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Preparing For a Sober Vacation

Beach!!! Just the word brings a smile to my face! But in early recovery, going on a beach vacation, and remaining sober was yet another challenge, because in my mind beach = drinking. Every year, before our vacation I prepared myself for the worst, as I imagined being sober and bored, while all the other people, all around me, were having a blast and drinking to their heart’s content!!

I have come to the stark realization that this was not the reality! It was only in my mind, because back when I was drinking that’s what days at the beach were all about for me!

I had always romanticized my drinking at the beach. I had often fantasized about how glamorous and sophisticated I was, and how I drank like a lady while sitting at a fancy bar overlooking the ocean. Yeah, right! I have to remember the reality; there was nothing glamorous about my drinking. I might have started with a glass of wine and paired it with a nice cheese and fruit plate, but most of the time I ended up drinking many glasses of wine, while the cheese slowly melted on the plate, and I was falling down drunk. Good times, not!


Another fantasy that I often had, was that I went to the beach for the amazing views, and the great accommodation, and of course, I was going for the much-needed rest. Nope! None of the above! I just went to drink somewhere else other than my couch! In my mind this was a good way to convince myself that I did not have a problem with drinking because according to my perception, everyone else at the beach was drinking just like me. Ummm. No, they actually were not!

Today, I am continuously learning to break these associations and fantasies, and create new memories for my beach vacations. I am learning with every trip and every sober event that I don’t need to drink to have fun at all! In fact what used to appear like fun, now seems quite boring. Did I even swim in the ocean? Did I build any sand castles? Did I collect seashells? Did I roam the boardwalk and stuff myself with ice cream and cotton candy? Did I ride the Ferris wheel? Did I learn how to jet ski or snorkel!? No, instead I either sat at the bar all day long, or on the balcony of my hotel room, and drank while watching people go by. Fun!? I think not!


My boys at the beach.

What I do now to prepare myself for our beach trip is to make sure that I have a good recovery plan! When I feel connected and strong in my recovery I am able to focus on enjoying my vacation, instead of worrying about missing out on the drinking. Here are a few key points that help me stay sober and have fun!

Tell Everyone! This adds an additional layer of accountability, if I need to talk to someone while I am away, they will know where I am and what I am dealing with. I also reach out to sober friends and ask them for advice on how they stayed sober on vacation. I also try to find someone who went to the place that I am visiting and ask them about 12-step meetings in the area that they enjoyed. Sometimes they might even know a sober person or two who lives there and I can connect with.

Research Local Resources. One of the greatest challenges of sober travel is doing without my usual support network. I research local support groups in case I am in need of re-balancing while away. Some groups even have bonfire meetings right at the beach. I also look up family friendly events which most of the time do not include drinking.

Keep Up My Sober Routine. Almost everyone who stays sober develops a recovery routine. I try to continue with my routine as much as possible and I check in with my recovery network often. This is especially important if I find myself thinking about drinking; a quick message to someone in my network might be just enough to deter me from drinking!

Try to Minimize Stress. Vacations can easily get stressful and can put hefty demands on anyone’s coping skills. To minimize stress, I try to adopt a “go with the flow” attitude that helps me take any unexpected frustrations in stride. If I need a few minutes to calm down, I go for a quick walk, and remove myself from the situation.

Sunset, Virgina Beach

Virginia Beach, VA

Continue Basic Self-Care. Vacations can be exhausting! It’s really important to get enough sleep and keep a watch for the basic signs of H.A.L.T – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. It’s also really easy to fill the days with lots of activities because I want to do and see as much as possible, but I have to also be thoughtful of others needs and not overload anyone with too many activities.

Make a Contingency Plan. As a person in recovery, sometimes I have to be my own strongest advocate. When I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, I have a few responses prepared in the event that I feel pressured to drink. I am also prepared to remove myself from any situation that makes me feel vulnerable or uneasy. I can also take precautions such as asking the hotel to remove alcohol from the mini-bar, and let the waiter know up front, that I don’t drink alcoholic beverages.

And lastly and most importantly!

Have Fun! And Lots of It! Staying sober on a vacation doesn’t preclude having a really good time. In fact it makes it even more possible to have all kinds of great adventures! I strongly believe that it is all about my attitude and perception. Instead of focusing on not being able to drink, I focus on all the things that I can do, because I am not drinking! There are no limits!

Staying sober on vacation isn’t easy at first. But it does get easier as you build quality sobriety time and fill your sober tool box! I hope some of these suggestions may help you have a wonderfully sober vacation too!

