s early in the morning, and you have your suitcase by your side. You’re holding your tickets, climbing in the car that will take you to the airport when, behind you, your friend waves and shouts, “Safe travels!” You stop for a second because the phrase sounds a bit weird — is it correct to say “Safe travels”?
It is correct to say “safe travels.” This is an expression that English speakers have been using for many years to express their wishes for a safe and healthy trip. The word “travels” sounds a bit strange to modern ears, but it’s a real word that has survived for centuries. However, you usually only hear it in the phrase “Safe travels” or when it comes with a possessive adjective.
Here, we’ll take a look at the usage and grammar of the phrase “Safe travels” and then look at some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the expression.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Safe Travels”?
If you’ve ever wondered if “Safe travels” is grammatically correct, in short, yes: it is grammatically correct. Although the phrase may sound a bit strange at first, it is actually right. So let’s discuss why it is technically correct.
The plural noun “travels” might seem a little weird to you because it is an old word; people don’t really use the word “travel” as a countable noun very much these days. Instead, “travel” is usually a verb.
However, the phrase “Safe travels” — along with other specific phrases and usages that include the plural countable noun “travels” — has kept the word alive in very specific situations.
This means that, even though we don’t say the word “travels” very often, it is grammatically correct, especially when you use it in the phrase “Safe travels.”
So, the main reason why it is correct to say “Safe travels” is because it is a widely accepted and clearly understood English pleasantry that has stood the test of time. Since the expression “Safe travels” has such wide and clear usage by English speakers, we consider it correct.
The Many Forms of “Travel”
If you’re wondering if the phrase “Safe travels” is correct, then it probably has a strange ring to your ears. This perception is most likely thanks to the plural form of the noun “travel” that appears in the expression. So why does it sound weird? It has to do with the form of the word “travel.”
Travel as a Noun or Verb
The word “travel” has a few different forms in English (source). For example, you probably think of a verb when you hear the word “travel.” You might picture taking a trip or going on a vacation. The verb “to travel” is the most popular form of this word.
However, “travel” is also a noun; in fact, it is a countable noun (source). So, you can use the word “travel” as the subject or object of a sentence. This also means that the noun “travel” can have both a singular and a plural form (source). So why does “travels” still sound a bit strange?
The noun form of “travel” isn’t prevalent anymore. In the past, people used “travel” as a countable noun much more frequently, but nowadays, we usually opt for other ways to express the noun form of “travel.”
For instance, a more popular way to use the verb “to travel” in noun form is to use the gerund, “traveling.” Both “travel” and “traveling” are nouns; however, “traveling” is the more popular and contemporary way to talk about the action of moving from one place to another.
Another countable noun that has replaced “travel,” especially when you’re using the plural form of the noun, is the synonym “trip.” Consider these two examples:
- I keep a journal when I travel; I make notes about all of my travels.
- I keep a journal when I travel; I make notes about all of my trips.
The second sentence sounds much more modern, and only one word is different. You can see how the plural noun “trips” sounds much more typical in today’s English.
Here’s another thing you should know about this tricky noun: if you’re going to use the plural noun “travels” outside of the phrase “Safe travels,” it will usually take the possessive (source). So, instead of asking a friend, “How was your trip?” you can ask, “How were your travels?”
Of course, this sounds a bit archaic, but it is technically grammatically correct.
The Adjective “Safe”
So, since the word “travels” is an acceptable plural countable noun, it makes sense that it should come with an adjective. Thus, the adjective “safe” in the phrase “Safe travels” modifies the word “travels.”
We have to use the adjective form of “safe” rather than the adverb form since the word “travels” here is a noun and not a verb. However, don’t get confused: when you use the verb form of the word “travel,” you should use the adverb “safely.”
Review the following example sentences to see the differences between “Safe travels” and “travel safely.”
Whenever Jane drives, she travels safely: she wears her seatbelt and follows all traffic rules.
As Jane was leaving for her long road trip, I stood in the driveway and called out, “Safe travels!”
The pilot said, “We want everyone to travel safely, so we’ve upgraded all of our safety and emergency equipment.”
The pilot said, “We hope you enjoy the flight, and we wish you all safe travels!”
From these examples, you can see the difference between the adjective “safe” and the adverb “safely.”
We use the adjective form of “safe” with the plural countable noun “travels,” while we use the adverb form “safely” with the verb form of the word “travel.” The adjective comes before the noun, while the adverb comes directly after the verb.
For more information about using adjectives and adverbs correctly, you can check out the article “Doing Well or Doing Good: Can Both Be Correct?”
How Do You Say, “Safe Travels”?
