Kate's Blog

9 Things To Pack On Your First Alcohol-Free Holiday

Your Out of Office is on, your passport is packed and you’ve found your bikini. Now there’s just one thing left to decide: are you going to drink on holiday or not?

If you’re newly sober, or trying to be, then your first alcohol-free trip abroad can feel like a big deal, because most of us associate holidays with alcohol. Airport bars are always busy, even in the morning; on the beach 
it’s perfectly acceptable to open your first beer before lunch; and the pool bar has more cocktails than you can shake a stick at. You couldn’t possibly order a mocktail. You can’t go on holiday and not drink, it’s just unheard of… right?
Alcohol-free holidays are absolutely brilliant. If you haven’t tried one yet then you really, really must do – I have a feeling you’ll love it.
Not only will you come home properly rested and refreshed, you’ll be able to remember every single moment.
Booze, hangovers and guilt don’t have to feature in your holiday plans. If you’re contemplating your first sober trip, here are a few things you might like to stash in your suitcase:

1) Books

Now is the time to stock up on sober memoirs and self help books. They’ll help remind you why you’re doing this. If you’re too embarrassed to be seen reading that kind of thing by the pool, you can always download a digital copy or buy the audio version.

2) Trainers

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I love exercising on holiday – all those endorphins make you feel so good. Exercise doesn’t need to involve running or working up a sweat in the sun – a walk along the beach or a yoga class is great too.

3) A guide book

Feeling bored often triggers people to drink. The chances are that in the past, recovering from a hangover took care of quite a bit of time on holiday. Sober, you might discover that you can’t sunbathe all day, every day. Use this time to explore the local area and see what’s happening.

4) Your own drinks

If there’s a particular drink you absolutely love, that you just have to have at 5pm, take it with you. You can fit a few drinks in your suitcase. Or go to a local supermarket on your first day and stock up. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of options you like, close at hand.

5) A bit of extra cash

Alcohol-free holidays are about treating yourself and taking care of yourself. (Alcohol is not a treat. It’s a poison that pretends to be a treat, but makes you feel like crap instead.) You’re saving lots of money by not drinking, so if you want to book a massage or a beauty treatment, go for it – you deserve it.

6) Snacks

Feeling hungry and thirsty can make you more prone to cravings. Drink lots of water and pack some healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit.

7) Your phone

Yep, I know the idea of a digital detox is really appealing. But it helps to know you’ve got a way of getting online if you need support or motivation. (You can always remove the Facebook app from your phone temporarily!)

8) The right companions

Pass on the invite to go away with friends who you know do nothing but drink, drink, drink. If it’s your partner who drinks a lot, it’s a bit harder to leave them at home, obviously (!) but you can still manage expectations in advance. Don’t wait until you land to let people know you aren’t going to be drinking.

9) The right mindset

Definitely don’t go away without this! Your mindset is key. You get to decide how you feel on holiday. You can choose to spend the whole trip feeling as if you’re missing out and viewing everything through the lens of what you’re not doing. Or you can choose to live in the moment, and appreciate the fact that your holiday is pretty amazing, just as it is. Sunbathing, reading, playing in the pool, eating out … what’s not to like? They’re fun activities just as they are. Why would you need to add a mind-altering drug into the mix?

Got a great tip to share?

What are your must-pack items that you’ll be travelling with this summer? Have you got a holiday coming up? Let us know!

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


20 responses

  1. Thanks! Great timing as we’re headed into vacation season. I don’t “talk” much on this blog, but I wanted to let you know how much I secretly depend on it. In 3 days, I’m 10 months alcohol-free and only one last big event to get through without alcohol–summer vacation with my German-Irish family–before I can feel confident saying “I don’t drink.” My last drink was the day after this vacation last year. I tested drinking way less that year (and the success is what inspired me to go full-on) but I’m looking forward to tee-totalling it this year. Wish me luck!!

    1. Good luck Anna and congratulations on almost hitting the 10 month mark! You’ll be fine. Have fun 🙂

  2. Yes, I love this! I have LOVED my alcohol travels- so much more money, can actually remember the good times, no regrets, better mornings, basically NOT A WASTE OF TIME.
    Also, I still like going to the bar at the airport at 10am or whatever and getting my fav AF drink and reading my book with it while I wait for my plane. AF travels are probably my favourite part of being sober.

  3. Just returned from my first ever alcohol free holiday – went running most mornings and whilst I ate plenty I still came back lighter than when I went away as I hadn’t had any of those alcohol calories.