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with alcohol and/or addiction, please click the Find Support link for an extensive list of support groups. Also please check out the links to many useful resources in the sidebar, and always feel free to contact me anytime at

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  1. I have not yet been on a sober vacation and it is something I have been avoiding. Recently, though, I’ve started to think about taking a holiday and I’m quite excited at the thought. And it is has suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t give drinking a second thought. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing. I like to think it’s because it’s getting easier for me. Unfortunately it could also mean that it completely slipped my mind for a minute. I also have romantic visions of drinking on holiday – tavernas, little harbour-side cafes watching the boats with an iced bucket beside me, holding my crisp white wine. I’m trying to replace those images in my mind with pictures of sophisticated Italian women drinking San Pellegrino – that works!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there! I didn’t go on vacation my first two years sober, but that’s also because I didn’t have any money! Lol! I think it’s a good sign that you didn’t think about drinking. I think it shows that you are moving forward and drinking is no longer the main focus. For me I don’t so much think about it, I just get prepared for those unexpected times when some weird thought pops in my head and drinking seems really nice! Then I have to remember the reality. Also I think seeing people drinking is a trigger, and I always see people walking around with drinks at the beach, especially at the hotel.

      But yes, I think replacing the associations is the key, life doesn’t revolve around alcohol, I just saw it that way because my life revolved around alcohol!

      I like the Italian women drinking San Pellegrino! Lol! Thanks for stopping by. Hugs!


  2. If you are going to Va Beach, there is a meeting near the beach. Walking distance from the hotels. It was a good mix of people and I enjoyed it. Let me find the name. I think it was a daily 9am plus others throughout the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. About one month sober, I took my first sober beach vacation. I remember feeling terrified! I took a list of meetings and Living Sober with me. It was an overall terrific vacation. The best part was being free from having to plan everything around drinking. I still love that feeling and enjoy myself like I did when I was a kid.

    Enjoy your time at the beach!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually liked going to beach alone, so I could drinking on my own schedule! Lol! And yes! I was terrified the first sober trip too and I surely didn’t go by myself. Except for a few weird incidents it was a great time and I loved doing all the beach and touristy things! Sure did bring some good childhood feelings.

      Thank you! Have a great week! Hugs.


  4. Great list there, Maggie. I think that vacations are still difficult for folks. I know that when we went on our cruise not too long ago, there was a small pang in me that decried “why can’t I be a part of this non-stop booze fest?!” When in reality, it wasn’t a booze fest. A part of me defined it as such . But in the end, it was great. There were no thoughts of drink, although I was aware of drink…if that makes sense. I often drank less on vacation, as I drank secretly, and since I was with my wife most of the time, it was hard to sneak a drink in (but I did find ways). So vacations aren’t that big an association, but I certainly have associations in other areas.

    The list you made there is a solid one. Even on the cruise I went to a few meetings (very cool they had them there) and did my readings, etc. so it was important that I was centered.

    Have a great time, my friend. Build lots of sandcastles 🙂



    • Oh yeah, I am a aware of the drinking! I think we must have a special radar just for that. Lol! We once went to a family resort thinking that there was going to be leas partying going on. But to me it seemed like everyone was drinking anyways. There was even a bar in the front of the hotel. Sheesh! Oh well, I can’t change the world. I can only protect my sobriety the beat I can and stay connected.

      We are going to a less touristy spot this year, will see how that works out. I am sure I will be hitting a meeting or 2, calling and reading blogs. It’s all good. I don’t mind it. I am willing to do the work.

      Thanks Paul! I’ll have to post some picks of my sand castles! 😀


  5. I really want to go to a beach now! Your vacation plan for sobriety is solid. I know that when I went to an AA meeting in Italy, it really gave me a unique boost of joy and happy sobriety. Maybe because it was the last thing I really wanted to do while visiting Rome. Lol great post. I’m new to your followership. (<~~word? Lol) hope to see some scenery pics down the road? Have a clear-headed, memorable, awesome sober trip! I'm jealous! 🙂


    • Hey Dustin John! Welcome to the “club!” Lol! Thanks for the follow! I love going to meetings out of town, it sure makes me feel like a part of and it definitely boosts the joy! I am sure I would go if I was in Italy, I can imagine the wine just poring down the streets, and being a wino I am sure that would be quite tempting! Lol! Glad you found a meeting and stayed sober! Woot woot! I’ll try to post some pics from my phone, and definitely stay connected with the sober blogger community! Blogging has been a huge help, I can pick up my phone and read something inspiring at any time.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  6. This is great! I took a sober vacation about 2 1/2 months in to an all-inclusive joint. Yikes. But, looking through your list, I had most of those in tact. I was able to call my sponsor which helped tremendously. I laughed when you mentioned that everyone was drinking at the beach in your fantasy. The more sober time I get, the less I find the people around me drink. I must have been on a tremendous drunk in my mind thinning everyone else was as bladed as I was!
    Your trip sounds heavenly. A sober day at the beach is better than the best drunk in Times Square on NYE ANY DAY! What fun to be a guest at an AA meeting, too. Cool way to connect with others out of your comfort zone.