So, now that we’ve broken down the expression, how can you use it in action? You usually say (or write) the phrase “Safe travels” right before your friend goes on a trip. It’s a quick and easy way to show them that you hope their trip — whether it’s a long vacation or just the drive home — goes smoothly.
“Safe travels” is an expression that you’re more likely to hear when you’re speaking or texting with a friend. It’s not a very formal phrase, so you will probably see or hear it in a conversation rather than an essay or formal document.
It’s also very likely that you will see the phrase “Safe travels” written in places like an airport, a train station, or a bus stop. You can find this quick and easy phrase mostly in informal situations, although it’s not inappropriate in a formal situation, either.
“Safe Travels” FAQs
If you still have a few questions about the phrase “Safe travels,” you’re not alone! Here are some of the most popular questions about the expression “Safe travels” and some helpful explanations to help you use it correctly every time.
Is “Safe Travels” a Complete Sentence?
To put it simply, “Safe travels” is not a complete sentence on its own. To create a complete sentence, you need a subject and a verb. This requirement means that you need to define who or what is doing or being something and then define what they are doing or being.
So technically, the phrase “Safe travels” is just a noun with an adjective to modify it. However, when we use the expression “Safe travels” in English, it can stand alone without a verb because it is a pleasantry.
You might not be familiar with the word “pleasantry,” but you’ve certainly seen and heard many examples of them. A pleasantry is an expression or phrase that people use to show positive wishes, and you usually use it for a specific context or occasion.
An example of a popular pleasantry is “Happy birthday.” You say “happy birthday” to a specific person on a particular day of the year. And even though it technically isn’t a complete sentence, it expresses a complete thought and stands alone.
Just like “Happy birthday,” “Merry Christmas,” or “Good morning,” the phrase “Safe travels” can stand by itself, even though it technically isn’t a complete sentence.
Most people accept this because they understand that you are wishing them well when you use these pleasantries, even when it’s not a complete sentence with a noun and a verb.
For more examples and information about using English pleasantries in conversation and writing, you can check out the articles “Greatly Appreciated: Meaning and Proper Usage” and “Is It Proper Grammar to Say, ‘Looking Forward to Talking to You’?”
What Can I Say Instead of “Safe Travels”?
It’s always a great idea to express positive wishes to your friends, coworkers, or even your boss before they travel. But perhaps you’ve used the phrase “Safe travels” several times in your past emails or correspondences, so you might be looking for new ways to express the same sentiment.
There are lots of pleasantries that English speakers use when a friend, family member, or colleague is leaving for a trip. If you’re looking for other ways to say, “Safe travels,” then check out this list of examples:
- Have a safe trip!
- Wishing you an excellent vacation!
- Hope the trip goes smoothly!
- Have a nice flight/drive/ride!
- Bon voyage!
These phrases all have a very similar meaning to “Safe travels,” and you can use them to send well wishes and good intentions to your friends or colleagues before they set out on a trip. That way, you can send them off with a smile!
How Do You Say “Safe Travels” in an Email?
Generally, you’ll find the phrase “Safe travels” at the end of an email. It’s usually the sign-off after the main part of the message, right before you sign your name at the end of the email.
You might be wondering if it’s professional or acceptable to add “Safe travels” to an email. In most settings, it’s perfectly fine to add this expression to the end of an email, whether you’re writing to a friend, family member, coworker, or boss.
It’s professional enough to send to everyone without adding too formal or heavy a tone to your message. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Although “Safe travels” isn’t a complete sentence, you can still use it as a pleasantry in conversation or as a sign-off for an email or a message. Like many phrases and expressions in English, the wide usage and easy understandability of “Safe travels” makes it correct.
Even though the phrase “Safe travels” may sound a bit strange at first, it is a correct and grammatically accurate way to wish a friend, family member, or colleague a nice trip. The expression “Safe travels” is a light and positive way to send your friend off on their vacation or to wish them well before their journey.
You can use the word “travels” as a countable noun in this phrase, although it’s not a very popular plural noun in contemporary English. It was a widely-used word in the past, but nowadays, people prefer to use the synonym “trips.”
Of course, the word “travels” has remained part of the modern English language thanks to the phrase “Safe travels” and other specific usages of the word.
You can use the phrase “Safe travels” in an informal or professional setting: it is versatile and appropriate for all occasions, from casual conversations to formal work emails.
While “Safe travels” is not technically a complete sentence all by itself, it is a common phrase that can stand alone. This type of expression is called a pleasantry, and there are many widely-used pleasantries in the English language; “Safe travels” is just one example.