4 Things to Do Before Traveling Sober


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Taking a well-deserved vacation is a time-honored family tradition…and also a lot of fun! But what if you’ve gone through rehab for drug or alcohol addiction? Can a vacation actually be counterproductive to your recovery?

Done the right way, there is enormous value in vacations. All it takes is a little planning ahead and a mindset readjustment.

Planning a vacation is tricky on its own but a sober vacation takes extra precautions. Before jetting off to a new destination, check off these essential tips to ensure a healthy and clean time away from home.

Though you can’t predict every temptation that comes your way, you can take significant steps to maintain your sobriety away from home.

1. Avoid Stress

Vacations are meant to be relaxing and a time to get away from the crushing deadlines and daily grind. Stress can be debilitating, often affecting your physical and mental health--and it may even jeopardize your overall recovery.

Ironically, “vacation stress” can occur whether you are a recovering addict or not. To minimize anxiety-filled situations, plan ahead as much as possible. And don’t be afraid to remove yourself from any situation that makes you feel vulnerable or uneasy. Start by implementing these simple steps:

  • Consider requesting the resort/hotel to remove alcohol from the minibar to avoid unnecessary temptation
  • Many vacations offer “all-inclusive” amenities which includes unlimited alcohol in their cruise or vacation package. If this is the case on your trip, let the staff know in advance that you do not want to be offered alcohol at any of their venues.
  • Realize you have no control over delayed flights, lost luggage, car rental, etc. This worry can lead to unwanted behavior and jeopardize your recovery.
  • Continue eating regular, healthy meals, exercising and being well-rested every day so you don’t feel worn out.
  • It’s up to you to prioritize vacation time into your schedule, put down that Smartphone and stop responding to e-mails. Don’t hesitate to request help from co-workers and family to escape the madness.

If all the moving parts get too overwhelming, stop for a moment and incorporate self-help techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.

2. Pick Your Travel Buddies Carefully

If possible, it is always best to travel with people who support your sobriety and look out for your best interests. True friends will do whatever it takes to keep you on track, even if it means refraining from drinking themselves.

To avoid temptation while traveling, plan to hang out around the pool, Jacuzzi, lanai, patio, ship observation deck—anywhere but the bar. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of good conversation and catching up with friends, instead of being the “loud and obnoxious guests” who others view as inconsiderate drunks.

3. Be Connected

One of the greatest challenges of sober travel is being without your usual support network. However, there may be an app for that. Several smartphone apps are available to help you locate resources, meetings and other support while you are away from home. So in advance of your trip, identify local help groups just in case. There are always online meeting options or telephone meetings. And be sure to bring along the phone number of your sponsor and a few trustworthy friends.

4. Fly Without Temptation

Traveling by plane is a source of temptation for many. The scenario may differ for each but with enough foresight, you can prevent any slipups from happening.

Here are some common cases that could be potential threats:

  • Some people have a fear of flying. They believe a drink or taking drugs will “boost their courage” and allow for a better experience on the airplane.
  • Those who are traveling long distance and/or internationally may drink excessively because they want to encourage sleep.
  • These days, passengers are often told to arrive for their flight up to three hours before their plane leaves. By arriving early, some may start to drink as a way to relieve the boredom.

These tempting situations can be overcome with a little planning and creative thinking. For example, after clearing security at the airport, head to the newsstand and purchase a flavored water or sports drink. Buy more than one, even. This will provide you with something to drink before and during the trip that will not jeopardize yourself and will even keep you hydrated!

A Good, Clean Break

The most popular vacation destinations, along with many resorts, cruise lines and travel companies offer alcohol-free vacations. In addition to putting away the alcohol and scheduling sober activities and meetings, these types of vacations include a supportive community of people in recovery.

Don’t miss out on a well-earned break just because you’re in recovery. Actually, it is probably one of the most proactive things that can be done to support your progress, as long as it’s done correctly.

There is importance and clear benefits in taking a little time away from daily, hectic schedules to relax, unwind and restore. After all, recovery gives you the freedom to do things that you’ve always wanted to do—but couldn’t due to drugs and alcohol. By taking a few precautions and staying alert to your relapse triggers, you can successfully enjoy a vacation that is memorable…for all the right reasons.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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