    • Hi Linda! Isn’t that funny how so many events always appeared to me to be some gigantic drinking fests! Then in sobriety I get myself armed against what I think will happen and it doesn’t! One year I went to my girlfriends 40th bday party, totally expecting people to be trashed! But they weren’t, in fact they were barely drinking. Good grief! I always imagine it like the spring break shows on MTV. Lol! Just another realization that I didn’t drink like others!


  7. My first sober vacation was in January, we went to Australia. I thought it would be really hard but it was great. No hang overs, I was up early, had tons of energy, and saw a lot of sites. Of course, the airplane offered free wine, which they did not do on my last international flight, when I was drinking. I could have put a huge dent in that drink cart!


    • Oh, yeah, I am not sure how I would do on a “drinking” flight. I know the last time I went to Europe I drank on the plane and I think it was a lot, or maybe I tried to moderate because I was going to visit family. Shoot, I can’t remember! Lol!

      Glad you had a good time in Australia! Sounds like being sober turned out to be a great asset. I’d love to go there one day!

      Hope you’re doing well! Hugs.


  8. That’s great. Your plan is solid. Being present with your children is a present too! They’ll be gone tomorrow, or so it will seem, a few more years down the road. And what a gift you’ll have given them…a sober and present parent.


    • Yes! Being present with the kids and actually taking the time to play with them is awesome! It sort of makes me feel like a kid again and I get flooded with good childhood memories. Everything is better because I am sober and I really can’t think of anything that’s worse because I don’t drink!

      Thanks for stopping by. Hugs.


  9. Hi Maggie,
    I was sober about a year when I took my first vacation. I took my first ex wife on a romantic cruise. She never had a drinking problem so it didn’t really matter to her what the setting was. As soon as we got on the ship I asked the concierge where the Friends of Bill W was going to meet. He looked at me as if I asked for directions to the next galaxy. Lucky for me there was a very nice young lady there that over heard my question so she signaled to me to come more towards where she was standing. She told me where and when to be there. Now the ex and I go up on deck where everyone is partying and carrying on and there is one voice in particular that we can hear. He had a plastic cup that had a big straw and lid on it that was about 3 feet long. he was carrying on in a way that I was embarrassed for him. ( he was not because he was toasted) My ex said that was you 2 years ago, who was I to argue I couldn’t have remembered. This character was like that the entire week, carrying on, being loud and rude and laughing at anything and everything.
    Heavens no, my ex said that was me. Even without the alcohol I had a great time, I made a few meetings even if it were only myself and 2 or 3 other people in attendance. Cruise ships don’t draw a big AA crowd for some reason. since those days I have taken at least 30 or 40 sober vacations and I don’t even think about drinking while vacationing. The one thing that I will add is that you spend a lot less money when your not funding the bar tenders college fund.

    You have some good suggestions in your post, find a local meeting, perhaps even connect with someone local by going through intergroup for that area so you can have someone to check in with and maybe even take you to a meeting or 2 and a stop at Starbucks or Dunkin donuts where you’re heading. Just remember keep your eye on the prize, there are so many treasures you missed out on when you were sitting on the balcony or your beach chair drinking. Go, go, go and enjoy your destination with your family. You will all be glad you did. Have a blast and some diet Pepsi’s too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Nelson! Great story and suggestions! Few years back we were in Dewey beach and the guy that was maintaining the house was in the program, told us where the bonfire meetings were and such. It was great!

      And yes we have more money to hit the awesome seafood restaurants – I love seafood!

      I’d like to go on a cruise some day for sure. I’ve heard most cruise have meetings. That’s awesome and reassuring

      Thanks for stopping by Nelson!


      • Oh Mags…you’ve made me miss my hometown beach…Ocean City, Maryland with a stop over at Rehoboth. And I know Dewey – to stay sober in Dewey is a feat in and of itself!!!


        Liked by 1 person

        • Sherry! I used to party at OC and Rehoboth and Dewey. You’re not kidding, it’s super hard to stay sober there! $1 shots everywhere! We just don’t go there anymore. Not worth the aggravation!
          Sending hugs. Thanks for stopping by.


  10. As always, Maggie, you are an amazing resource for all of us! Thanks so much for this great toolkit. I can say I have done most of these on my annual beach vacations (Jersey shore), and they really and truly do work!

    Have a wonderful time, can’t wait to see pix 🙂


  11. Reblogged this on Sober Courage and commented:

    —Another fantasy that I often had, was that I went to the beach for the amazing views, and the great accommodation, and of course, I was going for the much-needed rest. Nope! None of the above! I just went to drink somewhere else other than my couch! — yep that’s how it used to be…

    The vacation season is upon us once again! It was really good for me to re-read this post and put my mind in a good perspective.

    I found vacations to be difficult in early sobriety and even a few years after. But like anything new, I had to learn again how to have fun and take care of myself during this time. I hope you find this post helpful too.


  12. This is brilliant! All of these tips are necessary (not to mention helpful) and you are absolutely right, drinking on vacation is BORING! There are so many more things to do sober. So many GOOD things.


    Liked by 1 person

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