  4. Yes yes yes! Just returned from a girls weekend in Spain. Watching them all struggle with ridiculous hangovers after caning at 15 or more alcoholic drinks each night made me realise how drinking can ruin a holiday. Especially four child free precious days which are so rare.
    I come home with 60 euros and treated myself to a new watch at the airport.
    It was hard initially to tell the girls I wouldn’t be drinking as they were a bit judgmental and thought I was crazy especially as we had days relaxing on the beach to sleep it off! I genuinely feel it’s a waste of life to be hungover on the beach and whilst I don’t really like to judge I did feel a bit smug feeling fresh as a daisy.
    Thanks again Kate. X

    1. Congratulations Rachel! Sounds as if you got the best of both worlds there – a fun trip away AND no hangover to contend with. Win win 🙂

    2. Rachel your comment about “it’s a waste of life being hungover” just struck a chord for me….In a good way! I woke up this morning feeling foggy due to drinking and I just needed a kick in the butt to get me on the right track…reading here is so helpful!

  5. This post is so timely. I’m only one week into AF living, and just survived my first neighborhood dinner party, with lots of wine flowing. I stuck to my new AF lifestyle, just saying” I’m on a special diet right now, so no alcohol”- which actually is also true. But I was not yet ready to share that I’m really wanting to go full-on AF for life. (hard to think of it for life, but I do know that this is what I need to do. But for now, it’s AF for at least the rest of 2017 and we’ll re-evaluate next January). I wasn’t ready to share All That with the neighborhood just yet.
    However, at the end of the month I’m heading on an anniversary cruise to Bermuda, and with my husband who still drinks. I’m just praying for ways to Stay Strong, and find some mocktails to have instead. And to embrace all the other great ideas shared in this posting.

  6. Recently took my first AF vacation and although my husband still drinks it was interesting to see how much LESS he drank this time around. Sometimes even skipping the beer at lunch and MUCH smaller quantities littering our hotel room. We all had a great time, were more adventurous, tried new things and enjoyed every bit of it. Thanks for the reminder

  7. I’m gearing up for my first sober holiday… I can’t wait. It’s not exactly the kind of holiday you have… A caravan in Cornwall with my husband and small children so def no opportunity to get bored on a sun lounger! But this time… There won’t be a pint (or two, who am I kidding) with lunch, making me want to sleep all afternoon and there won’t be so much plying the kids with sweets so they will manage another twenty minutes in the pub… (To my eternal shame) We’re packing exotic iced teas to drink in the evenings, while we listen to a brand new album or two (I’m finding sobriety easier with a new soundtrack to match!) I won’t resent having to endure crappy kids entertainment until they go to sleep and I can crack open a bottle… I’m going to be present for my boys, truly present… Building sandcastles and memories … That I won’t forget

  8. I am on my first international trip without wine and am having a fabulous time! My travel friends really don’t drink much and don’t even notice my preference for af drinks. The best part is not even thinking about how ,when , and how much wine to drink.

  9. The number of holidays I wrecked with booze are too many. My elderly father returns to his home in Ireland every year, and two summers ago, I felt I just couldn’t go and not drink alcohol. Last year I did, and it was actually no problem. I drank a lot of soda water, while he had his pints. I reconnected with family, and went for long, beautiful walks. I’m going again this year with my husband and father, and wouldn’t think of picking up a drink. It’s just getting over these hurdles, and knowing it’s possible: family holiday dinner, wedding, holiday, week-ends, stressful day, amazing day. All better without booze. Thanks Kate for another great post.

  10. I’ve been dipping my toe in and out in recent months. Last week I was off work, spending time with my family and some of it at our caravan. The first couple of days I was stressing about things that “might” happen when I return to work. Long story short, I drank the whole week, felt even more stressed, exhausted and quite ill by the weekend. I’ve wasted a week that I was so looking forward to because of worry and a belief that wine could switch it off. It didn’t and I’m so hoping that the next break I have will be alcohol free because I’m tired of wasting the good times with my almost grown up family. Thanks for your amazing blogs, they keep me wanting this.

  11. Hi Kate, Finished up your sober school about 4 weeks ago. I believe I’m on day 82 and feeling pretty wonderful. With the start of summer this blog is perfect timing. I’ve already made it through a few short get aways and love that I can remember the good moments and I could look for the good moments because I was AF. I have a long vacation in July and I’m actually looking forward to what I’m going to learn about myself. This is going to be a summer of discovery!
    Thanks Kate,

    1. It certainly is going to be a summer of discovery 🙂 Congratulations Sadie – I’m pleased to hear things are going so well, Day 82 is FAB! Enjoy your vacation!

  12. A list of sober memoirs to take on hols would make a great blog post! I’ve read soooo many for inspiration over the years.

  13. I always feel better without drinking BUT boredom and anxiety can sabotage me. I guess it’s hard in the beginning. Sometimes the cravings make me irritable and then I have less interest in the things that used to make me happy. Also, I’m so used to doing things with a glass of wine that the thought of it scares me. Hope this changes.

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