Planning a Sober Vacation for People in Recovery

Vacations are a fantastic way to take a break from everyday life. Whether you’re spending a few weeks on an island or a few nights at a bed and breakfast, a vacation can do wonders for mental health. Unfortunately, if you’ve struggled with addiction you know all too well how often vacation can serve as an impetus for “cutting loose” with drugs or alcohol. When planning a vacation in recovery, it is vital to work hard to remain sober and prevent relapse.

Managing Travel Stress

reliefWhile a vacation is intended to relieve stress, getting to your destination may be a difficult event. Between paperwork, deadlines, and managing children you may find yourself in need of relief. If you’ve been accustomed to managing stress with substances, the anxiety of travel may require more attention than before.

Coping with these stressors can be better managed with some pre-planning:

  • Take the time to organize paperwork. Make sure you have IDs, boarding pass/ticket, passport (if traveling to another country), and print-outs of confirmation emails.
  • Call your airline and hotel to confirm departure and lodging times and dates prior to travel.
  • Pack snacks, water, and quiet games for kids to keep them occupied.
  • Take a “time out” if stress becomes too great. Close your eyes, count to ten, and breathe.
  • Bring a good book for waiting areas and a special mixed CD for the car. If you’re anxious about traveling, healthy distractions like these can help.
  • Attend a meeting or therapy prior to travel. Discuss your travel plans and express any concerns.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before your trip.
  • Remember to stay hydrated and have snacks throughout the day. Stress can hit much harder if you’re hungry, tired, or thirsty.
  • Leave early. It is much easier to wait than it is to rush.

Travel stress may be a trigger for relapse. An unfamiliar atmosphere, coupled with managing the details of the day, can create a great deal of strain. Preparing for stressful events in advance can make a huge difference in keeping you sober while on vacation.

Maintaining Sobriety While Celebrating

avoid alcoholWhen you’ve made it to your destination, you may feel a sense of relief. The stress of travel is over and it’s finally time to cut loose and have some fun. But in rehab, you will most likely be advised to avoid alcohol on vacation regardless of whether or not you have an alcohol addiction.

When under the influence of any mind-altering substance, a relapse is more likely as you have less control over decisions. However, it’s still possible to have a blast while sober on vacation. Some ideas for celebrating without the use of substances include:

  • Ordering a virgin specialty drink. Many tropical destinations use local produce in their cocktails and offer a delicious variety of blends. These ingredients “make” the drink and can be enjoyed without alcohol.
  • Ask around about the “bests” in town. If you’re visiting a new place ask locals about their favorite pizza, grilled cheese, pancakes, or hot cocoa. Go sample some of the great things that your vacation destination has to offer. “I had the best crepes in New Orleans!” is a great memory to take home.
  • If you get the urge to drink, having your sponsor on speed dial can be useful.
  • Remove yourself from any situation that is uncomfortable.
  • Decline any pressure and be confident in your decision to stay sober.

Resisting temptation on vacation can be a difficult endeavor and the stress of travel can pose a relapse risk to those in recovery. Avoid this danger by lowering stress, properly planning, and broadening your horizons for adventure to find new ways to have fun while being clean as a whistle.

Sober Vacationing

Staying sober on vacation may feel like a restriction to your fun, but a sober vacation can be very rewarding. You can take better memories home as you will be “there” (not impeded by drug use) for the entire trip. In addition, you’re taking on a challenge and practicing restraint while finding new ways to celebrate. This can open many doors for new experiences for you and your travel companions.


It can also help you experience more than just the bars or hotel rooms of your vacation spots and give you open access to exciting locations, such as a museum. Most of these places have strict substance use rules and will exclude you if they think you’ll be a risk to their clientele.

We Can Help

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.If you find yourself concerned with maintaining sobriety while on vacation or need a little more help and guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. The caring staff here at can provide guidance throughout your travels and assist in developing a plan for a sober vacation.