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The Macmillan Dictionary s.v. "escape (verb)" says that "to escape" can also mean

to go away on holiday

in informal contexts, e.g. "We're hoping to escape to the Algarve in May". I can't find this meaning in any other dictionary at my disposal. Is it actually used in this sense?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, escape is often used (with to) in the context of a holiday trip. You can find many examples here. Also, the sense you found in Macmillan can also be found in WordNet:

(v) escape, get away (remove oneself from a familiar environment, usually for pleasure or diversion) "We escaped to our summer house for a few days"; "The president of the company never manages to get away during the summer"

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Yes, it is. It usually implies "escaping from city life/worries/routines/reality".

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I couldn't find it defined as such in any other dictionary, but I do recall seeing it being used as a noun with that meaning at least thrice.

According to the Wiktionary (and most other dictionaries), its general meaning would also conform with that, as in escaping your normal life.

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An expression that comes to mind is escaping the rat race.

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That will be "rat race" not rate race. The website is not allowing me to edit, as its is less than 6 characters long. :/ – Playmaker Jul 26 '12 at 11:38
@Playmaker- my bad. Fixed that. – Noah Jul 26 '12 at 11:39

Another example ... 21 hottest Carribean escapes ... they are not talking about jailbreaks, they are talking about going to Antigua for a week to get away from everyday concerns...

This usage of "escape" is common in the US. Are those who "couldn't find it" from the UK?

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